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Mail 260 June 2 - 8, 2003






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Monday  June 2, 2003

There was considerable mail, much of it quite good, over the weekend.

And this may be disturbing:

Airline horror from MSNBC:

"Bad trips: America's 5 worst flights to take"

"Yes, of course, you can have a bad flight anytime. Yet there are certain trips where you're likelier to walk off the plane feeling as if you'd rather stayed home. The airlines know about them, because they're the ones the senior crew members refuse to work on. Experienced road warriors do, too" 

Richard Hunt

I don't know the other flights, but I would certainly rather drive to SFO than fly LAX to SFO on a commuter flight. It was different before US AIR otherwise known as Allegheny Airlines and affectionately known as Agony Airlines bought out wonderful PSA and shut it down. PSA made flying fun. Southwest invites you to endure it.

And Eric says:

Subject: A different view of what's happening in Iraq

Mark Steyn visits Iraq, finds people doing well when they can avoid the invading charities.

Eric Pobirs

Which doesn't seem unreasonable at all. No stories in it, though.

And for those who actually care about the Florida Driving License imbroglio:

Dr. Pournelle,

I found this web address on a BB I often visit.  where it purports the center of the controversy has a criminal record.

It is unusual but not unheard of to see mug shots in the public domain, so it may be true. I have no reason other than that to doubt this (well, also the unusual name of the site). Interesting if true. A person on the same BB who has worked in the middle east, commented that it is uncommon for women to be allowed to drive there. Where it is allowed, full face photos are required on their drivers licenses. That would give her suit less validity.


I find the very notion that anyone could seriously entertain a lawsuit over getting a driving license with a picture taken while wearing a mask so grotesque as to make me wonder for the future. When bizarre things begin to happen, legal systems begin to crumble.

Burnham said that liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.  I have seen little to refute that observation, and certainly nothing in this case.

And continuing the discussion of NASA and what to do


I have been thinking about what to do about NASA and how the government helped early aviation. In the early days of aviation the mail contracts were often the only thing that made airlines profitable. In that case government funding helped and I believe the key was that the government bought services not airplanes. My solution is not quite an X-prize but I believe may be easier to sell to congress. Keep NASA’s mission the same and even keep their funding at the same level but pass a law that makes NASA owning, designing, or operating any flight hardware illegal. Under this plan, the follow on to Hubble would not be a contract for a telescope but a contract to buy images of a specified resolution take at a designated wavelength. The actual hardware and operation would still belong the company winning the contract. Likewise, a mission to mars would be a contract to buy seats, not spacecraft. This would allow NASA to continue to fund projects where there is no likely source of private funding such as the Hubble while developing a robust private space infrastructure.

Mike Plaster

We proposed something like that in the old Council reports in the 80's. It takes the Challenger and Columbia disasters to shake Congressional confidence in NASA; they're very good at sounding like rocket scientists.


Regarding the link on your website about:

The Failure of NASA: And A Way Out

We've 20 employees in our office. I'd suggest that on any given day 8 of them will have a space related background as wallpaper on their computers.

I was at a Boy Scout world jamboree in Idaho when we walked on the moon. Hundreds of us from all over the world gathered to watch the TV and cheered when it happened. I was sure, positive, that I'd get to get into space. I knew that I'd never be a pilot, but thought I'd get there as a tourist. Indeed, I used the signature it too wild to want to get into space...for years.

I'm closing on 50, next month. I'm now just as sure that my sons won't ever get to see space, except from the ground.

Damn shame and it angers me.

I'm going to write to my congressmen and senators.

Mark Huth

Is it too wild to want to get into space?

Do not be so sure about this! Things can happen fast if we want them to.

Subject: Regarding how to fix NASA

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

While reading the ideas put forward on how to fix NASA and the perceptive news articles on the same subject, it occurs to me that there is one glaring flaw in all of this reasoning. As you have pointed out, the primary purpose of NASA seems to employ as many people in as many political districts as possible. What shall be done with all these federal employees who impact local economies and cast ballots? If what ever new space development agency is to absorb these employees, then won't the same problems that are noted now with NASA be manifested again? After all, it seems to me that the budget excesses of NASA are in large part finding make-work for all these people to do.

Unless something politically acceptable is found to do with this large block of voters (the NASA employees) then there is no hope whatsoever in fundamentally changing NASA and space access in the near term. The political equation cannot be ignored in this whole situation. I personally am not optimistic, regretfully.

Please excuse the grammatical errors as I'm composing this on the run with distractions.


Karl W. Murphy

Your point is well made, and I have no real answer. The best thing for the country would be to move them to a dinosaur farm: you are employed, and you will write memos to each other, and otherwise, if anyone ever hears from or of you, you are fired. There are, alas, a lot of people at NASA who deserve that treatment.

And see below.




And something to look at 

Interesting take on why so many people in the world seem to hate/fear the US. 

My kids bore the brunt of anti-US sentiments in a pre-school/elementary school when we lived in New Zealand in 1999. Heck, the Dutch-born principal of the school (born 1955-1960, in my estimation) was even willing to contest the notion that he'd be speaking German were it not for the US. So I think this piece is worth looking at.

Ed Hume

I expect this one to spark considerable discussion.

I do point out that sometimes attitudes have an effect, and hatreds can become habits -- and reciprocated. Freedom Fries, anyone?

And see below.

Subject: wireless speed 

Wireless Speed-This is slick.

 Mark Huth 

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. twain

Slick indeed. I really loved Ricochet and I wish it would come back...

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

Regarding the NYT story about A-10 Warthog retirement, sent to you by one of your readers last week, it looks like the A-10 will survive a few more years.

Quote\ Air Combat Command in Langley, Virginia scrambled its public relations officers and released this statement. "There is no study to decommission the A-10 in 2004, but like all aircraft we own, they will not last forever -- the average age of the A-10 is more than 23 years. The capability our aircraft bring to the joint force is one of our top priorities, so much so that we are building a concept of operations that will ensure that every one of our Air Force weapons-delivering aircraft will possess the capability to conduct close air support, and will be able to do so in the most demanding threat environments." /Unquote


The statement is a little ambiguous. "There is no study to decommission the A-10 in 2004" implies that there might be such a study aiming at a later year. And the idea of all Air Force "weapons-delivering aircraft" being well suited to close air support is extremely interesting, isn't it. Maybe it can be done, but I'll believe it when I see it.

-- Best regards, Ajax Pickering

Yea, verily. Thanks.






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This I like:


Not everyone hates the USA, not even most people.

I am an Australian, and like most there is a genuine affection for "yanks". I am not sure why this is so, perhaps it is a common parent country, we both came out of England. Perhaps it is our common commitment to growing through immigration, even if this sometimes brings great problems.

I think that it is because the USA is one of the few countries that we can call "mates" something that you may call friends, but it means more than that to us, we have many friends, but few mates.

I think that Yanks and Aussies are mates because we have three traits in common.

Both countries are willing to "have a go" that is to have a "can do" attitude. It may take a huge effort to convince people to start a project, but both countries are willing to start, and push through to completion.

Both countries believe in "a fair go" there is an ingrained belief in natural justice and that it should apply to all regardless of "race, creed, or colour".

Both countries are willing to "stand by a mate". We believe that if a friend needs help it is given, period.

It can easily be said by the cynical that these three traits are throwbacks to an earlier age, and cannot be applied to a country as a whole, I think that they can.

Our Prime Minister, John Howard, was in the USA when 911 happened, Over here we saw the genuine look of shock and concern on his face. Before we knew that Australians where amongst the victims we had committed to supporting the USA. We stood by you yanks, we still do.

Our commitment kept us there, through the war, and it will keep us there after it is long past.

If there is any criticism to be levelled at the USA it is that you are so damm big! On almost any measurement of the wealth and power of a nation the USA is way off to the right of the bell curve. You spend more on defence than any other country, hell you spend more on defence that the next half a dozen countries combined. You lead the world on technology development. YOU WALKED ON THE MOON!

Even the friendliest giant can sometimes stumble, and despite the best of intentions the rule of unintended consequences means that the small can suffer great harm when a giant stumbles.

Many people are afraid of the USA, many hate you, Many are jealous of your position in the world.

Many people are sure that you intend to crush all the world under your heel. We don't.

The culture of the USA is dynamic, successful, and infectious. Some nations are afraid that their own culture will be lost, diluted in the rush to be like the successful USA. I feel that culture is dynamic, and the countries that can adapt, and can absorb the parts of American culture that suit them and their culture will grow stronger for it.

Your most bitter enemies fear you and hate you because your influence is washing away their power. The repressive and moribund cultures will fail, because you yanks exist. You beat you only real opposition in the long war not by mere clash of arms but by being what you are. You yanks out produced, out developed, and outlasted them.

We need to see that all sides get a fair go, and we believe that you yanks also believe in similar principles.

The fact that you seem to spend so much time and effort in examining your own motives makes me believe that there is hope.

