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Monday  June 9, 2003

Hi Dr. Pournelle, 

Something that a lot of people have been missing about this case is that this is not a final decision by any means but just a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO. A TRO can issue when there is an alleged imminent harm to the person requesting it. In this case until the court makes a determination as to the validity of the writers claims the court can order that he not publish so as to not harm the petitioner if in facts the writings are false. Prior Restraint? No. The writer was not prevented from writing whatever he wanted. He is being restrained from continuing to write because the petitioner has claimed, before a court with jurisdiction, that his writing may not be truthful or is an invasion of privacy and if allowed to continue would cause the petitioner irreparable harm.

 Ramón A. Santini 

Yes, and the distinction is important. But at the same time it is a kind of restraint. Hard cases make bad law...

I notice you recently said:

"I have always pointed out that no wealthy republic ever survived long without conscription. ... Britain went to conscription many times."

Britain has only gone to conscription twice. The first time was half-way through WWI, and the second was shortly before the start of WWII.

It is worthy of note, yet so far as I can see un-noted upon anywhere, that a major factor behind British participation in Gulf War II is likely to be that Britain has 100% volunteer military forces while the French and Germans retain conscription.

It is, as you point out much more difficult to drum up support for overseas military action when conscripts are involved. During Gulf War I, the French contribution was basically limited to their Foreign Legion, an entirely volunteer unit.

Jim Mangles

One is often more adventurous with all volunteer forces. And I should have been more careful to point out that it's wealth republics with powerful neighbors who need conscription. But a large standing army was frightening to the Framers and to most of the US for a very long time.

If we are going to have a big standing army we probably need conscription if we intend to keep the republic.

Mr. Mangles writes:

> Britain has only gone to conscription twice.

Silly me. I didn't realize that all those who were press-ganged into the Royal Navy were actually volunteers. Some of them were even Americans. Come to think of it, I guess all those villeins that stood with kings from the Conquest onwards were volunteers as well.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson




Subject: RIAA in action.

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

And from Dan:

I only merely hated the RIAA before, now I truly despise them. Here is the gist of the story:

IT major at RPI creates software to search RPI campus dorm networks for any files and index them for students to search and find.

RIAA finds out about students search engine, sues claiming he is running a "Napster network" and "hijacked an academic network" and "installed an emporium for music trading"

Student settles with RIAA for $12,000, his entire savings account. Settlement allows student to deny RIAA allegations, have the case dismissed and all allegations. So the RIAA says he did no wrong but they are taking his entire life savings? Where did this student break a law, any law?

Last time I checked that sounded a hell of a lot like extortion, or am I wrong here?

Story is here:

God forbid if Google ever starts to index computer network shares, the RIAA will sue their asses for creating an "emporium for music trading" even though its just a damn database.

-Dan S.

RIAA is evil, and like DMA ought to be visited by Seven Deadly Plagues.

For another view see below.

And then

Subject: Rated NC-17

--------- Roland Dobbins

And perhaps I heard it wrong, but it was certainly from reliable sources; and I never much believe what NASA says. But :

Saturn V Plans NOT Thrown Away

"NASA threw away/destroyed the Saturn V plans" is an urban legend that has been floating around for quite a while.

>From the faq available at  "WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SATURN V PLANS

Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, the Saturn V blueprints have not been lost. They are kept at Marshall Space Flight Center on microfilm. The Federal Archives in East Point, GA also has 2900 cubic feet of Saturn documents. Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated in the late '60s to document every facet of F-1 and J-2 engine production to assist in any future re-start.

The problem in re-creating the Saturn V is not finding the drawings, it is finding vendors who can supply mid-1960's vintage hardware (like guidance system components), and the fact that the launch pads and VAB have been converted to Space Shuttle use, so you have no place to launch from.

By the time you redesign to accommodate available hardware and re-modify the launch pads, you may as well have started from scratch with a clean sheet design."

