jp.jpg (13389 bytes)


MAIL 247 March 3 - 9, 2003






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)



LAST WEEK                 Current Mail                  NEXT WEEK

  The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

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. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

read book now

Boiler Plate:

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.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Search: type in string and press return.


line6.gif (917 bytes)

read book now If you contemplate sending me mail, see the INSTRUCTIONS here and here.



This week:


read book now


Monday  March 3, 2003

Just returned from dash to beach and grandparent stint. I'll catch up on mail shortly. There's a fair amount.

First, apparently it's not the right thing to do to spare you the details of raising Huskies. Add to that, we may have to put my son's Husky up for a week or so as he resettles at the Pentagon. That ought to be fun, two wolves in the house...

No, Jerry, we want all the horrid details; misery loves company.....

How about streaming Sable-cam? I'm sure a way could be found to attach a wireless web-cam to her collar.

After all, you do these things so we don't have to, right?


Steve Nelson


And there's this from EvilMike:

Subject: Viking kitties.....:)

The name says it all..:) 


You are warned, you go there at your own risk. Note that it was sent by Evil Mike.


Of more substance:

Subject: Rumor: al Qaeda reduced from 7000 to about 200 active terrorists

This rumor can be seen at <

 I was sent by a reporter who attended the World Economic Forum and then later leaked out. 

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

It would not enormously surprise me, and I think bin Laden is probably dead.

Finishing Iraq may dry up the rest of the al Qaeda income stream, and may even slow the flow of Wahhabi money. We will see. With 7 carrier groups over there we clearly mean business...

On Nuclear Rockets

I donít know if you have seen this web article or not, but I found it to be interesting. 

I would like to know if what he is proposing is at all realistic. I very much want to believe, but my innate cynicism says that there is no way it can be done like this.

Thanks for your time.

-] H

Henry Lyles

OK. First, that web site: While there is much there I can agree with, his analysis of "what went wrong" is incorrect; and his remedy isn't going to work.

He reports that NERVA got Isp (which is pounds of thrust per pound of fuel per second; a measure of fuel efficiency, which ranges from 200 or so for various hydrocarbons to about 400 for Hydrogen/LOX; it is lower at sea level, higher in vacuum; see my SSX papers for more) of about 900 tested (actually higher than that).  NERVA was a nuclear rocket: spray hydrogen through a reactor and it comes out the back end fast.

The problem with NERVA is thrust to weight: it wouldn't develop enough thrust to lift itself in a 1 g gravity field. That's not important, of course: once it is in orbit it can be used for interplanetary flight, and I did that in my novel EXILES TO GLORY among other works; all based on reasonable technology. Also, you really don't want to crash a nuclear reactor, so using them routinely to get to orbit wouldn't be a wonderful thing even if they would do it;

DUMBO, a somewhat different nuclear rocket design, would in theory lift itself, but so far as I know there was no working model built and tested. A working NERVA was built, and it worked just fine, with, as I said, about 900 ISP at sea level.

No one has built a gas core nuclear rocket. It's theoretically possible. The ship he proposes is huge, and would be expensive to develop and build. I would love to see some experiments toward it, but the "we will strain like a gearbox and build the ONE BIG SHIP that solves the space problem" is not an approach that appeals to me. Nor am I as happy with hydrogen, even as a chemical fuel, now that we have flown DC/X. The stuff is an operations headache. It's certainly possible to use it, of course. We did it. But let me repeat, no one has built any kind of nuclear rocket that could lift itself. And I would hate to write the EPA report.

The rest of his speculations are I fear just that. It's neither necessary nor desirable to loft nuclear waste into space, and throwing something into the Sun would require a delta-vee (velocity change) equal to the Earth's orbital velocity, and that's quite a lot more than we'd want to expend for waste disposal. If you want to dispose of nuclear waste forever, the simple thing to do would be to enclose it in glass (which is nearly eternal until melted) and put it in an ocean subduction zone, where it will be taken into the Earth's core and mingle with all the other radioactives there that make things hot. It won't be noticed there.

Perhaps one day we will use nuclear rockets to get to Earth orbit, but I don't think it will be any time soon. The good news is that we don't need nuclear rockets to get to orbit -- and once we are in orbit, NERVA type ships will do very well to get us across interplanetary distances.

Francis Hamit on Immanuel Kant and intellectual property:

Dear Jerry:

I hate to keep stirring this pot unnecessarily so feel free not to post this if you don't think its particularly useful.

First of all, Disney is an "author". The copyright law allows people (and corporations are legally "persons") to take an idea and hire other people the execute it. It is the expression of the idea, rather than the idea itself which can be copyrighted.

This is called "Work for Hire" and is done all the time. If you are an employee and create something at the direction of your boss, that is one instance. If you are an independent contractor and accept an assignment, reinforced with a written contract that describes the job and specially says that its "work for hire" (in so many words), that's another. This is how most movie scripts are written. George Lucas is the "author" of all of the Star Wars films and novels even if they were actually written/directed/acted/otherwise created by someone else because it was his vision and he hired the people who did the work. The actual "author" of the first film was Fox, who put up the money. That was mandated by contract, not the copyright laws. After that Lucas self financed and retained control.

All of this may seem very complicated, but Copyright law is actually very simple (Chapter 1201 aside). It means what is says and says what it means and the courts have historically resisted attempts to innovate new interpretations that overreach. It's a constantly evolving area where case law is used to define what is and is not permissible. The DMCA has not yet been tested fully in the courts. Until that happens no one really knows anything about what it says or doesn't say.

As you pointed out. most of these copyright disputes revolve around one thing: Greed. Big Media firms want every penny they can get, so they both enforce their own intellectual property rights to the max and ignore the same rights belonging to others whenever they can, so they can limit their costs.

I recently discovered that Immanuel Kant, who died in 1804, wrote a chapter in "The Science of Right" entitled "The Unauthorized Publishing of Books is Contrary to the Principles of Right, and is Rightly Prohibited."

Kant said in part "There seems, however, to be an impression that there is a sort of common right to print and publish books; but the slightest reflection must convince anyone that this would be a great injustice. The reason of it is found simply that a book, from one point of view, is an external product of mechanical art that can be imitated by any one who might be in rightful possession of a copy; and it is therefore his by a real right. But, from another point of view, a book is not merely an external thing, but a discourse to the public, and he is only entitled to do this public ally under the mandate of the author; and this constitutes a personal right. The error underlying the impression referred to, therefore, arises from an interchange and confusion of these two kinds of right in relation to books."

So this is hardly a new problem.

Francis Hamit


On the Sendmail Security Hole

With respect to the Sendmail sploit link you posted recently (ironically on msnbc)... the thing that incenses me most about that article, if it is to be belived (and I found independent confirmation on CNet) is that and Homeland inSecurity SAT ON this thing for a month-plus until they could get all their big-bankroll vendors patched, and then and ONLY then did they tell us little guys, the ones with our collective pants down....

Jerry, this really breaks the web of trust that Open Source folks, professional and enthusiast (and I am both) have been building for the last decade and then some... if I've got busted software, I want to know about it, so I can turn it off, or run something different, or whathaveyou.... I don't want Tom Ridge deciding that IBM and HP and even Red Hat are more important backsides to cover than my own. If they can sit on this for this long, I have to wonder what else they're covering up?

I notice they didn't tell the Debian (explicitly non-profit Linux) folks until after the fact; Debian Security is scrambling to get a fix out now. Fortunately I run Postfix at home, and Qmail at work, but this could've been nasty....

-- Glenn

I will withhold comment for a while. Comments invited.

And I have this, but I don't know what it means or why anyone would bother to send it:

Subject: Your Chaos Manor Special Report - June 13, 2002

At the bottom of the 4 question quiz for professionals, Andersen Consulting Worldwide is referrenced [sic] and then the following statement appears:

"Note that this was posted before the Enron/Anderson debacle, and is not intended to be a comment on that."

Please be aware that Andersen Consulting Worldwide separated from Arthur Andersen and was renamed Accenture. Andersen Consulting Worldwide, now named Accenture had nothing to do with the Enron debacle. The firm involved with the Enron debacle was Arthur Andersen, which no longer exists. Hence your "note" is an incorrect reference and meaningless.