From the outside the fact that you call yourself a republic or an empire is not as important as how we perceive the USA.

Like all mates we will often argue, some times violently, over how things should be done. But we still be mates.

Paul Beaver

Thanks, mate.


Move Over, Spiderman!

Fun Stuff!

Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

Reuters Link:

Gecko Man Replaces Spider-Man with Sticky Fingers Mon June 2, 2003 11:11 AM ET By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Forget Spider-Man -- Gecko Man may be breathing down your neck with gloves made of sticky hairs. Researchers in Britain said on Monday they had developed a new type of adhesive based on the uniquely sticky feet of geckos. And yes, some day people may be able to use it to climb walls.

University of Manchester news link:  Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a new type of adhesive, which mimics the mechanism employed by geckos (a type of lizard) to climb surfaces, including glass ceilings.



it's the law

jim woosley

Gloomier than I would be, but it's clear the feedback loop is broken; something should have been done a long time ago before things got this acute.


You said: The best thing for the country would be to move them to a dinosaur farm: you are employed, and you will write memos to each other, and otherwise, if anyone ever hears from or of you, you are fired. There are, alas, a lot of people at NASA who deserve that treatment.

Reply: But there are also a lot of people who are trying to do the best they can within the system, and some are succeeding.

Jim Woosley

It is always a dilemma: what to do when an organization has become hopeless but there are still a few good people in it.

The obvious answer is that in general the people who matter know who the good guys are, as many of us know who the good guys are in NASA. But that often makes no difference. Dan Goldin tried to reform the place, but anyone within NASA who was intelligent was soon marginalized by the bureaucracy if they were seen to be associating with the Administrator. Since most of the bureaucracy has its own back doors to Congress and other places in government, as well as a splendid knowledge of the Civil Service Act and its rules, even the Administrator can't change much, even with direct orders.

We have fought this fight before.  The Challenger disaster was a signal, but the bureaucracy managed to get past that. The Columbia disaster has finally awakened some of Congress to the fact that NASA, as an institution, has lied to the public and to the Congress for 30 years -- 30 years of fudge -- and has allowed the Not Invented Here complex within the Centers to destroy nearly all innovation in many areas.

NASA is hopeless. Because of Civil Service you can't fire them; but they can all be transferred to one place and ignored. We can then see about rescuing the good guys. There are some, particularly in a few of the Centers, but in general they have no influence even in the Center they work in.

And for pure fun

re: The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference


Wonderful insights, exciting opportunities, and "absolutely risk free." 

Henry Stern Dayton, OH

And now for a strange case with some profound implications. 

Truth is a defense at libel (it is not absolute, but it helps), but a libel suit comes about after publication. From reading the article I can't tell how much of what is truth about the lady and how much is fancy.

Prior restraint -- that is forbidding someone to publish at all -- has never been looked on with favor in the United States since the Sedition Laws during the time of John Adams. The history of censorship comes to us from England and is quite complex, but in essence the Crown has always had the right to censorship through a licensing system, but Parliament has to implement that. There were periods of free speech and periods of licenses and restraint prior to the American Revolution.

The Constitution left the matter to the States, but firmly forbade Congress any power of prior restraint or censorship. The Sedition Laws tried to evade that restriction, and there has always been a conflict between Freedom of Speech and security considerations: may one be restrained from publishing the exact details of how to make high explosives? Weaponize anthrax? Trade secrets obtained from an employer or former employer? Hard cases make bad law, and Free Speech cases have been among the hardest.

Now go read:

Subject: Prior restraint.

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

and think on it. More below.

Subject: Tasks of empire.

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


Continuing a discussion begun over in view:

Subj: Ortega y Gasset: Caesar vs Cicero

Is Ortega's contraposition of Caesar and Cicero consistent with a conservatism that is appropriate for modern America?

Ortega describes Caesar as one of only two "really clear heads" in the ancient world; the other was Themistocles (_Revolt of the Masses_, p. 156). Cicero, he describes as "a man engaged his whole life long in making things confused." (p. 158)

The context of this assessment is Ortega's analysis of the political crisis in Rome, when the Empire outgrew the city-of-Rome-based electoral system of the Republic. Cicero wanted to preserve the Republic, and the Republican virtues. Caesar destroyed the one, and his successors the others.

But Ortega credits Caesar with a deeper vision, with what today might be called a "progressive" vision, of an Imperium based, not on the City-State of Rome, but "on the periphery, on the provinces, and this implies the complete supersession of the City-State." (p. 161) Ortega reads this vision, not from anything Caesar wrote, but from Caesar's actions, in particular from his exiling himself from Rome for the purpose of conquering Gaul, and thereby taking for the Empire the non-City-centered model of "national" state-hood, which Ortega attributes to the peoples of Gaul.

It is customary to describe Ortega as "conservative". But I wonder.

If conservatism is, as John Derbyshire says, "not a devotion to stasis but a determination to bring the best of the past with us into the unknowable future," does Caesar's enterprise, of jacking up the entire Roman Imperial superstructure, pulling the old City-State foundation out from under it, and refounding it on a nation-state-hood adopted from recently-conquered barbarians, really qualify?

Rod Montgomery ==

First, recall when Caesar lived. The Republic of old was dead. There had been two disastrous civil wars, and another looked to be brewing. The old City State structure couldn't possibly work because it was entirely imperial, and those in the provinces had no say in how they were to be governed; while competition for governorship of a province was one of the main objects of Roman politics, since one could go overseas a debtor and return a rich creditor.

Second, understand that what we call Conservatives most Europeans call Liberals, and what the Europeans call Conservatives we don't have; at least we don't have many of them. This will require an essay longer than I have time to write, but the old Burkean Conservatives, devoted to throne and altar, are pretty thin on the ground in the United States. Russell Kirk aspired to that, but even he would be thought Liberal in the US.

Ortega is no democrat. He said once something to the effect that he had been accused of saying that societies ought to be aristocratic. He replied "I go much further than that. I say that a society must be aristocratic and if it ceases to be aristocratic it ceases to be a society." [The quotation is from memory and far from exact.] But of course he means by aristocracy not one of exclusively of birth, but an aristocracy of merit; one can earn one's way into that aristocracy, and one can lose one's place in it. What Ortega despised was the notion of an unexamined life, and a government run by those whose lives and ideas were unexamined was an object of contempt. One earned citizenship: as I have in the fanciful government of Sparta in my Falkenberg novels. Sparta is, of course, an Ortegan aristocracy...




Found this story on an A-10 that took massive damage over Baghdad and made it home safe, including some amazing pictures of the damage:

A clip from the story:

After sustaining the hit, she said the aircraft immediately became uncontrollable and she noticed several caution warnings -- all over a very hostile territory.

"I lost all hydraulics instantaneously, so I completely lost control of the jet. It rolled left and pointed toward the ground, which was an uncomfortable feeling over Baghdad," she said. "The entire caution panel lit up and the jet wasn't responding to any of my control inputs."

Captain Campbell tried several different procedures to get the aircraft under control, none of which worked, she said. At that point, she decided to put the plane into manual reversion, which meant she was flying the aircraft without hydraulics. After that, the aircraft immediately began responding.

"The jet started climbing away from the ground, which was a good feeling because there is no way I wanted to eject over Baghdad," she said.

Because the aircraft sustained hits to the rear of the aircraft, including the horizontal stabilizer, tail section and engine cowling, Captain Kim said she could not see the damage. Her flight leader, Lt. Col. Richard Turner, positioned his aircraft where he could view the damage.

"The jet was flying pretty good and the damage had not affected the flight control surfaces or the (landing) gear," Colonel Turner said. "If (Kim) could keep it flying, we would get out of Baghdad and might be able to make it (back to base).

And the Air Force wants to decommission these beautiful hogs? I’m stunned.


Jessica Mulligan

Executive Producer, Asheron's Call 1 and 2

Turbine Entertainment










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Wednesday, June 4, 2003

More work done on Burning Tower. I'll get to mail and views tonight. All goes well.

Dear Jerry,

Bureaucratis Nincompoopus in action:

Eagle egg destroyed due to lack of permit

Citing a lack of "legal authority to let the egg hatch," Kentucky wildlife officers destroyed a rare bald eagle egg laid by a pair of birds in captivity at a state game farm. 

The sheer mindlessness is breathtaking.

Truth is rapidly becoming stranger than fiction. I wonder how long The Onion will be able to hold out before they are outpaced?


Gordon Runkle

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

Why not?









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Thursday, June 5, 2003

Subject: Microsoft worm du jour ( priority one)

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

Today Microsoft announced yet another have-your-way-with-me critical security flaw in Internet Explorer. For details, see:




Note that Microsoft rates this problem "critical" for all versions of Internet Explorer from 5.01 through current running on any Microsoft operating systems except Windows 2003 Server, for which severity is rated "moderate". Presumably versions of Internet Explorer earlier than 5.01 are affected as well, but Microsoft does not support or comment on such problems.