Edmund Hack

It is certainly the case that the contractors are all pretty well gone. After the Challenger disaster we tried to get NASA to build a new and improved Shuttle, pointing out that all the production facilities for the old shuttles were closed off and many of the subcontractors were out of business, so it would cost less to build an improved one than to restore a lot of obsolete technology. Even the Administrator wanted to do it that way.

Of course the NASA bureaucracy insisted on building the darned thing exactly as it was. But that's NASA.

But in the case of Saturn they darned well did NOT want ANYONE to be able to build another Saturn which might threaten Shuttle. I don't know if they threw the plans away -- I still believe they did -- but I do know for certain they took TWO working Saturns and the Skylab they could have launched and laid them down as lawn ornaments and owl roosts. You can see them, the most powerful machines ever made by mankind, at JSC and the Smithsonian, and you can see the Skylab at the Smithsonian too. Dan Goldin once told me he wept when he looked at that Skylab and Saturn at the Smithsonian. They could have been launched. Instead we built the Space Station, which is what the NASA bureaucracy wanted.

And just because something is called a FAQ doesn't make it true. And see below

I think I have put this one up before, but it's worth referencing again:

Jerry :

A friend forwarded something to me tonight that made me smile with delight. It's commercial, true, but it hit the little boy inside me, and I laughed out loud. Make sure your sound is running when you access the site, and don't do it with a slow dial-up.

There are links to explain this, outline the costs and the effort, and analyse just what it is. Me, I just watched it five times in a row with extremely wide-open eyes. And a smile.

John P.

And it's wonderful, if you have cable modem or some high speed method of accessing it.

Regarding RIAA

Dear Jerry:

I followed the RIAA case against four college students, all of whom were allowed to settle for amounts between $12,000 and $17,500. I downloaded and printed out one of the complaints. Seems these guys appropriated the computer systems of the universities they were attending and set up a peer-to-peer network music network comprised entirely of infringed songs for their fellow students. This is a violation of the NET Act among other laws and the potential damages for each was as high as 150 million dollars. Attached to the complaint was a spreadsheet of a thousand songs this one student had infringed. That's just the civil side. If criminal charges had been brought, it would have been a felony conviction, a five year sentence and five million dollars in fines. So, all in all, I'd say that these individual were allowed to go with a stern warning and a big hit to their college funds. Yes, this is designed to scare the pants off others tempted to go the same way. The fact you don't like a law is hardly license to break it. Not if we lived by the rule of law, and we do. Justice was tempered with mercy. May others profit from their example because as Rep, Howard Berman said last year when he came up with that wacko scheme for authorized cyber vigilantism to solve the problem, "we don't people's property and give it away just because other people want it."

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

I see your point, but it's the same point made by the King's governors in 1775 when they remitted some of the taxes quite legally imposed on the Colonies.

We do not live by rule of law, because no one can possibly go a day without breaking one or another of the goofy laws that have been imposed on us over the years. No one even KNOWS all the laws that apply to almost anything we do now. We live in a time of selective enforcement of law. 

And the Direct Mail Association, and RIAA, and others, play games manipulating the laws.

I have some interest in intellectual property, and I don't condone what was done here; but if we lived by RULE OF LAW then the students would be fined millions of dollars and jailed for life. The fact that they were not says quite a bit about the situation, doesn't it?

Property is itself a creature of politics and law, and when enough of the governed don't consent, you have a rather awkward situation. After all, just who is sovereign? When the law becomes sufficiently unpopular, is it law at all in a republic?

I don't know what the answer to this situation is. No, we don't take property from its owners and give it to others just because they want it. Or do we? We are about to give tax "refunds" to people who pay no taxes at all, which is to say we are about to take money from those who pay taxes and give it to those who don't in the guise of, God save us, tax reduction; and to accomplish that Democratic Party triumph, we are going to raise taxes on those we were not long ago giving tax relief, all this so that we can be "fair" and give a tax reduction to those who don't pay any taxes in the first place.

If that's Rule of Law then I suspect both John and Sam Adams would plead to have King George back.