Pamela G. Jaudes Accenture Solutions Operations Dallas - 5221 North O'Connor Blvd. Direct: 469 665-5973 Octel: 665 5973 Fax: 469 665-2973

This message is for the designated recipient only and may contain privileged, proprietary, or otherwise private information. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete the original. Any other use of the email by you is prohibited.

This apparently refers to the humorous "are you a professional" quiz, which quotes Anderson Consulting Worldwide as an authority. I can thank the Operations Department of Accenture for the correction, but it does lead me to wonder about their efficient allocation of resources.

On defense of property and traps:

I read your comments about booby trapping criminals with some interest. On the one hand, I can certainly understand the temptation, but on the other hand, I can also see the case against using such things. To put it bluntly, the trouble with booby-trapping criminals is the chance of your trap catching and hurting someone who had legitimate reasons to be where he was---say, a fireman. If someone's in my living room _sans_ invitation at three AM, looking through my CD collection, I can be pretty sure that he shouldn't be there. A trap, OTOH, has no brain and cannot discriminate.

I agree completely with your comments about how the only people with rights in law enforcement are professionals. I think that a big part of the trouble is the "professionalization" of law enforcement; i.e. making police work a long-term career. Policemen are already quite prone to "us against the world" thinking, which leads to things like covering up their colleagues' malfeasances even when those malfeasances are extremely serious. There have been endless scandals about policemen who were found to be criminals on the side, or who were found to be in the pay of criminals, and not just to look the other way at Nathan Detroit's oldest-established, permanent-floating, crap game. Most attempts at reform have, at most, temporarily alleviated the problem.

Perhaps the solution lies in eliminating "career" police, at least to some degree. If police work was more like something you did for a few years, rather than a long-term career, many policemen would be less inclined to see the public as "them," instead of as "us." A lot of the arguments that were aired against "standing armies" in the old days were based in the abuses common to long-term all-professional forces, and could just as well be applied to professional police. One of the reasons the US armed forces worked as well as they did in WWII, according to my dad and his age-mates, was because many people, even in fairly high ranks, weren't expecting to make it a permanent career, and, as a result, were quite willing to "buck the system" when the system wasn't working, to get things done effectively. The career officers were often afraid to do this because one bad fitness report, or even something less than glowing, could effectively end their careers.

If more policemen knew that their jobs were, at the most, a three- or four-year thing, and that at the end of it they'd be civilians again, they would be less inclined to clump together against the hostile outside world, and less inclined to become corrupt or abusive, since they would not always be protected by the department. At least, it might be worth trying.

Eric Oppen

I have not made my position as clear as I might. 

If you set a deadly trap on your own property you are responsible for its consequences. The original case way back when was a shotgun trap set that killed a boy. This was ruled murder, and I think the land owner was hanged, which was pretty invariably the punishment for murder in England at that time.

That's not the same as what happened here. The trap set here didn't get an innocent victim, it got a burglar who had criminal intent. A jury ruled that this chap was in part responsible for his own death but not entirely, and ruled the bar owner and the property owner in part responsible as well. That's stupid: this was no case of an innocent person, nor even of an attractive nuisance. This was a case of a criminal breaking into the property with malicious intent.

Had the trap got a 10 year old kid up to mischief then one might well rule that the owner was responsible and hold him to that; but that's not what happened.

I would myself point out to the chap that he had in fact taken a pretty dangerous chance in setting a trap that might be fatal (clearly it wasn't intended to be) and that had it killed someone other than the person it got, he could be in very big trouble. 

I believe people should be responsible for the consequences of their actions. That includes breaking and entering with criminal intent. Breaking into a free man's home ought to be a high risk occupation, right up there with driving nitroglycerine trucks.

The first time I ever saw David Friedman use the Internet -- it was the ARPA-Net then, and I think it was his introduction to it -- he used my computer (Old Ezekiel I believe) to ask a question about morality to the people then involved on the net: a man was waiting to hear who had been stealing his wood. Weary of losing the wood, he had hollowed out a log and inserted dynamite; now he waited to hear who had stolen the log. Query, was this moral behavior, and did stealing wood deserve the death penalty? The answers here are clear, and Friedman and I agreed entirely on them.

But once again this is a vastly different case from the one I commented on in which a non-lethal trap (at least intended to be non-lethal) proved fatal to a drunken and drugged criminal burglar.

 Regarding police as a career, a great deal could be said here; my main point has always been that the primary responsibility for the protection of life and property lies with the citizens, who hire the police to assist. If someone is breaking into my neighbor's house I believe I have a moral and should have a legal obligation to take measures appropriate to my abilities to help my neighbor protect his family and possessions. 

I would prefer that the police do the job, but I know they aren't always there, nor can be; and in any event it's my job to protect myself and my possessions to the best of my ability, and to assist my neighbor in doing the same. That is the nature of any civil society worth living in.

And see below for the views of a police detective.






This week:


read book now


Tuesday, March 4, 2003 

We begin with some good news:

Subject: extortion lawsuits 


You wrote in your comment on lawyers using the extortion lawsuit route:

"In the case of the wonderful gentleman who is suing Vietnamese Nail Parlors, the ladies have suggested that they could hire juvenile gangsters to make him go away for a lot less than he is asking for; I haven't heard how that turned out."

Our California Attorney General is now suing the extortion lawyers himself. Apparently the threat to bring in the Vietnamese gang bangers got AG Bill Lockyer off top dead center and moving. It is amazing how fast the official gang can move if it looks like some other gang is poaching on their turf.

Jim Dodd San Diego

What won't happen is a fundamental change to the lawyer-friendly laws that set things up so that people like that could operate. "Protection of the public" through nuisance suits was never a good idea, and was mostly intended to help the Trial Lawyers, of which the Democractic Party is a partially owned subsidiary.


Subject: Critical sendmail vuln, fix 

Please post ASAP:

-Roland Dobbins

Greg Cochran was in a discussion in another place, and eventually said this; which I thought significant enough that I asked him to send it to me as a letter so it can be printed here. You will recall that Greg began the Overclocking discussion, involving among other things the Ashkenazi Jews. 

Well, I read _The Bell Curve_, and it says no such thing. If it had I would have had to condemn Charles Murray as a total ignoramus. Gene Horr says the difference is small but measurable. Quite false - it is big but measurable. It's very close to one standard deviation, which means that the average IQ of black Americans is at the fifteenth percentile of whites. The IQ gap is not decreasing - it's still one standard deviation. Now some other test scores have converged somewhat - although they appear to be widening again - but not IQ scores. The authors of _The Bell Curve_ say this: " Scarr and Weinberg continue to argue that the results are consistent with some form of mixed gene and environmental source of the B/W difference, which seems to us the most plausible conclusion." Hardly the same as concluding that there is some environmental factor that account for the 'small' measured difference.

Of course, they're saying this in reference to an adoption study which found that the adolescent IQ of kids adopted by white parents of middle or higher social status went like this: 109 for the biological children of these adoptive parents, 106 for the white adopted children, 99 for the adopted children with one black parent, and 89 for the adopted children with two black parents ( which is equal to the average black IQ in Minnesota, where this transpired.)

I doubt if environment explains much of the black-white difference. I doubt if it explains why the Ashkenazi IQ is ~112-115, I doubt if it explains why the Ashkenazi do much better on verbal tests than on spatial tests, I doubt if environmental effects explain why adopted Korean orphans in Belgium have the same high spatial scores you see back in Korea.

People desperately want certain things to be true, but they just aren't. Human equality is not a fact, not within groups and not between groups.


Gregory Cochran

As he says, people desperately want certain things to be true. In particular we want there to be no hereditary differences that matter between the races of men. But what we want is not always what we get.

And now to tear out your heart.

LOMA LINDA, Calif. - When Maj. Hal Sellers learned his infant son was living on borrowed time awaiting a heart transplant, the Marine and his wife had to choose between duty to family and to nation.