The "critical" rating means Microsoft considers this problem to be of the utmost severity. A problem rated only "important" is described as:

"A vulnerability whose exploitation could result in compromise of the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of users’ data, or of the integrity or availability of processing resources."

A problem rated "critical" is described as:

"A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow the propagation of an Internet worm without user action"

This is another of the Microsoft security flaws that requires nothing more than viewing or previewing a malicious email or visiting a malicious web site. Applying the patch sounds like a good idea.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

The real moral to these stories is the same as I have always said: DO NOT OPEN UNEXPECTED MAIL ATTACHMENTS, and understand that Microsoft software is no more vulnerable to worms transmitted by opening mail attachments than is most other software. Yes, Linux doesn't get so many of them, but even there if you go about opening mail attachments and programs promising free this and that, you will eventually regret it.


Subject: Iraq WMD


Back in the days of Prohibition, a lot of illegal bars had their stock stored in special shelves that acted as a trap door. If the cops arrived, the bartender or someone else would pull a lever which would cause the shelves to dump their contents into a chute that led to the basement. The end of the chute featured a metal grate which would shatter the glass bottles and a pile of gravel for the contents to drain into. Given the rules of evidence that prevailed at the time (remember, prohibition was passed by the nations newly enfranchised women while the men were away fighting a war, so it wasn't really a very popular law), this simple ruse was sufficient to avoid prosecution even though it was obvious that the owners of the establishment had possessed illegal booze when the cops arrived.

Much the same thing has happenned in Iraq. The two mobile, bioweapons labs that have been found are analogous to a pile of gravel that reeks of alcohol. We know what they were intended for, but they don't constitute a smoking gun. The barrels of extraordinarily radioactive yellow cake are far more worrisome to me. IAEC seals not withstanding, Iraq shouldn't have been allowed to stock pile any form of Plutonium. You'll remember that it took the Bush administration nearly a year to get prepared, both militarily and politically for the invasion of Iraq. During much of this time, Saddam had good reason to believe that Bush could be flim flammed just as easily as Clinton had been. When it finally became apparent that unlike Clinton, W has the testicular fortitude to actually do something, Saddam started hiding the evidence. I suspect that all of the production equipment was either destroyed or converted into plausibly civilian uses. Most of the finished products were probably buried in remote locations in the desert where they'd be nearly impossible to find in spite of our much vaunted spy satellites which can allegedly read newspapers (they can't due to diffraction limitations combined with atmospheric distortions). Unfortunately, some of the finished WMD may have probably been transferred to other parties. Certainly Syria and perhaps Iran were beneficiaries, but I expect some infamous terrorists organizations have also gotten some new toys. In spite of some well deserved criticism, it seems unlikely that these groups still have the global reach to use these WMD in the USA. However, the recent bombings in the Middle East, particularly Saudi, suggests that these weapons will be used over there. What should be making everyone in the US angry is that the French and Russians were knowingly aiding and abetting Sadam's cover up by abusing their diplomatic clout.

James Crawford

We know that Saddam had chemical weapons (not very good ones); that he used them on both foreign and domestic enemies; that his government had the power to make them whether or not it was making them at the time; and left to himself if he needed such he'd make them. He had missiles adapted for delivery of chemical and probably biological weapons. He had people technically trained in production of biological weapons, particularly anthrax, and the techniques for make weapons grade anthrax are fairly low technology, and can be bought off the shelf from France or some other place that isn't too careful of what it sells.

The WMD issue is a political issue. There never was much of a threat to the US from Iraq. Deterrence worked and would have worked a lot better if we had simply come home, minded our own business, and built our energy production resources.

We didn't do that.  I would not have invaded, and now that it is over I wish we hadn't invaded; but we are there, the deed is done, and we have to make the best of the consequences. I do not consider the invasion of Iraq so stupid as to negate everything else the Bush Administration is doing. It was far more effective than Clinton's random scattering of cruise missiles around the world. What Clinton did truly came close to being terror attacks, especially in Sudan, and those cruise missiles enhanced neither or moral or our military reputation: they made us neither feared or loved.

If it is better to be feared than loved, the Iraqi war accomplished that much. 

I agree: he had the means, and at one time had certainly built CBW and if he could have managed a nuclear weapon or two he certainly would have.

Now he's gone. What do we do next?


On Spam:

Spam to legit mail: more than 30 to 1


It is Wednesday evening, 2003-06-04. I have been saving all of my mail since 2003-06-01 00:00. So far, I have received 1091 items of e-mail. 30 were legitimate e-mail. 10 were invitations to scams. 1051 were other forms of spam, 124 of which IHateSpam did not catch (I don't complain about the 12+% miss rate, since I have it set so that essentially zero legit messages are sent to quarantine).

So, I am getting 35 pieces of spam for every piece of legitimate e-mail, and the week isn't even over yet. This is what I get for being on the web with the same address for more than seven years.


No it is what you get for having the finest Congress money can buy, and letting the DMA lobbyists control most of the legislation on the subject; it is what you get for the federalization of everything. There was a time when the locals would simply run the spammers out of town on a rail, after generous applications of tar and feathers. It would be a violation of their "civil rights" but it would sure make it harder for them to find a nice place to live. But then I am a novelist.


America Online has lost more than 1 million dial-up customers since the dramatic decline in its subscriber base began late last year, sources familiar with the figures said yesterday.

The Dulles-based firm is rapidly losing customers to NetZero and other lower-priced bare-bones Internet services, as well as to higher-priced high-speed cable and telephone providers. <snip>


Ed Hume

Which makes sense. Dialup will be with us for longer than most thought -- although Gates did make a lot of "the last 50 feet" problem in his The Road Ahead -- and premium dialup services don't make a lot of sense now. Cable modem is cheap and getting cheaper and so is DSL. The backbones are all in place, and now it's just getting the stuff to people's homes. We just got Cable Modem here, and I will shortly let the iDSL service go along with the satellite connection, using dialup as a backstop to cable.


RE: Prior restraint

It is interesting that Ms. Johnson has an American flag with the words "Free Speech" flashing over it prominently displayed on her homepage.

This case is another example of using the legal system to shed ourselves of absolutely all responsibility for our actions. If we do something foolish we can sue someone else claiming they didn't take adequate steps to protect us from ourselves. The next step is to sue to erase any record of the fact that we were foolish in the first place, as Ms. Johnson is doing.

Unfortunately for Ms. Johnson, she's learning the same lesson too many others have: practice what you preach, or else someone will probably take great pleasure in exposing you. She'd have been wiser to spin the story as an example of why young women should be careful in their selection of male friends.

Here's a link to the Google-cached story from Tucker's site. It's high-school locker-room quality stuff:

Al Payne

As you say, high school locker room quality. My guess is that this isn't the case to use as a precedent in a free speech/libel conflict. shows none of this of course, and if the story was libelous to begin with, then does google have a problem for caching it? If it wasn't, why has it been removed? That may be a more interesting question than the original one.

In Tucker's account Miss Johnson was inexperienced with two previous partners, he being the third, and for a while she was enamored of him. She has since gone to advocacy of abstinence.

I find her web site a bit much for me, but it isn't intended for grown up Cold Warriors turned  novelists. If she claimed virginity as opposed to present abstinence I didn't see it.

In my day we didn't talk about our conquests by name. Of course when I was in school there were girls you could sleep with (well, there were rumors that such girls existed) and girls you dated and might marry, and those were, at least in the social classes I was acquainted with, not the same set of girls at all; and claiming that you had managed to seduce a girl might put you higher on a scale of masculinity, but unless the girl was one of the first class rather than the second, you risked a big loss in social esteem -- as well as a visit from her brother, or her current boyfriend, or the boyfriend of her big sister. But those days are probably gone. Still, I don't see why Mr. Tucker found it necessary to count coup on Miss Johnson, whether or not his account is true in essence, exaggerated, or mostly or wholly false.

This matter is probably important to the principals, and to novelists, and the curious, but I doubt it has any great merit for generating precedents about libel, prior restraint, and free speech. Or does it? 

On the internal evidence of Tucker's account -- or as much of it as I could bring myself to read, including the ending --  he doesn't come off very well, and while Miss Johnson doesn't come off much better, after reading his account -- not hers -- I would rather know her than him, and I don't mean for sexual purposes.

And I agree with Mr. Payne that perhaps she has learned a lesson. Perhaps she learned the value of abstinence from her encounter with Mr. Tucker. And perhaps she was embarrassed to have that story come out, as Dr. Laura was embarrassed to have the story of her long over affair be exposed. 

Ah well.


Dear Jerry:

Looking at the weekend comments on non-citizens in the Army inspires(?) me to make a few comments of my own on the current force structure. We've always had non-citizen volunteers in the Army. During the Civil War we attracted lots of professional military men from other countries who simply wanted to be part of the largest conflict that had ever been fought. We had a fair number during the Vietnam War as well except in my unit which was a military component of NSA and didn't officially take non-citizens --except we had all these middle aged E-6's whose English wasn't too good and who we weren't allowed to talk to. Defectors I presume.