On why do they hate us:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                           
Date: June 9, 2003                                                                    subject: Why are we hated?
Dear Jerry:
        I've been mulling over Thomas Friedman's column, and the letters from Ed HumePaul Beaver, and George P. Asteros.  Why are we hated?  I think there are several intertwined strands here.
        The first is socialism/communism.  From Rousseau onward, there's been a large group that hated capitalism, and wanted to abolish it.  The justifications keep changing, but the policy stays constant.  We've resisted this trend more than any country on earth, and embraced capitalism.  The result was riches and power.  The rest of the world has favored socialism/communism more than we have, and reaped weakness and poverty.  This earns us envious hatred.
        A second factor is cultural lag.  Consider the modern Arab world.  In _The Battles That Changed History_, Fletcher Pratt observed that if Islam had been designed in a spirit of cold-blooded rationalism, it would be hard to improve on it as a way of life for nomadic desert dwellers.  But now the Arabs have an exploding population that lives in cities.  Despite the "Muslim fundamentalist" slogan 'Islam is the answer,' the Koran really doesn't have much to say about their new way of life.
        But Islam and its laws are the center of Arab culture.  Discarding, or at least radically rethinking the role of Islam would, in a sense, make them non-Arabs.  So they resist.  (Note that most of the 9/11 hijackers had spent substantial time in the West, getting educations.  Just being around us disturbed them so much that they embraced Islamism.)
        Today's Wall Street Journal had a very good article titled After Empire.  The author, a British doctor, lived in Rhodesia before it was Zimbabwe, as well as other parts of Africa.  Two apposite quotes:
        1) "The young black doctors . . . had an immense number of social obligations to fulfill. They were expected to provide for an ever expanding circle of family members (some of whom may have invested in their education) and people from their village, tribe and province.  An income that allowed a white to live like a lord . . . scarcely raised a black above the level of his family.  . . . In fact, a salary a thousand times as great would hardly have been sufficient . . . for their social obligations increased _pari passu_ with their incomes. . . .
        "It is easy to see why a civil service, controlled and manned in its upper reaches by whites, could remain efficient and uncorrupt but could not long do so when manned by Africans . . . whose relatives would have condemned them for failing to obtain on their behalf all the advantages their official opportunities might provide.  Thus do the very same tasks in the very same offices carried out by people of different cultural and social backgrounds result in very different outcomes."
        2) ". . . I had a Congolese patient who . . . had two degrees in agronomy and had trained in Toulouse in the interpretation of satellite pictures for agronomic purposes. . . .
        "I asked him about Mobutu, whom he had known personally.
        " 'He was very powerful,' he said. 'He collected the best witch doctors from every part of Zaire.  Of course, he could make himself invisible; that was how he knew everything about us.  And he could turn himself into a leopard when he wanted.' "
        Of course, many Western countries have suffered from cultural lag.  After the Great War, the U.S. decided that the policies that had worked in the 19th century should be tried again, despite the fact that they'd already failed once in the 20th.  Somehow, though, we managed to make a sharp break with the past in the years 1945-55, and we've made other wrenching adjustments as needed.
        In contrast, France decided to regain its status as a world power militarily by holding on to colonies full of illiterate agriculturalists, and economically by increasing the state's power and share of the GDP.  As a result, France has permanent high unemployment.  There have widespread demonstrations and strikes the last two weeks, with levels of violence that are approaching terrorism.  Why?  Because the govt. is trying to reform a pension system that will grow broke in the next few years if they don't act immediately.
        Finally, there's our inconsistencies.  Mr. Asteros asks: "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?"  Sure, easily.
        First, the default, most desired foreign policy of the U.S. is no foreign policy.  From Jamestown and Plymouth onward, our attitude has tended to be 'You can go to Hell, we're all right.'  (This is sometimes phrased as "We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own.")
        When we do pay attention to foreign policy, we have several different ones competing with each other.  Walter Russell Mead refers to them as Hamiltonian ("commercial realism"), Wilsonian ("crusading moralism"), Jeffersonian ("supple pacifism . . . principled but slippery "), and Jacksonian ("the social, cultural and religious values of . . . the so-called 'Scots-Irish' ").
        Twenty years ago, Iraq was fighting a war with Iran.  The 'pacifist' thinkers argued that we shouldn't get involved at all, while the 'realist' thinkers were concentrating on the final destruction of the Soviet Union (OOH! I got a kick out of typing "final destruction of the Soviet Union"!), and wanted them to bleed each other.
        There were a few Wilsonians who were distressed by the poverty, oppression, and mass murder in Iraq and the Islamic world generally.  They wanted to intervene, but got outvoted.  We didn't care how many not-particularly-white people Saddam murdered.  Then came Sept. 11th, and some of us reassessed.:
        “Two years ago a friend said we should topple the Taliban to stop them from blowing up Buddha statues.  I said he was nuts, that it wasn’t a _casus belli_, that we can’t invade every place that has a lousy government.  I couldn’t change his mind, and after September 11 one of the first things he said to me was 'I told you so.'  He didn’t predict what would happen, but he was right that there was a problem, and that it was more our business than most people could even imagine. . . .
        “None of us saw that one coming, but it came our way all the same.
        “The defining feature of the 21st Century is the globalization of chaos.  We have no system to handle all this, and we cannot ignore it much longer.”
        So, we looked at Iraq, and noted that it had never proven to us that it had destroyed it's chemical and biological weapons, as it had promised to do.  We noted Saddam's past recklessness, and his involvement with terrorists, and we decided he had to go.  Most of the rest of the world agreed that Saddam hadn't proved he'd destroyed the forbidden weapons, but their plan was for the situation to continue.  So we acted, "unilaterally."
        I don't know how long this will go on.  Electorates do change their minds, after all.  But what we care about at the moment is eliminating threats.  Sincere regrets if it bothers you, Mr. Asteros, but when we say we have a problem, we'll tune out anything that doesn't sound like a solution -- and "Just live with it" is not a solution.