Sellers "did a lot of soul-searching" when the time came to decide, said his wife, Betsy Sellers. Unable to help the youngest of the couple's three sons, he chose to help his unit.

A little more than a week after his departure, baby Dillon has days to live unless he receives a new heart.

"I am doing what I have to do, and my husband is doing what he has to do," Betsy Sellers, 37, said Monday. "We're doing what we need to do for our family and, hopefully, for other families."

"It was a hard decision to make. He had to come to the hospital and say goodbye to Dillon, and not know what would happen."

Four-month-old Dillon was 10 days old when he was diagnosed on Oct. 31 with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which occurs when a heart is unable to pump or circulate blood. Although the condition can sometimes be corrected with surgery, Dillon's heart is too damaged, doctors say.

Dillon, who is in critical condition, has been placed at the top of the heart transplant list at Loma Linda University Medical Center, which has a 25 percent mortality rate for those awaiting transplants.

"Every day could be an end-of-life issue for him," said the medical center's transplant coordinator, Armando Deamaya . "We're probably talking days rather than weeks."

His father was offered a desk job at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, but the 13-year veteran opted to go with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion to an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

Sellers, 37, second in command of the unit, had trained for months for the deployment and was concerned about bringing in a new member so late in the training, his wife said.

"I think this situation sheds light in a very tangible way on the sacrificial nature of service to country. While no one would want to be in the major's position, we understand the difficulties," said Capt. Rob Crum, a base spokesman.

The major's mother, Betty Sellers, said the family supported her son's decision.

"We didn't say, 'Hal, do this or do that.' We tried to convey the message that Dillon was getting the best possible care he could have, and maybe Hal had to do in life what he could do best," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Des Moines, Iowa.

Lying in a crib at the medical center, Dillon breathes with the help of a ventilator as tubes snake from his chest, arms and legs. A patch from Sellers' unit, known as the Wolf Pack, is among the pictures and stuffed animals decorating the boy's crib.

On Sunday, Sellers called home from an undisclosed location for an update on Dillon.

His wife delivered a message to their son: "Daddy loves you."

And now a grab bag cleaning up some older mail:

More on digital rights:

Dear Jerry,

Two points.

1. The US keeps on advocating their copyright laws in other countries. In general, the laws there (when written) are worse: in NZ main hold upin the proposed bill is that the DRM/anti-hacking law will legalised hacking by the intelligence service. Given that at least half the parliment were involved in antiwar or anti racism demonstrations at sometime, the legislature does not trust that arm of govt.

2. I suggest people hang onto and look after their best system. There is something satisfying about a big PC: If configured with a free *NIX and enough memory, it will just chug away -- and will not go out of date for a good five to ten years. My employers have standardised on NT so they don't have to roll out machines unless they break or the place expands.

3. If DRM comes in in the US, then the rest of the world will ignore it. Or use freenet. Or something. Given choice between flexibility (PCs) and non-flexible (Apple) structures, flexibile generally wins.



Subject: When I start agreeing with the Village Voice,

I know that something is badly out of joint in the world:

 Roland Dobbins

Odd, isn't it?

Hi Jerry,

I signed onto the New York Times website to read an article pointed to by your website, and now I'm suddenly getting a lot of spam. I suspect that the Times must have sold my address? Or maybe it's just a coincidence? I should have used a dead drop email address I guess, to test this out, might try the experiment sometime when I have a spare moment. Thought I'd let you know this was happening, anyway.


I have no idea. I get so much spam I have given up giving different addresses to each new place I go, and I keep hoping I Hate Spam can deal with it, but lately it's not doing as well as it used to. Alas.

But it's not likely to be the NYT. As for example:

Jerry :

I've used the New York Times website for years, and I'd have to say it's one of the better managed websites. They do allow pop-up windows, but they've been remarkably restrained in their mailings to me (perhaps four a year), and I didn't note any great spam coming from them over that time. Of course, general spam has been increasing, but I had a long period of use with the NYT not seeing this. Interestingly, the NYT, while it requires cookies for access to the NYT site, allows users to disable cookies from any pop-up adverts.

I may not agree with a substantial part of the NYT editorials, sometimes wince at the directions of their news, and often marvel at the breadth of their span of reporting, but in terms of their work as web-citizens, I certainly can't fault them. I'd have to say that NYT has been one of the best websites I've regularly visited over the years.

John P.


Subject: Muravchik on North Korea.

Roland Dobbins

And I don't know how practical this is, but I'd sure love it:

Subject: Pain for spammers.

But see below.

 Roland Dobbins

And a dilemma:

This calls for some very creative thinking.

Kim Owen Smith

Remains of Two 9/11 Hijackers Identified John Cartier, a member of the victims advocacy group Give Your Voice, said he was relieved to hear that some of the terrorists' remains had been separated from those of their victims.

"I think they should be used as dirt in the road," said Cartier, whose brother James Cartier died in the World Trade Center attack.

I would think as landfill around pig farms?

And we have more on ethnomath:

<<African kinship numerics! Of course--that's what we need to crack the Riemann Hypothesis! Why didn't anyone think of this?>>

Brainwashed by Western textbooks would be my guess.



Count on Your Fingers African Style by Claudia Zaslavsky, Wangechi Mutu (Illustrator), Wangechi Mutu (Illustrator)

Book Description In the African marketplace, people buy and trade using many different languages including various methods of finger counting. This beautifully illustrated picture book takes readers on a tour of the markets, showing the traditional finger counting styles of various African peoples. Many children develop math phobia early. This book explores the practicality of math within the context of African culture and helps children see that math can be fun and creative.

Reading level: Ages 9-12 

And see below

And now we have from Jim Warren:

Achtung! Achtung! You are all guilty until you prove your innocence! (One more [small] step for a police state; one great fall for mankind.)


>The DOJ's release:



Feds seizing domain names By Declan McCullagh February 26, 2003, 8:10 PM PT

WASHINGTON--Federal police have adopted a novel crime-fighting tactic: Seizing control of domain names for Web sites that allegedly violate the law.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday that the domain names for several Web sites allegedly set up to sell illegal "drug paraphernalia" would be pointed at servers located at the Drug Enforcement Administration. A federal judge in Pittsburgh granted the U.S. Department of Justice permission to do so until a trial can take place, the government said.

Wednesday afternoon, the DOJ said it had taken over the domain, whose owner pleaded guilty to felony copyright crimes under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). David Rocci, 22, pleaded guilty in December to using his site to sell "mod" chips that let Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation owners modify their devices so they can use them to play illegally copied games, or "warez."


Don't we all feel safer now?

Of course the government only got part of the site; some of it was still accessible since it pointed to two different places and the gummint only got one of them. I presume that our crackerjack government experts eventually figured that out.

Mod chips! and now he will go to jail. That will show those hackers!

Also from Jim Warren:

Back in the chaos of the [previous, '60's] anti-war movement, I had a neighbor/friend/activist who had to take a polygraph test (don't remember from whom nor why). He studied carefully; took the test ... and passed with flying colors -- even though he was "guilty" as hell (of whatever). He was just an average college dropout; not an experienced or trained professional liar.

Ever since then, I've looked at claims and uses (abuses?!) of polygraph testing with GREAT -- well EARNED! -- distrust ... and certainly understand why their use is (always???) banned in criminal court prosecutions.

Now, a Dept of Defense polygraph expert -- who TEACHES how to mislead a polygraph (thus proving it can be learned and done) -- wants to limit such knowledge only to the elite few. One more step in our dangerously malignant police state ("Patriot" Act, DoD/Poindexter's TIA, "Patriot" II, etc.).

However, thanks to this effort to censor what he teaches to The Chosen Ones, I've heard for the first time (below), of a free e-book that appears to disclose for freedom-lovers (whether we deserve freedom, or not) some/many of the secrets that the DoD ex-spurt seeks to censor.

I just downloaded my copy -- before the thought police prohibit it. Should you?