Military service was something of a rite of passage until the Vietnam War, at which point it became very uncool to be a soldier and you couldn't get a date if you had a regulation haircut. Believe it or not, that kind of thing does have an impact. It was also the time when the Army decided that it really would integrate, because the old prejudices no longer worked...and those who insisted on them suddenly found themselves not allowed to re-enlist or with OER's that guaranteed they'd never make Captain. Likewise the first experiments integrating women into the force began. I saw that at my HQ in Germany. One female officer and one female enlisted. It was, to say the least, historic because neither of them was a WAC. Ten years after I got out my roommate, Leigh, got in and was in one of the first sexually integrated Basic Training companies. She later pulled guard duty in Germany right along with the guys.

Well, the old prejudices went away for economic reasons. We needed people. NSA is mostly staffed by the military and is, in fact, a military outfit with a civilian gloss. Women can do those jobs just as well as men, which is perhaps why we were the proving ground. There were certain inevitable side-effects to this (One of these vets posted "I love you Staff Sergeant McKitrick" on the web page at the 525th's site. Seems he had wooed and wed his trick chief.) The Army generally became more of a family oriented enterprise. I am sure this has led to interesting etiquette questions that my mother, as an Army wife, never had to contend with. What do you do when the Colonel's wife is also, herself, a Colonel?

Other limitations manifested themselves. We needed smarter soldiers. Hi-tech soldiers, so the Army dropped its time-honored role as a salvager of human capital. No longer could a local judge give a young offender the choice between three years in prison or joining the Army. The Army no longer wanted such people, nor did it want substance abusers, racists, or people too stupid to live. One of my stepsons tried to join the Navy's Nuclear submarine program. He had lots of traffic tickets and I expressed doubts that he would ever get a security clearance. I was right. He was home within a month.

After Vietnam the Army began to remake itself once more; something that it has done about once every fifteen years during the last century. The National Guard and Reserves having been a refuge for those who wished to dodge the draft, while serving in some semblance of the military and not to be sent to Vietnam (I went through Basic Training with a lot of these clowns), was now integrated as fully as possible into the main force. Again it was economics. A lot of military jobs can be handled by people who are not full-time soldiers.

The first Gulf War proved that this system doesn't work too well for combat arms units, but everything else can be placed in the Guard and Reserve...and pretty much was. This is how Terry Karney, a member of the California National Guard, ended up in Iraq in the current conflict.

Okay, this saves a lot of money and gives the Army a lot of flexibility, but the constant calls to duty are very disruptive to the lives of those who are called up. The operations tempo has been increasing yearly for the last twelve years to the point where some of the Guard and Reserve soldiers are going to be able to get 20 year retirements if they want them. It creates hardships for people in these units and consequent losses of well-trained experts needed to run the Army we have now. These are not the first term soldiers but the mid-level leaders and managers without whom nothing gets done.

Recruiting is a constant problem and will be as long the pay is low...and if we have a single soldier's family on food stamps, then its too low. These guys don't go out and blow their pay in bars. They're too busy training and getting ready for the next mission to have the time to do that, and unlike the Army of decades past, most of them are married or in serious relationships. Military pay has never been exactly lavish, and people don't sign up for the Army to get rich, but rather to serve the nation --a notion which many civilians now see as rather quaint, God help them.

One of the unintended consequences of the current system is that the Army has become seriously disconnected from the rest of American society, not in a Praetorian Guard sense, but simply in terms of economic and social class. If you are a young person with limited opportunities and limited resources, then the Army or other military service represents not just an opportunity to save some money for college, but to learn things you won't be able to any place else, at a comparatively young age. For instance, the 22 year old Lieutenant in charge of millions of dollars worth of vehicles and supplies or the 19 year old Specialist Four who become a medical professional.

Rep. Charlie Rangle, a man who knows a thing or two about the Army, suggested bringing back the draft last year and created a furor. His thesis, and it's a good one, was that if we had a few children of the rich and powerful in the forces, we might not be so quick to put people in harm's way for ill-defined or suspect goals. All of the pundits who mulled over the proposition thought it a good idea, for the reasons outlined above, but all said "It will never happen". I'm not so sure. I think it might.

The alternative is raising military pay and benefits to the point where it becomes an attractive career for the upper middle class as well as those lower down on the economic ladder. Better wages or forced servitude with all that entails. Of course, if we do that, what will become of all those tax cuts?

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

I have always pointed out that no wealthy republic ever survived long without conscription. The Swiss have universal and absolute conscription, and until recently, their treatment of conscientious objectors was to conduct them to the border with a Swiss passport not good for return to Switzerland. Priests, doctors, if you were male you would be in the army, not merely for the training, but for 30 years after. I gather they have relaxed some of those regulations in the past decade or two, but it's still universal conscription.

Sweden, at least until a few years ago, had universal manhood conscription. You could get out of the service, but if you did, employers could -- and many did -- legally discriminate against you in hiring, and you could never hold a civil service position.

Other Republics (and I include constitutional monarchies like Sweden) had similar provisions. Britain went to conscription many times.

Machiavelli said that paid soldiers -- a professional standing army -- were death to Republics. "Either will ruin you by losing your battles, or they will substitute themselves for the government."  He was drawing on Roman experience of course, but also on the experience of various Italian states. 

The United States from George Washington on was fearful of a standing army.

Mr. Heinlein discovered his disdain for conscription late in life; he didn't have it before 1950 or so, and perhaps later. He eventually told me that a Republic that couldn't get enough volunteers to defend it didn't deserve defending, but I think he had not thought that through. It is not the need for defense that generates the need for conscription. It is the need for army and citizens all to have the same interests.

The fact is that a paid army can be sent on many adventures that you cannot get into with a conscript army. This is self-evident and I think not in dispute. A paid army can be put into unpopular wars. I doubt very seriously that the American people wanted us to conduct an air war against Serbia, and indeed Clinton was afraid to send in ground troops without a declaration of war; he was satisfied to ruin the economy of the Balkans in order to intervene in a war in which there were no recognizable good guys. We have made that area safe for UN bureaucrats who seem to be the only winners in a war won by the United States.

For much of US history, the Department of War belonged to the Congress. The President was Commander in Chief when the army was called out, but he couldn't make war. The King of England (which today means the Crown, which today means the Cabinet), can make war on anyone, although they need to get money from Parliament to sustain their adventures: but in theory at least a foreign government could pay the Queen to send her army anywhere, and she wouldn't have to consult Parliament at all. That power was explicitly taken from the President of the US.

It was then found that this crippled foreign policy, and the tradition, extra-Constitutional but very strong, developed that the President owned the Navy and Marines, and so long as he had the money he could use them as he saw fit, to bombard ports, send in Marines to rescue Americans and protect American interests, etc.

That protected the United States from its own army since the Navy and Marines weren't any threat to the nation. 

Today it is different, and yes, there is no threat from our Army -- but there is a conflict. Assume a scenario: there is seen to be a mortal threat to the nation, and even the Congress agrees, but a President too kind hearted and generous to believe the threat is real begins to disband the army and navy on the grounds that we don't need them any more. The soldiers find they are about to be dumped out without pay into a depressed economy. "Bonus!" they cry and camp on the Potomac. The Golden Third is sent to disperse them. And a former general who has led the professionals of the Third into battle and shown them the backs of their enemies now speaks to the soldiers of the Third. "Will you fire on your old comrades? Then you must shoot me first."

I can come up with other scenarios.

My natural sentiments are with the soldiers, but intellectual honesty requires to point out that building professional armies has often been the death of republics  -- even when there is no choice.

Rangel, who isn't my favorite Congressman, is right or partly so. Having the sons of the rich and powerful serving in the enlisted ranks will certainly make a government think twice about military adventures. Of course it is usually not good for the army: at least not good for the kind of Professional Legions we have come to admire.

World War II was won by conscript soldiers who, as the Germans said, knew less and learned faster than any soldiers in history. But World War II was a national war with national support.

Legions go where they are sent. 

And one day, "they learned the dread secret, that Emperors could be created in places other than Rome."

And see below.






This week:


read book now


Friday, June 6, 2003

D -Day. Remember the fallen.

"I have always pointed out that no wealthy republic ever survived long without conscription. The Swiss have universal and absolute conscription, and until recently, their treatment of conscientious objectors was to conduct them to the border with a Swiss passport not good for return to Switzerland. Priests, doctors, if you were male you would be in the army, not merely for the training, but for 30 years after. I gather they have relaxed some of those regulations in the past decade or two, but it's still universal conscription."

Your comments are always of interest, but it seems to me this country survived over 100 years without conscription, and when we started conscripting it was to meddle in foreign affairs (WWI) I have always thought this was the beginning of the end for us. What do you have to say?