--jim Jim Warren;, technology-related public-policy advocate

[Soc.of Prof.Journalists-Nor.Cal.James Madison Freedom-of-Information Award; Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award (1992, its first year); Playboy Foundation Hugh Hefner First-Amendment Award (1994); founded the Computers, Freedom & Privacy Conferences; blah blah blah]

At 4:51 PM +0100 2/25/03, "George W. Maschke" <maschke@ANTIPOLYGRAPH.ORG>  posted in FOI-L: >Paul M. Menges, the federal polygraph examiner who teaches the >countermeasure course at the Department of Defense Polygraph >Institute has published an article in which he calls for the >criminalization of public speech about polygraph countermeasures. >His proposal would ban books like's popular free >e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. I have written a formal >response to Mr. Menges' commentary: > >  > >George W. Maschke >

I have had a fair amount of experience with polygraphs and their use, and I thought about the propriety of posting this; but the fact is that anyone who really needs to know how to fool a polygraph can find out and doesn't need my help pointing to the information.

Second, fooling them is not as easy as these opponents of polygraph testing seem to think. A great deal depends on the skill of the interrogator, his familiarity with both the subject and the subject matter, and the kinds of instruments employed and the measures recorded. Don't bank on being able to fool a determined inquisitor who is pretty sure you know something and are hiding it. You will probably lose that gamble.

Polygraph evidence is rightfully excluded from courts; but if I use a polygraph to get from you the location of the little girl's bones, which would have been known only to her violator and murderer, what then?






This week:


read book now


Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Dr. Pournelle;

I just read the message about Kant's treates about Copyright:

"The Unauthorized Publishing of Books is Contrary to the Principles of Right, and is Rightly Prohibited."

I know that Ayn Rand despised Kant, considering him one of the most destructive Philosophers since Plato, but I think she's agree completely with Kant on this; Both as an Author and as a Philosopher.

It's like seeing Trotsky and Reagan marching Arm-in-Arm at an Screen Actor's Guild Protest.....


Richard Molpus

Now that's an unsettling thought...

And on the subject of unsettling thoughts:


I know Roland thinks to buy Apple to avoid the Intel/Microsoft DRM mess, but it's looking like Apple is doing it's own work on DRM (read the section "Interesting Developments":


That aside, the whole article is about Apple's "design" patents on various aspects of their UI. Cleary this almost all has prior art, nothing new here. So either the Patent Office examiner is so completely stupid that he didn't recognize a description of any modern GUI system from say 1995 or later or gee, maybe he just don't care, since he receives bonuses based on how many patents he passes. Or maybe it's because it's a "design patent", which seems to be a different thing than a normal patent? In any case, you and I are going to be paying for crap patents like this in higher fees, prices, and other assundry costs. Something seriously needs to be done about the PTO.

Pete Flugstad

One reason I go to WinHEC and other Microsoft sponsored conferences is for the chance to interact with not only Microsoft worker bees but others in the industry who are actually implementing things -- as well as with the suits who control policy. I'll know a lot more after the next WinHEC.

It is always an interesting interplay because the people who write the code do not necessarily have, or even claim, the same interests as those who think they are setting policies; and what comes out isn't always what everyone expected. I do know that most of those involved in trying to come up with a Digital Rights Management scheme are in fact people of good will. There are many conflicts, not merely of interest, but of principle here; and the technology sets certain limits to what we can do, and generally has ways to route around many of our wishes. This story will go on and on.

And for something I didn't know:


You wrote:

"Well, I am in San Diego at the beach house, after considerable adventure. I took the train. Just after the last stop someone jumped in front of the train. We then stayed there for a couple of hours. It wasn't quite a wreck, but it sure took time and no one was telling us what was going on. Oh well."

That is the main reason I don't like to take a train from San Diego. You never know when some troglodyte is going to commit suicide by train. The problem is the San Diego County Coroner's Office is notorious for their lethargic pace getting to incident scenes and pronouncing the remains dead.

I know CHP officers in San Diego who insist on transporting accident victims Code 3 to a hospital to have the pronouncement made there -- not out on the road becuase of the traffic tie up waiting, waiting, waiting....

Jim Dodd San Diego

I do know that it took about 2 hours, and all that time we were not permitted to leave the train, even to go find a taxi.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   
Date: March 5, 2003                                                                        subject: Evildoers, dead and alive
Dear Jerry:
        Time Magazine reports that intelligence services have captured hand written letters of bin Laden's.  They think he's in northern Pakistan (why am I not shocked at that?).
        Concerning the allegation that Beria murdered Stalin: 1) It proves there's some good in everyone, even secret policemen;  2) It's interesting that the reason given is Joe's alleged plans for starting WWIII.  I'd come across that in a recent biography of the World's Greatest Anti-Communist (well, how many Party members have _you_ killed?), but hadn't seen anyone else support it.  Other motives that have been offered is the charge he was planning a new set of purges.  In _Molotov Remembers_, the loyal henchman said he expected The Man With The Mustache to have him killed.
        The biography I mentioned above is Stalin: The First In-Depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives by Edvard Radzinskii.  It also suggests a solution to the mystery of what The Gray Blur was doing during the Bolshevik's November Coup: he was Lenin's spy in the Leningrad Soviet, in case the power seizure went wrong.
        In arguably more important news, the Europeans are mounting an unmanned lunar scientific mission.
        And in truly bizarre news, there is allegedly a plan for letting the UN run Iraq after the Security Council votes "No" on the invasion and we then conquer it anyway.  If that happens, I'm voting Democratic in '94.

Give Iraq to the UN. If there's any way to make Saddam a hero this will do it.

Subject: Today in history

 -- Roland Dobbins


More on spam and pain:


I believe the anti-spam approach described in the link you posted would have only temporary success. The approach assumes that slowing down the transfer rate of a message that is recognized as spam will reduce the rate at which a spammer can send his messages so much that it will become impossible for him to send out the large number necessary to get enough responses that he can make money.

That approach might have some initial success, but if I were a spammer faced with such a tactic, I would simply modify the email distribution program to work on many messages in parallel. Adjusting the amount of parallelism dynamically to achieve the same aggregate transfer rate as would occur over a single unhindered session would be a simple matter. So even if this anti-spam software were installed universally and reduced the transfer rate of any given spam message to, say, 1/N of the normal rate, merely having the email transfer program open N sessions (each for a different message, of course) would restore the original aggregate transfer rate.

- Keith Dick

As I said above, technology has its ways of limiting what we would like to accomplish, or making it possible for people to accomplish things we don't much want.

Mike Flynn, whose opinions are always worth thinking on, says:

I recollect an interview that Mark Twain gave the young Rudyard Kipling, who had come to worship at his feet, ca. 1895 or so. Twain's view was that copyright in a literary work ought to be permanent. Like any other piece of property, the author should be able to will it to his heirs if he so desires, no less so than his house.

The problem here, I think is that technically it's pretty difficult and constitutionally in the US at least it's unconstitutional to have perpetual copyright. And librarians would go mad. All property rights are a negotiation: what can I get my neighbors to defend, because that's really what rights I have. In Rome it was quite literally true: court decrees were not enforced by the state until Imperial days and even then that tended to state decrees, not what we would call civil court cases.

And more on ethnomath; this is long but worth your time.

Dear Jerry:

I can understand the logic and feelings behind the opposition to ethnomathematics in the schools. I understand where the posters are coming from. I do agree with a lot of what they are saying in particular. However, I am afraid that we are losing sight of some of the facts. Therefore, I would like to zoom out and zoom in at the same time.

The fact is that in American schools, virtually NOTHING is being taught effectively. While the educators may CLAIM to be teaching ethnomathematics, multicultural history, and so on, they are teaching VERY LITTLE OF ANYTHING. There is virtually little consistency in anything. I speak from experience as a teacher in Arizona and someone who graded standardized exams from all across the nation as an employee of NCS Pearson. I must keep confidential information private, but I can say this: when frequent samples of "normal" high school juniors cannot add or multiply two single digit numbers without use of a calculator, the students have not mastered the basics of ANY number system of any culture. When students are barely able to read aloud a sentence in their native language and have no clue what the sentence means, the student has not been taught the basics of language. THAT is the problem. When a student's jaw is dropped because I can cold-scan a homework assignment of basic conversions between a logarithmic form and its exponential equivalent and determine whether they are correct or incorrect, it's a sign that the student has not been taught how to develop abstract thought and pattern recognition, which is a skill far better refined by many of the "ethincs". Take a look at traditional Navajo or Hopi cosmology, and I guarantee it'll make a gringo's head spin faster than bad food will.

I have also been a professional technician for the last 10 years. I have used and taught math in the real world. I have done my own research into the roots of math and I can say that when we place all of the math systems used by all the different cultures, a lot of the differences are cosmetic. Whether we're counting or adding in English, Basque, Russian, or Maori, we're all doing some basic things in common. The true differences between the systems are profound and insightful. The similarities and the differences are mathematical and when pondered thoughtfully, have the power to transform the mind.

I do agree that the purpose of education is to learn how to function in the real world. Our system should emphasize the successful instruction of necessary skills to our children. In order to do that, a lot of rote learning is necessary in the early grades. Students need to develop a sound structure of organized learning. They need to know how to count, add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Period.

However, there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are many different minds and many different ways to learn things. I have worked with all kinds of intelligent people who have been labeled as idiots and hopeless cases by the school system. Their problem was that they couldn't function in a one-size-fits-all system. Memorizing times tables and formulae was something that their minds rebelled against.

Because I had done research into ethnomathematics and the history of math, I knew that not only was there more that one way to teach the same way of doing things, there was more than one day to get from point A to point B.

Here are some specific instances of how _I_ used ethnomathematics to teach real students how to learn and do practical things in the real world... in the Western world. There are many more practical uses in the literature, but I don't know if anyone takes my approach.

* The Egyptian multiplication method to illustrate the mechanics of binary counting and arithmetic. I used to it help students visualize and understand how the chmod xxx in UNIX and Linux works.

* Use of an abacus (which had cousins in our own Greek and Medieval tradition, both drawing influences from other "ethnic" cultures) to illustrate decimal counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

* Calculating not only the square root of any number with only a paper and pencil, but any integer-root of a number thanks to a genuine Chinese secret (even though it's plastered all over the public literature). This method is so powerful that the Binomial Theorem -- discovered long after this Chinese method was developed and used -- can safely be considered a specific application of this greater theorem.

* I have generated INTEREST in learning which translated into LEARNING simply by exposing the students to the existence of different methods of doing math. It's amazing how much motivation can do to a mind. All it took was a little variety. Corn meal mush can get downright dull and even induce nausea after a while -- but a little salad or rice might just get the appetite going.

These are just non-hypothetical examples of how I used ethnomathematics to help students not only improve their math skills, but to make learning math POSSIBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I think that rather than bashing ethnomathematics, we should try to seek the real truth. The truth is that the American educational system and society -- which must work as a team -- has broken down and must be repaired. The problem has very little to do with what is supposedly being taught but rather with the fact that virtually nothing is being taught.

It's not too different from this analogy: a worker has charged some clients for fixing a leak but hasn't done a thing. The clients are arguing about how the worker should have fixed the leak but have not caught on to the fact that the worker pocketed the money and didn't do any work at all. What method he should have used is irrelevant, considering that most methods can fix the leak, provided that they are actually applied in the first place.

If I can teach a child by using the 1900s rote method of which my grandparents are so fond, I will do so -- if it works. If I can teach a child by using historical methods and methods used by other cultures, I will do so -- if it works. In reality, mixtures and blendings have the best results. It is best to find some kind of healthy balance between extremes, gathering the benefits of both.

So rather than bashing ethnomathematics, we should be bashing a system that claims to be teaching a lot of things but teaches virually nothing. Along with bashing, we should be changing the system. Because I am in the trenches, I have my cussing rights. I don't see a lot of parents doing their part to help their children learn, and they're griping the most right now. Teaching is a shared responsibility, and I see too many parents saying "it ain't my job to teach my kids". Even in my lifetime, that attitude wasn't was prevalent as it is now, at least where I lived.

Between that and the TV/Nintendo/bag of drugs raising our kids, it's no wonder our kids have turned out the way they have. We should also acknowledge the fact that kids view learning as an unrewarded activity. When college graduates are working at Burger King to pay the bills and drug dealers are earning more than both their parents combined, plus some more, the kids are going to be good economists and value the things -- that they perceive -- as being useful. Math, English, and civilization aren't on the list of useful things right now.

Thank you for your time. Henry Wyckoff E-mail:

I can't disagree with any of that, but as you say, this isn't what is happening. What's happening is like most "diversity" stuff. Few in "culture studies" actually read the Rig Veda or any of the core works of another culture; they mostly do the intellectual equivalent of standing in a circle and singing Kumbaya. Niven and I had to dig fairly deeply into Aztec/Aztlan culture for our latest book. I guarantee you that most "students" of Southwestern Culture know less than I do about that now, and yet I'd not consider myself much of a scholar on the subject.

As you say, what's really going on is that not much is being taught, and stuff like ethnomath is just a cover for the disturbing fact that kids aren't learning our own history or anyone else's, or any useful math. But boy do they have high self esteem. Whether that's deserved is another matter.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Mar. 5, 2003 subject: math

Dear Jerry:

I think Henry Wyckoff is missing a point about "ethnomath." No one is upset if anthropologists and historians study the mathematical ideas of particular cultures. Nor are many upset if multiple and alternative methods of reaching the correct answer are taught (although some are; the drones who graded geometry Regents Tests in mid-sixties New York couldn't actually follow a logical argument very well, so they frequently graded a student's novel proof as wrong, without attempting to find an error in the reasoning).

What's wrong with most "ethnomath" is the idea that mathematics is arbitrary and just part of a culture: in this culture, burping while eating is impolite, in other cultures, failure to burp is impolite. "Ethnomath" prevents children from learning to do mathematics -- which, as I've argued before, is the point of it all: they want to keep the masses ignorant so they're easier to rule.

Meanwhile, for some interesting history of mathematics, see
,  which deals with the history of graphs, and the way they can facilitate scientific discovery (discovered at ).

Best, Stephen


Well, I don't think your imputations of motive are necessarily correct. Not for all of them...


A French Story:

Hi all:

I was at the Paris Air Show when the Russian supersonic transport crashed. I boarded a bus for the Paris train station but the bus got caught in the panicked departing traffic and we were concerned about time. The bus driver decided to avoid the traffic by driving through residential streets, at least until he entered a small circular street and found his way blocked by a car parked at the curb.

We were trapped and he apparently could not move the bus.

I was sitting next to a German guy and we had been talking about the crash. After a while we wondered what the driver was going to do. He had just been sitting there, apparently totally devoid of ideas. The passengers, apparently all Frenchmen, were equally immobilized and passive.

Finally I got up, and accompanied by the German, exited the bus to examine the situation.

There was a small car parked so as to jam the bus. I returned to the bus door and said (in French): "Pardonne Mois, gentlemen. Would some of you please step out here for a minute?" When half a dozen did, I persuaded them to grab the little car and we bounced it up on the curb so the bus could continue.

Afterwards we all got on and drove away.

The German and I wondered afterwards just how long the French would have sat there if a German and an American had not been on the bus. 

Bill Haynes (but see below)

On Professional Police

Subject: Professional Police

Dr. Pournelle,

In response to Mr. Oppen's letter regarding police I have to strongly disagree. I am a police detective and have been in law enforcement in one capacity or another for over 15 years. I have been a police officer and police detecive for 12 years. Does this make me corrupt? Of course not. Mr. Oppen is painting with a very broad brush. Certainly there are corrupt police officers in the world although I don't know any. I would imagine there are corrupt police departments in this nation as well. However, most police officers (a far higher percentage then the public at large) and most departments are very ethical.

The problem with your plan is that police work takes years to learn. It is commonly said that it takes about five years for a police officer to really learn his/her job. I believe this is probably true. Further, there are many areas that require a high degree of specialization such as homicide investigation and high tech crime investigation. The investment in time and training for these areas is substantial. It would be a shame to throw it away after only three or four years. Further, recruiting qualified applicants is already difficult without having to turn over the department every three or four years. The background requirements would certainly suffer. Additionally, police work is difficult physically and even more so mentally. To be an effective police officer you have to want to do it. Otherwise, your mental health will surely suffer. Let me assure you that investigating the murder of a baby or the sexual molestation of a three year old are no easy tasks mentally. I know because I have done it many times.