Brice Yokem

The US had no large standing army and no need of one; and conscription in the Civil War left many opposed to the very idea. With two oceans and no continental enemies after the Mexican War, the US had no large army and no need of one, and short-term volunteers were sufficient for our needs even in adventures like the Spanish American War.

You are correct to associate conscription with large overseas ventures. Without conscription we could never have sent enough forced to turn the tide in The Great War of 1914, at least not before the Kaiser's Peace Offensives had their political effect and the war ended in exhaustion with status quo ante bellum -- which might not have been all that bad for the world, come to think about it. Conscription made US intervention possible. 

On the other hand, conscript armies are harder to send overseas. Legions march where they are bidden. Citizen armies question the need. They have to be convinced that US interests are at stake, as they were, sort of, although remember that Wilson ran for President in 1916 on a platform of "He kept us out of the War."

Other benefits of universal conscription are the generation of camaraderie among citizens of diverse social and geographical backgrounds. Shared misery is a common bond.

In the above I should have said wealthy republics with nearby enemies do not survive without conscription. The US could easily survive with a Navy and very little in the way of an army, but of course we would then have to give up our overseas roles.


Shortly after I wrote that I got:

There is another argument in favor of conscription namely "ethnic integration." Ugly racial situations like the one several years ago in Howard Beach might be avoided had the young men involved learned how to work together and get along during military service. It certainly worked well during my two-year stint as an enlisted man in New Jersey and Japan during the 1950s.

Alan Messer

And I heartily agree.

And now someone to make my case:

I served, as a LT in the Vietnam era army (1969-71) and I strongly recommend against adding unwilling conscripts to the armed forces.

Conscripts in that era used drugs, smoked when given the minimal responsibility of fueling vehicles at the motor pool (this was particularly stupid as the resulting explosion that was risked would have killed the private who did it, as well as a lot of valuable equipment), and otherwise brought down the performance of the Signal Battalion I was a member of. Due to the Army's extremely scientific personnel policies at that time, everyone in my Signal Officer Basic Course whose last names started with A to L went to Vietnam, M to Z went to Germany, so I did not see combat.

However I served with those who did, and, as far as I can tell, the universal opinion of combat veterans, some of whom intended to remain in the service, was that serving with unwilling conscripts was hazardous to your health. In most of what the army does, if you can not rely on the people around you to do their jobs it can be very difficult to survive doing your job. Even a limited number of unwilling conscripts will degrade our current force.

If you want quality performance, form quality units, do not insist on putting square pegs in round holes. As a country we need what we have now, at least high school graduates (that isn't as much of a recommendation as it used to be) who want to be there. If the army is not to be a combat force, then I guess it doesn't make much difference what other duties you assign it, they can train anyone to pick up cigarette butts. But if you want people to put their lives on the line for you, please restrict entry to people who are willing to be there, and have the skill set, or can be taught to do what is needed in the technically advanced services of today and tomorrow. Pay is not the only attractor. If it were, there would be very few in the service now. As someone explained when asked why he was a paratrooper, "I don't want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I just want to be with the kind of people who will."

Richard Shagrin

You make my case. Viet Nam demonstrated once and for all that you cannot send a conscript army into an unpopular war, and doing so is a bad scene for all concerned.  Conscripts served with pride and distinction in World War II, and even in Korea. 

The lesson of Viet Nam was, if you want to use a conscript army, get the nation behind you.

The lesson of Iraq is, professional soldiers go where their Commander in Chief sends them, and there they kick butt and take names. I do not think that has been in doubt since the dawn of history. Conscripts make lousy troops in unpopular wars. I could make a long list of generals and politicians who understood that well enough indeed. But Republics have often won wars with conscripted troops. Ask Germany and Japan.



On the Iraqi War


You may be interested in an article titled "Middle East - No Going Back" at < >.

> What an irony, then, that the Americans who managed to fuel the > Islamic revolutionary forces that overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979, > by their support for his aims and their own materialism, are now in > the process of unleashing Shi’a ambitions in Iraq. If only they had > thought through how to re-establish the rule of law and had the forces > ready to do so.

> It beggars belief that the Washington ideologues could have so snowed > the president with their logic that the sober advice of the State > Department experts was effectively sidelined in the run-up to war. > Even if the Bush administration pays the price in the next election, > Pandora’s box has been opened and there is no going back now.


> Best take note of the current flurry of US activity in the Middle East > in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, because this may well be the sum > total of US achievements in remaking the region.

.. FB

[I should perhaps point out that my wife works at RIIA and is therefore a colleague of the author]

It hardly beggars belief, and the "snow job" took in much of Congress as well. 

Once again: I did not believe Iraq was a threat to the US, but of course Saddam did rejoice on 911, and told his people to rejoice so they did so. You may all recall that I advocated building monuments to the Twin Towers: a couple of acres of rubble in the capital of every country that did rejoice or did provide, or wanted to and might have provided, aid and comfort to the 911 terrorists. The point would be to make clear that "Don't Tread On Me" was a real warning.


We have done something like that in Afghanistan and now Iraq, and both were fairly popular military adventures. Whether we ought now to stay over there and try to reconstruct those countries -- GIVEN THAT WE ARE NOW THERE -- is another debate and one we have not had yet. A good case can be made that now we are there, we have to go through with it, even though it was a bad idea to go there and take up that burden.

We need to have that debate.

I also point out that the fruits of victory are sweet, and will be sweeter. The Dow closed above 9000. Gasoline prices are falling. When the world price of oil falls below $20/bbl the Dow will top 10,000 and still be going up; my guess is 12,000 by Election Day. And gasoline prices will be down there where they were at the turn of the century.

The danger of putting the worst on top in the Middle East is quite real. We may already have made that inevitable: I suspect it is inevitable unless we stay. Are we holding a wolf by the ears?


Re: Prior restraint

The suit isn't claiming libel, but is making the argument that Tucker's story is an invasion of her privacy. That may explain why Google still has an active cache, although the more likely explanation is that no one involved with the case for Ms. Johnson has pointed it out.

Restricting Tucker's right to speak about his own life experiences if another party doesn't wish it to be told should raise some free speech issues. While there might be an argument that intimate details of their first date is invading her privacy, the other events took place in public. Poor taste aside, he's basically reporting a story, much like we see in the papers every day.

Could this ruling be used to quash a story in the traditional media on the grounds it invades the subject's privacy? I think more than a few public figures would like to be able to restrict what can and can't be published about their personal lives.

FWIW, I agree with your preference to know her over him. I gather whatever insult one might send his way about not being a gentleman would be taken as a compliment.


I tend to agree and I suspect he will win his case, once he gets to a judge who is able to ignore him and just look at the law and precedents. Hard cases make bad law, and this is a hard case.

But she wasn't at the time a public figure, and it's a bit hard to argue that she is one now. 

The courts have always been very wary of prior restraint and probably will be in this case. If the gentleman were not so, well, what he is, I suspect she would never have got an injunction in the first place.

and see next week...

Dear Jerry,

This looks to me like outright abuse of power by the Feds:

But I guess anything goes in keeping those conviction stats up. Oops, I'm sorry, I meant "in protecting the People".

The Benthamites appear to be ascendant, and we will all suffer for it.


Gordon Runkle

-- "In the Country of the Blind, the one-eyed man is in for a hell of a rough ride." -- Robert A. Heinlein

In fact they don't seem to be able to prove insider trading, and they haven't charged her with it; which is very interesting. Someone was simply out to get her.

There is no one in the nation safe from that kind of witch hunt. But we were born free.

In case you hadn't seen this:

One or more entities that do business with us have acquired the latest rev of the "sobig" virus and have been generating emails using our names as the FROM: line, so you may be getting some bounced messages that were not sent by us. Be aware of email attachments as usual, watch for .zlo, .pif, scr, .exe and .vbs attachments. Fiberset just got hit with the same thing.

It doesn't do anything other than email everyone in your address books, and is set to stop sending emails on June 8.

However, there is also a really nasty password stealing virus going around that spread like wildfire yesterday, called BugBear rev. B. It will only auto-execute without clicking the attachment itself if you are using Outlook or Outlook express without a 2-year old patch. (a lot of people are, sadly) but I know none of you fall in to that category.


As I said in view, I have been getting returns of mail I didn't send, so my mail address is being faked. And of course I got


----- Original Message ----- From: <> To: <Name deleted to protect the rude > Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 11:20 AM Subject: Approved

> Please see the attached file.

I have attempted to inform the lady who sent this that she ought to pay attention to warnings and such, and perhaps learn to read headers. Ah well. But in fact when I sent her a note to the effect that it wasn't me who had sent her the virus, and pointing out that she ought to find out more about how such things are propagated, she responded with obscenities. Seems an odd thing to do.






This week:


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Saturday, June 7, 2003

They rebooted the servers at Rocket, and they didn't restore the ftp service last night, so a good bit piled up. All's well now, but some of what I put up last night didn't get out where you can see it until this morning.

I have known Dan Duncan for fifty years, and we have never had the same political views, but we have remained good friends.