Certainly, law enforcement agencies should aggressively weed out those few officers who break the law or excercise poor decision making. Further, if an agency in general is corrupt then it should be investigated and appropriate corrective measures taken by state or Federal authorities.

I, and most of my colleagues, certainly which that the rights of the individual were not restricted to the degree they are. This is not the fault of law enforcement. You can squarely blame your elected officials at all levels and your courts, especially the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, for the restriction of individual rights. I have no more control over that than you.

I completely agree with you Dr. Pournelle when you state that people should be prepared to protect themselves and others. In suburban Southern California where I work there are on average 1.5 police officers for every 1000 people. This includes patrol officer, detectives, administrators and others. They are not all on duty at a given time. This means that you cannot rely on the police to be at your house within one minute. In an emergency you probably can expect the police in three to four minutes. If you are being murdered this is too long. In fact, 30 seconds is too long. Further, policing is a team effort. It requires the whole community. If you witness a crime and don't want to tell me about it and all the other witnesses have the same attitude then you can't expect me to have any luck working the case. I will try but ultimately it will probably be unsolved.

Cliff Mathews

I presume that most people know I have been in politics and at one time had responsibilities for oversight of the police, so I am not entirely unfamiliar with all this.

For big cities particularly the training of police takes a long time, and as Mathews observes, it takes more time to learn the job, and more again to learn specialties. Most of us know this, and I presumed the suggestion of  non-career cops was mostly speculation. Small towns can have elected constables, but even that doesn't work as well as they would like.

One problem LA has is that our training is better than our structure: police graduate from our academy, get on the job training, and go off to be higher paid and higher ranking professionals in smaller towns and cities where there is less politics and less stress. This isn't good; and the problem I see is caused by having a force that has too many rookies in proportion to old hands, not the other way around.

But it is still the case that police often get an Us vs. The Scumbags mentality in which the public just becomes a nuisance....

And it's Stalin's anniversary...

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Mar. 6, 2003 subject: Stalin obituaries

Dear Jerry:

Pop quiz time: one's a parody, one's for real. Assignment: decide which captures the essence of the man most accurately, and defend your choice in one paragraph.

I swear I'm not making the second one up.

Best, Stephen



From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   
Date: March 5, 2003   

                                                                     subject: imbecility

Dear Jerry:
        This is worse than I would have believed: a first grade child is suspended for possession of a weapon.  The weapon: a plastic knife issued by the school cafeteria!  (link via the WSJ's Best of the Web Today).

Incredible. Only, alas, I believe it.










This week:


read book now


Thursday, March 6, 2003

Begin with this:

Subject: Ocean wave power

I thought your readers might be interested in this article (found on about generating electrical power from waves. I was reminded of some of the systems you discussed in A Step Farther Out. I'm not sure how much real power we could generate this way, but its good to be looking into alternatives. 

--Alden Jurling

Wave power has always been fascinating to me. Wave and tidal power take extensive capital up front; the question is, are the operations costs low enough (given that the 'fuel' is free)? There's a lot of power out there, but it's dispersed. I'd be interested in seeing more about progress in wave energy collection.

From Joel Rosenberg:

"Polygraph evidence is rightfully excluded from courts; but if I use a polygraph to get from you the location of the little girl's bones, which would have been known only to her violator and murderer, what then?"

Sounds like a slam-dunk conviction to me -- as I understand it (I'm not a lawyer, but I know a few good ones, and had a discussion on this subject with two particularly experienced ones over the past couple of days -- I'm happy to say it's for a project I'm working on, not because I'm worrying about being the new blond on the cellblock), the police are allowed to use any gimmicks/tricks/technology they want, with very few exceptions (up until the suspect uses the magic incantation: "Lawyer!").

I've got mixed feelings about that, but that's the way it is.

(The phony lie detector -- a colander hooked up to a xerox machine, with the cops having the xerox push out a piece of paper that says, "You're lying!" apparently is a myth. On the other hand, there's the guys who had hijacked a trailer full of rennets, thinking that they'd gotten beef. The cops put these criminal geniuses in the back of the car, with the tape recorder going, explained what rennets were, and started laughing at them, then left them alone for awhile. One of the geniuses said something like, "If we're going to jail for stealing five tons of beef assholes, I'm going to be pissed off." Appeals court ruled that humor isn't unconstitutional. )

Also sounds like another reason why somebody -- guilty or not -- is foolish to talk to the cops. (For the guilty guy, the reason is obvious -- the innocent one at least theoretically could say something random or planted that could be used against him later.)

Was talking with a self-defense trainer of my acquaintance yesterday. He just came back from testifying in a murder trial in Florida. The situation is this: husband and wife are having some sort of loud, err, discussion. Somehow or other, he ends up shot, and she calls 911. His dying words to the cops and EMTs were, "Don't blame her. It was an accident."

Now, honest, I'm not in favor of settling domestic disputes with handguns. (Well, most of the time. The only way to settle my argument with Felicia about whether or not she could manage to shoot my .45 Super was by taking it and her down to the range. I won: she nailed the target.)

But, that aside, it sounds like a slam-dunk acquittal -- except, possibly, for some relatively minor crime of negligent discharge, at worst -- except for three words she said to the cops, right then and there:

"No it wasn't."

She was convicted, of first-degree murder.

Was she telling the truth? I dunno. I hope so, given that she's going to be a guest of the state for the rest of her life.


Using polygraph to get people to reveal incriminating facts such as where the body is hidden is pretty clearly a form of "testimony against onself". The Bill of Rights says people can't be compelled to testify against themselves, largely because in Scotland they could be through much of Scottish history, and it had been done in England. 

But whether exclusion of evidence is the proper way to deal with coerced testimony is another matter. It was not a Constitutional right in this country until recently. That is: for a good part of US history, if federal marshals beat a confession out of you (not likely because there were not many Federal crimes enforced by Federal law; in most cases criminal law was applied by the states) the confession went to the jury, as well as the circumstances under which it had been obtained. If the confession contained damning facts that could be known only to the perpetrator, you were in big trouble. If it were only a general statement of "Yeah, I did it, now stop beating me," a jury wasn't likely to take it very seriously. This situation prevailed until after the Civil War and later, but as Federal jurisdiction and the number of Federal officers grew, abuses grew as well; and the Supreme Court decreed the exclusion rule NOT as a Constitutional right at all, but as a rule that it could impose on the lower courts in its supervisory capacity.

The notion was simple: if we don't let the cops profit from coerced evidence they won't do that so much. It may have been good theory.

That appealed to s0me in the states, and some states adopted the exclusion rule and some did not. As of when I taught Constitutional Law in the 60's, about half the states had adopted the exclusionary rule and about half let all the evidence go to the jury along with the circumstances under which it was obtained.

Then sometime later, the US Supreme Court discovered that evidentiary exclusion was a fresh new Constitutional right. One we had never had before. And it applied to the States as well as to Federal courts, because it was Constitutional and not just a Rule that the Court could impose as the head of one branch of government.

I think that's silly.

There are also a lot of arguments for compelling people to testify under pain of punishment for contempt of court.  Jeremy Bentham argued strongly for this, calling the notion that it was hard on the defendant to be forced to participate in his own conviction "the old woman's argument". 

Me, I like the notion that it all goes to the jury along with the circumstances under which the confession was obtained. 

Joel Rosenberg on the SendMail Hole:

Firstly: it's not my ox being gored, not directly -- I use postfix, not sendmail. On the other hand, both of the ISPs where my mail comes use sendmail, and having them compromised would be a bad thing for me, as well as others.

Seems to me that there's a reasonable tension here. Security by obscurity does work -- for short periods of time, and sometimes longer. Far as anybody knows, the sendmail hole has been around for years, and there are, at last report, no known exploits.

Adding a couple of months to that -- while making sure that the patches are readied, and tested -- doesn't seem to me to be all that bad an idea. The problem with (at least arguably) prematurely drawing attention to it is that it will give the malicious folks both some direction as to where to go, and a timeline.

Yes, doing that is not, as one of your correspondents suggested, High Church Open Source. But it does seem to me to be practical. -- ------------------------------------------------------------ 



You've probably already seen this, but just in case:

Maybe this is just another piece of propaganda and it won't amount to anything. Heaven knows China is full of such things. But, I wonder. The military there is said to be aiming for some sort of resurgence, and a functional space program would seem to have all sorts of military applications.

I understand how space exploration has bogged down in the US because of the high costs and the low apparent payoff. Private enterprise can't see any reason to bother. That leaves it the realm of government and I don't see the US government being all that serious about it. Maybe it shouldn't be.

But the Chinese government could be very serious. They have strong nationalistic reasons for wanting to one-up the West (and that's not just the US). From their point of view it might be well worth the cost just to have the only manned base on the Moon be Chinese, even if it produced nothing else of value.

I can't help but wonder if this isn't a lot like the market failure in basic research. Private enterprise won't do it because even though the benefits are clear, no one can recoup the costs when everyone shares in the outcome.

In the long run, humans as a race will live in space; it's inevitable. But who wants to foot the bill for finding out how to do it now? Maybe a government unresponsive to its citizens is the only agency that can accomplish this. I don't like that answer, but maybe it's true.

On the other hand, maybe the Chinese in space is exactly what it takes to get the US interested again.

Kerk Phillips

The US is a world power only so long as we have space assets or can replace them quickly.

And the best way for government to participate in space is through X projects. Real X projects, not phony things like X-33 which was corporate welfare, not an X project.

As to why we need to have access to space:

Subject: Rome nearly cratered


You've probably seen something about this before, but just in case you didn't, there's a 140 m impact crater about 60 miles from Rome that was apparently created about 410 AD, +- 40 years. I was at first amazed that records of an event that large (up to 200 kt, I've read) wouldn't have survived and thought the dating must be wrong. With more thought, maybe it is possible. We really don't have much written material dating from that period, most of it was lost. Also, if it happened in the middle of the night, particularly in a thunderstorm, maybe there were no surviving direct witnesses.

--Larry Elmore

I think this is the first I have heard of this one. I do know that Tours in France was destroyed by a blast which the local bishop determined must have been "the Wrath of God" because there was no other explanation.

I didn't know about the one near Rome. That was the time when Alaric sacked Rome (410 AD or 1163 AUC) and Augustine wrote The City of God (413) to try to explain it. Alaric the Goblin King may well have been aided by a meteorite...







This week:


read book now


Friday, March 7, 2003

Apparently not all Frenchmen are created equal or possibly the passengers and driver were suffering the aftereffects of shock. Some years ago in Martinique, a Department of France and as such, as much a part of France as a State in the US is part of the USA, I was a passenger in a bus which was blocked by a curbside parked car on election day. The crowd of demonstrators took but a few seconds to assess the situation and move to action. About a dozen or more just picked up the car and set it down on the sidewalk, to the gratitude and relief of a busload of passengers bound for the airport.

Regards, Bas

Well, as a descendent of Napoleon's governor of Louisiana, I can hardly condemn all the French out of hand (although my Norman ancestors were more "Frenchified" than French, but that's another story). Generalizations about nations and peoples cannot apply to every individual, and some of the generalizations about national characteristics don't apply to many people at all. Mostly I thought Colonel Haynes had an amusing story...


Subject: First law of thermodynamics repealed

This link describes yet another company that can create energy by extracting hydrogen from water:

This sort of claim appears every few years. Actually, it is quite easy to obtain hydrogen from water. Potassium will do it quite spectacularly, it just does not balance the energy equation.

Charles Ashford

You mean this isn't a wonderful invention being suppressed by the big oil companies? 

Seriously, this is one of the most sophisticated presentations I have ever seen. But to balance the energy equation they either have cold fusion (or fission which is even less likely) or their boxes have a hidden energy supply. I note they haven't delivered a working unit to any independent test lab. I'd be glad to test one for them.

One wonders what it is they want. Or perhaps they have investors and this is a way to keep them happy?






This week:


read book now


Saturday, March 8, 2003

And we have this

Hi Jerry!

For what it's worth, a good friend of mine who is stationed in Turkey sent me the following...


You say Turkey didn't approve US troops passing through? Not really a problem. My landlord explained that it was a political ploy so the new prime minister could be installed next week after tomorrow's election and his new government could take credit for getting the US aide. This week everyone in Turkey is paying DOUBLE annual taxes (like our income taxes 15 April) since the previous government didn't get the $26 billion. The wheels will be well oiled for quick approval of the US request (and resulting lower taxes here) when the new prime ministers government takes it to parliament next week, just in time for the 18th.

What you say? There is no time to move the troops into position? Why do you think our president and his cabinet aren't more concerned about the apparent reversal in Turkey's parliament? Why are they so complementary about the democratic processes in Turkey when it appears to go against them? Why are the ships passing through the Suez canal floating so high in the water? Your guess is as good as mine.


Thanks for doing it all so we don't have to...

Stan Field

I don't know anything here, but I am hardly astonished...

An on another but very interesting subject:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I find this development (newsforge ) very interesting.

Now, I know nothing about the legal IP issues involved; although I'll offer the opinion that much of Computer Science probably derives from a few pioneers, such as Donald Knuth, Alan Perlis, and Alan Turing. Much of what has recently been trademarked, patented, or copyrighted could, with computer-literate examiners and judges, be deemed to be derivative of prior art. But I digress, and really, that's just my opinion.

What I find interesting from a "sociology of business" viewpoint is that in what has to be the classic David (SCO) vs. Goliath (IBM) battle, the traditional allies of the Davids of the world (Bruce Perens, Eric Raymond, slashdot) are quick to come to the defense of Goliath. I'm sure you remember the days when the computer industry was simply referred to as "IBM and the Seven Dwarfs". Today, it's "Microsoft, IBM, a few mid-sized players (Oracle, Sun, etc.), and thousands of dwarfs."

My personal opinion is that SCO picked the wrong opponent, and will rue the day. IBM has (and is) spending billions per year on leveraging its Linux expertise. To IBM, this suit has to be like a fly landing on the back of a buffalo... I'll let it sit there for a while, cause it really doesn't bother me, but then if it gets too annoying, I'll take a half-hearted swat at it. If it still doesn't get the message, then I'll just crush it, and use it as an example to others. I don't mean that in a negative sense... it's just that I don't see IBM worrying all that much about suits from a company that has always been a minor player in the Unix/Linux landscape.

As others have noted, there is no other IT company with a larger inventory of computer-related patents; they (IBM) could drag out the counter-claims for literally decades. IBM probably has more lawyers on staff (let alone on retainer) than SCO can afford to hire for its suit. (Probably, more lawyers on staff than SCO has employees!)

And for a company that still derives a significant part of its revenues from the Linux side of its business, to take a shot at the "sugar daddy" seems particularly misguided. SCO is (for the moment, at least) a part of the UnitedLinux consortium; it will be interesting to see how the other corporate members respond to the suit. And how are the hundreds or thousands of non-corporate Open/Free developers going to react to the SCO suit? Even if they withdrew the suit today, I suspect a lot of ill-will has been created.

We live in interesting times, don't we?


Dave Ballentine in Export PA KQ3T Assistant Professor, Computer Technology Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood PA

Indeed. I am curious as to how my Linux enthusiast friends view this.

Also from Professor Ballantine

Dr. Pournelle,

First, some comments about Acheivement and the Bell Curve...

I teach at a community college, and primarily teach 1st and 2nd semester courses in Windows Applications: Word, Excel, Concepts, File Management, etc. My sample of students is not going to be from the same universe as someone who teaches at a four-year state college, a four-year state university, a four-year private college, or a four-year elite university.