I seem to have backed into the middle-east quagmire, the first time in 1968 when I decided to study Arabic in order to understand the Qur'an and Islam as a source of Rumi's poetry. My teacher was a Palestinian engineer who was evicted from his house at gunpoint by Israeli commandos in 1948 and never allowed to return. A Christian, but an Arab, so OUT, doncha know.

Till this point the Israelis had been the unquestioned good guys in my mind. Likewise now, I have very mixed feelings about the whole situation since I have both Israelis and Palestinians whom I consider to be friends. And Orthodox Christian monastic friends who have lived in Jerusalem.

The guy who did open heart surgery on me three years ago goes to Syria every summer for two months and volunteers his services to the underprivileged there.

So this article in the New York Times struck me as worth reading. Do YOU trust anything about current White House strategies? Funny, but I thought Condoleeza Rice was savvy and influential enough to navigate the Iraq mess, but apparently not. Is Syria next?

In any event if you haven't seen it, here 'tis. More of a backgrounder than an op-ed. 

From monastic Christian friends in the area, the story rings true.


P.S. Shouldn't we call Israel, Iraq, et al the "Near East" and Afghanistan and the other 'stans the "Middle East?"

Your experience is close to mine. I have many Christian Arab friends, as well as others I know through the Knights of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, and sometimes it is very hard to see just who are the good guys. It's also hard to see what are the American interests, and it becomes impossible to discuss the situation because so many of the neoconservatives are ready to shout "anti-Semite" when anyone points out that Israel and the United States do not have identical interests. 

It is only natural that American Jews are more concerned about Israeli Jews than about Arabs whether Christian or Moslem, and seek to influence the United States to employ American power to serve Israeli interests. Irish Americans mostly don't pretend to be neutral in the Belfast conflict; I have a friend, a dean at a major university, who will not drink the best known brand of Irish whisky because it is made in "occupied Ireland." During the Cold War I was a involved in organizing the Captive Nations movement which consisted of exiles from a dozen nations under the Communist thumb, but which drew much support from American citizens of Baltic, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc. etc. origin. Of course in those matters US and Captive Nations interests really were very close together -- and for that matter, during the Cold War, US and Israeli interests were much closer than they are now.

It is a maxim of real-politik that nations do not have friends, only interests. I don't believe that and never have, and sometimes one's friends have interests different from yours, and you just have to go along with that. In my private life I don't insist that my friends like each other; I think that a good rule for national policy as well.

And all that said, I have deep misgivings about American involvement in the Near or Middle East, and I would really rather see us bring our soldiers home, invest in energy independence, and look to the defense of the realm.

You've been saying this for some time, of course, and here's more evidence that people are coming to similar conclusions: (From the Wall Street Journal editorial website) 

The 'E' Word Admit it: America is an empire. .... The Victorian historian J.R. Seeley famously joked that the British had "conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind." The Americans have gone one better. The greatest empire of modern times has come into existence without the American people even noticing. This is not absence of mind. It is mass myopia. ....

Never go on an adventure without a hat! Indy,

But of course it also depends on definitions. Still, the Athenians called their big trade confederation an Empire, and we certainly have and claim as much influence over most of those in our net as they did.


Thanks for your succinct and forceful indictment of spam (, June 2003). This paragraph may be sufficiently clear and concise that even politicians and lawyers will get the (unsolicited) message.

A note about Outlook and the slowness thereof: There's probably an interaction with your antivirus software. I understand that you use Norton (Symantec). I use McAfee (Network Associates), but I suspect both products are similar in operation. When I start Outlook the VirusScan icon in my system tray changes to indicate that the e-mail option is active. This surely entails some overhead in terms of CPU loading. So does scanning each downloaded message. Indeed, my whole system runs more slowly since I installed the antivirus package. The slower the system, the more noticeable the delay.

I certainly don't advocate that you disable virus checking on your e-mail, but in fairness I don't think you can lay all the blame for sluggish operation on code bloat at Microsoft. People who inflict software viruses on the computing public are accruing karmic debt much faster than spammers.

John B. Proffitt

Actually it's Outlook itself: when it goes out to find mail it's notorious for soaking up resources. It's true enough that  Norton then exacerbates the problem. One solution is to run a mail server yourself; have it collect mail and run Norton; then have Outlook collect the mail from that server. That works fairly well, and we will probably do something like that. And Outlook 2003 has far fewer problems.

And this may explain a lot:

Looks like the senior director of the CIO office of the Department of Homeland Security might have gotten her academic degrees from a diploma mill according to this article:

If this is true how can I believe these people can even do a competent job enhancing our security?

-Dan S.

I feel so much safer already.

On the other hand, I have some misgivings here: "accreditation" of academic institutions is highly influenced by their political correctness, as I learned when I was at Pepperdine. If they think you aren't PC enough they can put very unreasonable demands, and I have absolutely no more confidence in the Department of Education bureaucracy than I have in the Transportation Security people. Depending on the Department of Education to determine which institutions are worthy is insane.

Determining which academic institutions are real and which are not is sometimes very easy, but sometimes it is not; and I have no confidence at all in the Education bureaucracy which is mostly run by people with "credentials" who would rather push papers than teach.

We certainly agree about the Department of Education, but this woman appears to have bought her diplomas without attending classes or doing any coursework, if the article can be believed. It says in part:

" The official under scrutiny, Laura Callahan, senior director in the office of the CIO, lists on her official resume that she received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1993, a master’s degree in computer science in 1995, and a Ph.D. in computer information systems in 2000—all from Hamilton University. The organization, located in Evanston, Wyo., is not accredited by any body recognized by the Education Department. It sells degrees based on applicants’ life and work experience but requires no coursework."

That's pretty clearly a diploma mill, if the article is accurate. I looked at their web site < >. It looks pretty bogus to me.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Oh I think you are right in the present instance, but the "is not accredited by any body recognized by the Education Department" is a bit unnerving. I probably wouldn't have noticed if it had said "not accredited by any generally recognized accreditation organization" or something of the sort.

I really don't like handing those people at the Department of Education any power even symbolic.  





Jerry :

The Columbia investigation continues apace. The recent foam impact test has generated a great deal of media information, and even some speculation about basic physics. One article is :

Interesting that some of the folks quoted with statements like "people's intuitive sense of physics is sometimes way off."

Funny. I always was taught that if there was any question about observations of Newtonian physics, we should go back to basic principles, and make some calculations (your site obviously saw a fair number of these proposed many weeks back), then compare the calculated results with experimentation.

The NYT article, however, points (somewhat) in the wrong direction for more information. Instead, you might look at :

for a discussion on the latest results from the Columbia investigation.

Note that there is a link within the presentation to download a movie of the test. It's quite amazing material - and to think we were all so excited seeing a bullet go through an apple a decade or three back ! This footage has a time indicator, and seems to run circa 0.15 secs in slo-mo.

If you run the mpeg file full screen, you can easily see the panel flex with the impact, moving in and out multiple times. It's quite a tool to see the effects of the impact shown so clearly. The next step will be seeing the results on the carbon composite materials, as well as the post-impact analyses of the materials.

While none of this is definitive at this stage of the investigation, it is extremely tantalizing as a potential cause of the vessel wing failure.

As for the questions in the general media about how long it's taking to get this investigation to unfold, I could compare this to my previous job investigating ground-level explosions and fires. In cases where we had all of the materials pretty much available, labs on-hand, and a much simpler set of circumstances surrounding an accident, it wasn't in any way uncommon for an investigation to run well more than six months. That the investigation has reassembled as many parts as it has, developed a photographic timeline, assembled reasonable field-tests, and is starting to derive data from an accident that happened to a vessel on re-entry, is actually a substantial and impressive accomplishment.

John P.

Indeed. Thank you.

And I have much mail about this:


Subject: Oil from Anything


Anything into Oil - "Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year "

A fascinating bit of technology, I can't help but wonder where the catch is. It uses the same conversion process that put the petroleum in the ground, just speeds it up and scales it down. 


Roy Harvey Beacon Falls, CT

The numbers look good, but I don't know about the engineering. The devil is in the details. I took a pass at this back when I wrote the columns that became A STEP FARTHER OUT, and certainly we can reclaim some energy at reasonable economics. Having such capabilities puts a cap on what overseas oil nations can charge, too.

Another View (long but worth reading):

Dear Mr. J. Pournelle

This being the first time I ever sent you a message, I would like to take the time to thank you, not only for the wonderful books and stories you have written, but also for the strong influence you exercised on the development of my views and character via them. 

I am a Greek, 40 years old Master Mariner. I have read most of your books and story collections, and I confess that one strong reason I was buying the old "BYTE", and I subscribed to the new "BYTE", is your column. I have only lately really discovered your personal site, due mainly to the way I use the Internet. That is for about 3 months every year, the rest being at sea as I am a professional mariner, and accessing the Internet from the sea is either extremely difficult, or really expensive (last year I was connecting for e-mail at $2 per minute with a 14.4 connection).

[I wonder if you can't get a satellite connection much cheaper? Perhaps one of the readers will know. JEP]

 So when I am using the 'net, I am mostly trying to keep up with professional interest stories and such. Well, I intend to subscribe to your site as I find it pretty interesting, although I connect (when I am home) with a slow 56.6 connection, and that makes it difficult following the links. 

Anyway, I am writing in response to the discussion about why the world hates U.S. (if they do). Firstly, let me state that I definitely do not hate U.S.. I grew reading US science fiction writers, seeing US TV series and US films. I have been visiting the US quite often, especially in the 80s, and the overall view I have of the US, is that it is a wonderful country, a culture that no matter its problems, will lead the world for the next century as it did for most of the last. 

But the truth is, that even from my admittedly biased (pro US) view, the U.S. is behaving like the proverbial 1000 pound gorilla (or is it a 1000 kg gorilla nowadays?), especially lately, and a drunken gorilla at that. The US foreign policies, I think can at best be described as spasmodic, without continuity, and almost designed to alienate each and every single country in the world (well, there might be a few exceptions). Can you really see a consistent and logical approach towards any single international problem or country in the long run (say since World War 2)? 

Even with the old USSR, I think no one really knew what the US policies were going to be from day to day. No doubt, at any single time, the US policies are of course pro-US (at least as the then current administration sees them), but the world does not see things from moment to moment as the US administration (and most governments) seem to do nor does the world takes a really independent view?I do not think that I need to go into details as I am sure you can see them as well as I do. 

Of course, other countries do, from time to time, show similar behaviour, but the U.S. being who they are (the only superpower), do not show any interest in the views of the others and continuously take unilateral decisions that affect the whole world. Do they have the right and power to do so? Yes they do. But can then expect the world to love them? No they cannot. I continuously fight with people trying to explain to them my pro-US view, I even fight with my wife and I cannot really blame her.

 When the Iraq war started, I was definitely pro-war. I did not think that the war would last even as long as it did, and it is my firm belief that even with many more civilian casualties than actually resulted, the Iraqi people will be better off. But can you explain it to the the kids-men-women that died? Can you explain to the world that due to certain policies, reasons, or whatever, instead of getting rid of Saddam 20 years ago, the Iraqi people suffered for a long period, and finally, without obvious and really defensible (in a court?) reason, a new war started now? Can the U.S. really explain it? 

Can the U.S. really explain and justify to the world say Yugoslavia, where they took action, versus Turkey and the Kurds, Cyprus and Africa where they did not. I was last autumn in Saudi Arabia and the view of the people, as far as a simple visiting person could see it, was not so much pro-Iraqi, but the old story "Yankee go home". Never mind that without the U.S. the Saudi Arabia would most probably be an Iraqi province. Any welcome and any gratitude soon wears thin when the protector overstays or behaves imperially. 

And on the Iraqi situation. Do you really think that the U.S. will stay long enough to really help Iraq? Do you think that, say the Kurdish problem will go away or that the U.S. will not find itself in another quagmire? The U.S. does not seem capable of either playing empire or even playing fair and with a constant policy, and will unfortunately suffer the hate of much of the world and they do not even try to do something about it. 

Let me tell you a personal story. As I already wrote, I have been visiting the US pretty regularly for more than twenty years. The U.S. policy was (and still is), that a Visa was required for every crewmember in order to obtain a shore pass and be able to leave the ship for recreation or even to phone home. The usual reason stated, was that it was necessary in order to stop illegal immigrants and such. Well, if you were going to be an illegal immigrant, you could as easily jump ship without a shore pass, and that was exactly what many times was happening. Only the law abiding crewmembers were staying onboard if they did not have a shore pass, and they were not going to jump ship anyway. 

But the Visa procedure for a ship's crew, was relatively simple and cheap (about $60 and then $100 per ship), although on arrival at the U.S. you were screened by a local INS official who could refuse you entry even with a Visa. At the time (80s), the only other countries with similar screening, were the hard-core communists, and you can easily guess what comparisons were made, and whether such behaviour tended to endear the U.S. to many seamen. 

Then, the Visa procedure became much more expensive (the cost of the visa now is about $100 per person), but still, unless the shipping company was really cheap, practically everybody got a Visa. Then came 9-11 and now getting a Visa is a gamble. If you have a US Visa on your seaman's book, you get a shore pass, if not ... well who knows. There does not seem to be a real INS policy but listen to what happened to me. Last August we came to US from Japan. We applied for Visa in Japan as per INS regulations at a cost of $1800. Result? Visa denied to everyone for no reason. Next voyage from Brasil in January. Everybody got a Visa (almost the same crew). 

Frankly during the first voyage, I assure you that the Greek and Filipino crew were "very grateful to the US for their kind hospitality". Behavior well guaranteed to increase good feelings towards US. And we are lucky. As Greeks we can usually easily obtain a personal Visa by visiting twice the US Embassy in Athens. But what about Filipino and other nationalities. As seamen we spend long times at sea, in a ship. When we arrive at port, and the stay there these days is very short, we hope for if nothing else, a walk ashore and some entertainment or shopping. We seamen got used to be the target for any perceived problem with shipping whether we are responsible or not (and that's a very long story). 

But it is the first time we are considered as possible terrorists and a major danger to the public safety and need to be punished by imprisonment, and that is what it is being denied shore leave as anyone who ever served in the armed forces does well know. Well it is entirely logical as everyone knows that many terrorists arrived in the U.S. as professional seamen and jumped ship there instead of flying there with a good visa and a green card. Given such policies and behavior is there any doubt about the reason people hate the U.S.? Do you think that people consider long range policies and such? I think the U.S.need some really good PR people and horse sense. Sorry for the extreme length of the e-mail but it just came out. Best regards and keep up the good work.

George P. Asteros

Thank you. O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!

[Paragraphing and minor editing in the above done by JEP]

Dear Doctor Pournelle- 

It seems like its been a long time since any good news has come out of NASA. Instead, NASA looks to be another of those respected institutions now crumbling under its own dishonesty and sloppiness.

Sort of like the FBI, the New York Times, or the Catholic Church in America. So, was Senator William Proxmire right about NASA? When he gave out all those Golden Fleece awards, did he know something that the members of the L5 Society and readers of Galaxy magazine didn't?

Sincerely yours, Carl Zeichner

Good questions. I think at the time we had no choice, and NASA didn't have to go the way it went -- indeed it accomplished some good things. But the iron laws of bureaucracy caught up. Long time readers will remember my diatribe against lack of vision in NASA as far back as the Carter Administration and Robert Frosch.

I am in the middle of rereading The Mote in God's Eye and this caught my err..., umm... eye. 


Carl R. Beevers "All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are [not] lost." J.R.R. Tolkien

********************************************************************** This transmission may contain information that is privileged, confidential and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of the information contained herein (including any reliance thereon) is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. If you received this transmission in error, please immediately contact the sender and destroy the material in its entirety, whether in electronic or hard copy format. Thank you **********************************************************************


I do presume that we all know this is, uh, not real?

Dr. Pournelle,

I got this from an all hands' e-mail at work. The following page from Equifax's web site states this e-mail is in error. The message seems to be relatively benign, but it might warrant reporting.


Bruce Jones

E-mail Message: Your Credit: Personal Information goes public

Starting July 1st, 2003, the four major credit bureaus in the US (Equifax, etc.) will be allowed to release credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc., to ANYONE who requests it. If you do not want to be included in this release of your personal information, you can call 1-888-567-8688.

Once the message starts you will want option #2 (even though option #1 refers to this email, push #2) and then option #3.

Be sure to listen closely, the first option is only for a two-year period. Make sure you wait until they prompt for the third option, which opts you out FOREVER. You should receive their paperwork in the mail confirming the "opting out" in less than one week after making the call.


I missed all this excitement but I think it can all be safely ignored...

Apparently I wasn't emphatic enough. It can all be safely ignored. I only put it up to show just how silly things can get. But alas:

Regarding your mail item in Sunday 6/8/03: "Starting July 1st, 2003, the four major credit bureaus in the US (Equifax, etc.) will be allowed to release credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc., to ANYONE who requests it."

This is a hoax, according to several sites, including this from the Urban Legends site  , this is an excerpt:

"It is not true that consumers must call this number before 1 July 2003, nor is it true that recent legislation allows credit bureaus to share private information with "anyone who requests it." This misinformation has been circulating since 2001, and the same message keeps getting get dusted off and sent around every year with an updated deadline. "

And this, from the US Federal Trade Commission:  , which says the same thing.

Note to your readers: I found this by doing a Google on the phrase: "four major credit bureaus ", which I took directly out of the email. Google is (usually) your friend in investigating these things before you pass them along.

Rick Hellewell Information Security Dweeb

All of which is reasonably true, but I never thought anyone would take that thing seriously.