Within any sub-sample of the entire student universe (e.g., all those attending institutions of higher learning), your results will vary. In my particular case, I find that that the best indicators of success (as measured by the ability to pass my exams <G>) are class attendance (which should not be a biased indicator) and doing out of class exercises.

Knowing that my students are probably not the best in the student universe, should I arbitrarily say that my grading scale is X points higher for my CC courses that if I were teaching the same course at a state 4-year school? I surely can't tell a student that her performance is a C is you're a regular CC student, but a B if you want to transfer the credits elsewhere.

WRT: Spam

If they don't get your address from your own site, remember that bots can get your address from any site that links to you. The solution to spam does not reside at the recipient, who is really a victim.


Dave in Export PA


And Eric finds:

Subject: No good deed goes unpunished

From the latest LinuxWorld newsletter:

ISS REPORTS SNORT VULNERABILITY (Source: A software vulnerability in the widely used Snort open-source intrusion detection system (IDS) software could allow an attacker to crash the Snort sensor or gain control of the host device on which the sensor runs. [IDG News Service]

Some days it all just seems so futile, trying to believe one is on top of things.


Regarding the NACEC / ACERT thing, I asked a retired Navy Captain who ended up in Public Relations after being in surface warfare, since I can't really evaluate the situation. He said:


I am suspicious of any organization requesting ANY personal data from service members and their families. NACEC may be matters not. Families are a known soft target for terrorists and common criminals alike. The services make great effort to educate them about this and implore them to protect their personal data.

We used to war game the ways a hostile government might exploit the families of combatants. From that effort a number of recommendations were forwarded "up the chain" and apparently lost forever. Lately, some of those ideas have apparently been rediscovered. Note that aviators identify themselves in news coverage by first name or callsign to supposedly give their families some protection from harassment or worse. While the reality may be of limited effect, it is consistent with the broader effort to bolster home security in the asymmetric warfare environment. I doubt many have given much thought about how terrorizing family members on a personal and very specific basis would be a tremendous demoralizer for the deployed troops.

I think what happened in this case is that a small organization, doing something of great importance to them and perhaps of service to some military families in the past, decided to join the digital revolution and became entangled with the will meaning attempts of a large bureaucracy trying to cause personal security on the net. The result was predictably unpretty but I see no evidence of malice.


Ron Morse, Captain, USN, Ret'd.

Which is about what I would have deduced, and is one reason I don't automatically take what Snopes says as unbiassed truth. And as I said over in view, I'd rather be overzealous than overly accepting in this case.

Re:: LINUX vulnerability note and comment posted Saturday


Some days it all just seems so futile, trying to believe one is on top of things.


end quote

Conceptually, wasn't this entire problem -- in general, not in reference to particular technologies -- completely deconstructed by Dr. Edward E. Smith around 1950 in "First Lensman?"

Jim Woolsley











This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 9, 2003

Subject: Linux enthusiast's view on SCO v. IBM

I'll go along with conventional wisdom; there is no way SCO can expect to win this one. Frankly, there is no way SCO can expect to *survive* this. And I believe (along with such worthies as Bruce Perens) that this is intended... SCO has been on its deathbed for years now, and is looking to get bought rather than go the way of the dot-bomb. Big Blue can simply open its wallet and swallow SCO like an amoeba... probably wouldn't be that big a blip in its balance sheet.

Microsoft has been strangely silent....

(speaking of which, when are we going to get you off Windows? I mean, honestly, having to convince the computer you own it...)

-- Glenn

-- This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. (now-Senator) Fred Thompson as ADM Josh Painter, "The Hunt for Red October"

Microsoft strangely silent indeed. As to why I stay with Windows, I don't entirely; but the Linux applications are not yet what I need to get my work done, most of my readers are in Windows and at least at work have little choice but to stay there, and I have no confidence that Apple can follow any consistent course of action, good, questionable, indifferent, or awful for any length of time.

And many part of Windows are very well done; and so far Microsoft has been listening to at least some suggestions for improvement. Me, I wish we had some common standards and a lot more competition, but I am not sure I know how to get there, and the SCO business doesn't give me confidence.

Let us hope that IBM gets some clues. Bib Blue at least has the resources to compete.

Subject: What about Korea?

Mr Pournelle: 

As I was watching Ted Kennedy criticizing President Bush for fixating on Iraq which almost certainly doesn't have nukes yet while ignoring Korea which almost certainly does, I was tempted to concede that he was raising a good point. 

The most obvious difference is that Iraq is adjacent to oil rich states whose military forces are small and incompetent while Korea is surrounded by heavily industrialized countries whose military forces are more than capable of handling Korea. Then it occurred to me that there is one geographical factor that diminishes the threat from North Korea ICBMs. North Korea is a small country that is bordered on the south by an US ally, on the North by the Chicoms, and by ocean to the east and west.

 To attack the US with an ICBM, the North Koreans would have to launch westward over the ocean. It occurs to me that by placing an aegis cruiser off the coast of Korea, the US would have at least a limited capability to engage a missile while it is still in the boost stage. The latest news reports are that North Korea is preparing to test an ICBM within the next few days. At the risk of being provocative, perhaps the US should use the Korean test as an opportunity to test this intercept capability. The Korean's we find it difficult to determine if we'd shot their missile down, much less prove it. They'd certainly not be eager to admit that the US had rendered their new toys irrelevant by complaining about it. Perhaps by doing an intercept of their test would cause them to reconsider their decision to build an ICBM.

James Crawford

An intriguing notion.

Subject: Good riddance.,,2-600021,00.html   Roland Dobbins

De mortuis nil nisi bene 

But perhaps the evil that men do ought to be rememebered when it lives after them.


Dr. Pournelle,

 I received a similar message through my USNR channels. Although NACEC's intentions may be good, *my* instructions to my unit forbid members to send their SSNs by unsecured email.


A senior active duty Naval Officer

Which illustrates nicely the reasons I don't automatically go to Snopes and take their word as gospel. Snopes makes this a very clear cut thing: the warning was a hoax and people ought to be ashamed of themselves for repeating it, etc. But in fact the path of caution leads in a different direction. We need not imply malice on the part of NACEC to worry about bots intercepting their mail.

And this:

Hello, Jerry,

As I drove home on Friday, I heard NPR interview the Secretary of the Air Force. The man answered every question directly and sensibly, like a person with brains and honesty, rather than a dodging politician. Convinced me that the Air Force is being led by people who know what they are doing.

Main points, as I remember:

(1) 54 incidents reported in the last ten years...far too many, the Air Force believes.

(2) USAFA graduates account for 1/3 - 1/4 of the officers in USAF.

(3) The ordinary airbase, having, by implication, 2/3 of its officers from outside the academy, does not see this rate of abuse. The USAF pretty successfully integrates men, women, all ranks, all races. That makes the USAF Academy stand out.

(4) Should the commanders of the Academy have controlled it better? He had an interesting answer: the responsibility falls on the cadets. They should not need to be controlled, policed, directed, to behave as grownups, since they will soon have serious responsibility. Note, also, also, that the commandants change every few years, so there is no single "bad commandant" who could be "blamed" for the record of the last ten years, even if we wanted to. The main answer, though, was that the cadets cannot shift blame to their commanders..."they let me do it" won't wash.


John Welch

Honor offenses are supposed to be decided by the Corps of Cadets (I guess it's a Wing at USAFA). If they are reported to the cadet officers and nothing is done that is a separate honor matter. However, if incidents are reported to the Tac Officers and nothing is done, that's a staff failure. Of those 54 incidents in 10 years, are they all alike, or are some of them "he said, she said, and we believed him" variety, while others have clear evidence of rape? What level of inquiry was made? And so forth.

I know that upperclassmen are capable of abusing plebes, and I can only guess that when some of the plebes are young girls this can result in some rather unique kinds of abuse. I would imagine this isn't news to anyone on the command staff, and that at least some procedures would be in place.

I have no experience of sexual integration in military organizations. My daughter was an Airborne captain of intelligence for some years and she does. Next time I see her I'll ask her what she thinks about this, but I do not start with the automatic rage against the officer corps.

But I entirely agree, the Corps of Cadets needs to police itelf. "We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do." 








Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)