This does give me the chance to point out that Snopes can be useful, but they have an agenda and a viewpoint that cause them to make decisions some of us would not when it comes to judgment calls.










This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 8, 2003


I'm reading Bill Bryson's latest book, 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' which is a high-level guided tour of our current state of knowledge of the Earth, Solar System, Universe, and Science in general.

Last night a throw-away sentence caught my attention. Mr. Bryson tells us that the plans for the Saturn V were destroyed during a NASA spring-cleaning!?! Surely, this can't be right?


Rob Paterson

In fact it's true enough. [But see next week's mail; apparently there is some doubt.] They threw away the plans for the most powerful machine humanity has ever built. And then they took a working Saturn and laid it on its side as a lawn ornament. NASA!

Dear Jerry: From Saturday, 7th of June

"Subject: Oil from Anything


Anything into Oil - "Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year "

Not that the technology discussed isn't a good thing, but...

Because of job changes, I now live 23 miles from where I work. My car gets around 23 miles per gallon, so just for my commute I need two gallons a day, or about 14 pounds of fuel (gasoline in this case). That is, I'll bet, a lot of turkey guts.

I like turkey, but I don't eat (say) 20 pounds of it a day, or 20 pounds of anything else that would produce sufficient offal to create 2 gallons of gasoline. More depressing yet, since I live in Minnesota, my natural gas furnace (in my small town house) probably consumes (on average) the BTU equivalent of 2 gallons of gas every day for 5 months. Lets not talk about my electricity consumption. Certainly there are other people whose energy consumption is less profligate, but there are many who consume, on an individual basis, far more. Our awful energy consumption exceeds our offal supply! (I apologize for that)

From  our projected oil consumption (2005, for USA) is 20 million barrels per day. 20 million barrels x 42 gallons/barrel x 7 pound/gallon is 6.5 billion pounds of oil/day. That's just oil, total energy consumption for 2005 will probably be in the neighborhood of 60 million barrels equivalent per day: 

This is a CO2 site, but has useful links: 

I would be surprised is the energy produced from "turkey guts" would pay the energy bills of the turkey farmer/processor. That is not to say that the energy in "turkey guts", or any other waste product, shouldn't be recovered, but with our artificially low energy prices I don't see much incentive for investing in the facilities to recover "waste" energy. Our total energy consumption is, long term, unsupportable from our current resources, and the current low price of energy is making it impossible to develop alternate long term sustainable sources such as OTEC (ocean thermal), nuclear, or space based power generation.

Long term sustainable resources cannot be developed "overnight" (where "overnight" is a decade). America's wealth and safety depend on a steady supply of reasonably priced energy. Our politicians fritter away their time arguing tax cuts to the rich and are not making the important choices necessary for America to have any future at all.

I'm in full agreement with you that the US desperately needs to obtain energy independence.

Best, Chris C

Which is pretty close to the analysis I did in A Step Farther Out. Energy from garbage can't really satisfy our energy needs. However, oil is a special case, and it may be worth working on that.

The real solution to energy independence is nuclear power plants.

From MSNBC: "After ethanol, Senate goes nuclear"

Apparently ethanol is both good and bad but ethanol pork may help nuclear power. After all, this is the Congress. 

Richard Hunt

We will see. They spend money on everything but what is needed. Space solar power will work, although nuclear is a lot cheaper and much quicker.

Dear Jerry:

Not every conscript is unwilling. Some make the best of it and then find they like the military. I'm thinking of three different editors I've met over the years, all of whom were drafted. One liked it so much he ended up at a Lt. Col. and Infantry battalion commander in the National Guard. (Hey, he said when I expressed surprise, "It's the perfect life. You walk to work and carry your lunch.") Another, by luck of the draw, ended up as a counter-intelligence agent in Germany after he turned down a chance to fill an open slot at "Stars and Stripes". The third, to his eternal shame, skated out of going to Vietnam by agreeing to become a drill instructor, which was something the Army was very short of just then. He went from Basic to Infantry AIT and then to Drill Instructor school, after which he spent the rest of his tour abusing his betters.

I was in an outfit that was supposed to be staffed entirely with volunteers, but suddenly, after I was in Vietnam, and in Germany, we started getting draftees to fill basic clerk positions. We never had enough clerks because these slots were filled by guys who flunked out of various schools. The draftees all met the minimum IQ requirement, but didn't act that way, I admit. Most were fresh out of high school and had been successful (as in uncaught) juvenile delinquents...which may be why they were thought suitable for MI. The reason that these guys were imposed upon us was simple: We had run out of volunteers. Vietnam was a big noisy sideshow as far as our superiors were concerned and having served in Vietnam was as much a social disability there as elsewhere, I quickly found out.

But this is what will really fuel a return to the draft. When we run out of volunteers to fill the slots, even the way I did in Vietnam where I did tasks that, stateside, would have been spread out over five clerks. (I didn't mind. Aside from my bi-weekly trip to the local "recreation area" there wasn't a whole lot to do aside from work, read and play poker.)

And the unwilling conscript can have an impact on morale, even among volunteer troops, especially if some have volunteered on the assumption if they don't they will get drafted anyway. Part of my job in Germany was to run the unit newspaper and to do so in a way to act as an antidote to the radicals who were trying to subvert the Army with unauthorized publications and FTA coffeehouses. I was pretty good at it and even had an offer to go to Stars and Stripes. But it meant really pushing the envelope of what most people thought an Army newspaper was about. (Command was happy. We won awards). This can be summed up with a short conversation I once had with my Commanding General. "Hamit, why #@%$#@ are we running interviews with rock stars in a US Army newspaper?" "Sir, we are trying to get the men to read it." He blinked, absorbed this, and then said "Very good. Continue to march."

A lot of the resistance to the Army during the Vietnam War was generated by popular culture and by people who made a point of creating and financing efforts to disrupt military operations and morale. (I mention no particular movie stars, here, because I've never seen any direct proof that it's true.) These days, the situation is far different. Even the anti-war, hate-American-first crowd is quick to point out how much they love and respect the troops. Army newspapers run, by regulation, like those in any small town with an editorial independence that many of their civilian counterparts would envy. This started in 1971, the year I got out. During the war, the "embedded reporter" program, which has to rank as one of the most brilliant PR moves of all times, closed some of the gap between the military and rest of society.

Reinstituting the draft would create a new crop of volunteers: people who figure, "If I'm going to have to go anyway, I might as well cut the best deal I can." (We're a capitalist society. Enlightened self-interest is not just permitted but encouraged.) That reduces the number of the truly unwilling. It's interesting how attitudes change. I saw a William Hamilton cartoon in the New Yorker awhile back. A bunch of middle-aged men are drinking and one of them says "Should the portfolio of one's manhood have included combat?"

Interesting question.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Well if conscription becomes a way to enable us to even more military ventures it's certainly the wrong idea...

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

Just when I think that maybe falling ratings and general disapproval by the public have convinced the media that we are on to them, and they should change, I see the new special issue of US News and World Report. The issue is entitled "Masterminds:Secrets of Genius." Of the three individuals upon which it focuses, I can understand and agree with their choice of Albert Einstein, but the other two are Freud, and Marx. If there were ever two individuals whose ideas have been found more in error, or who have been used as a basis to cause more misery, I would certainly like to know their names (perhaps next years special edition will provide them). Seeking to equate the charlatanism of Freud, and the destructive ramblings of Marx with the genius of Einstein offended me to a surprising degree.

I am now, even more convinced that the press doesn't get it and never will. The only real shock here is that they had the wit to include Einstein. I can only assume that his fame, and esteem made his choice unavoidable, and overlooking him would remove all trace of credibility from the issue. While the case can certainly be made that Marx and Freud were major influences on the events of the 20th century (though even here, I might want to argue against selecting them as two of the top three), to presume them to be geniuses of the caliber of Einstein is certainly presuming too much. If they are such geniuses, then certainly ordinary men, like myself, have no place criticizing their efforts or ideas. The social ideals of communism, and Freud's twisted ideas of human nature must by extension be as valid as fellow genius Einstein's ideas about the physical universe. Perhaps I am just reading too much into things, but I get cranky these days. The new world we are making for ourselves sometimes makes me a bit high strung, and overly sensitive to misdirected (and blind) adulation.

Neal Pritchett

P.S. Please dance faster, many of us are anxiously awaiting your new book(s). We can only re-read the old ones so many times (well, maybe just once more).

Well Freud made up his data, and there is absolutely no scientific basis to his theories of "ego" and "id"; Dianetics is about as scientific as psychoanalysis, and a lot cheaper, which is one reason the Freudians persecuted Hubbard when he published his book. Neither has a lot of scientific validity, but Freud managed to get on the good side of the medical establishment.

"O, Dr. Freud, O Dr. Freud, how we wish you had been differently employed, for that set of circumstances still enhances the finances of the followers of Dr. Sigmund Freud..."

And Roland asks a significant question:

Subject: "Is there a country where people will work for free?",1367,59126,00.html

---- Roland Dobbins










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