Regarding Mobutu: few will remember Maurice Tshombe, who might actually have built some kind of ordered republic in Katanga if not in the rest of the Congo, only the American liberal establishment really hated him, and helped destroy him because he wasn't a liberal democrat.

As to eliminating threats, I agree that was the motivation for the Iraq war. The question is, will we be more secure now, and will those who can harm us be more deterred now? And I would say that there's room for debate on that question. Some people I respect are holding their breath waiting for a disaster in Iraq. Others think it will be a breeze. Me, I wish we never went there but now that we are there we have got to make the best of it; and we will. We're pretty good at muddling through, and the fact that pumping oil is in the best interests of both Iraq and the United States doesn't hurt.

Meanwhile, things move ahead..

New techniques can be abused. Frankly, I'd rather deal with the Taliban. One can negotiate with a terrorist. I'm starting to stock some VERY STRONG magnets.


Well we have seen that one coming for a long time, haven't we?


Looks like the guys at Brookhaven have themselves an honest to god force field, albeit a bit small. Article is here: 

"Hershcovitch explained the advantages of the plasma valve: "Unlike traditional valves, a plasma valve has no moving parts, does not require much maintenance, and establishes a vacuum-air separation much faster. Also, it is completely nondestructive. In contrast, existing ultra-fast valves and shutters can cause damage to machinery when triggered."

When activated, the plasma valve is composed of an ionized gas, or a gas with charged particles confined by electric and magnetic fields, that fills an airtight aperture. When the plasma reaches certain temperature and density parameters, it separates atmospheric pressure from a vacuum, which must be devoid of pressure. "

-Dan S.

Hmm. I need to think about this one. Thanks!

And while we are on anomalies:


I find myself wondering if this is really a spoof, like that Alan Sokal article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".

But it is interesting that the Chinese do not seem to be developing even new fighter planes, much less bombers. To me, this can only mean that they have no offensive military designs, or at least none that would cause them to come into conflict with the United States.


POLICY REVIEW June+July, 2003

China's Air-Power Puzzle

By Jacqueline A. Newmyer

And it is indeed well worth reading. And see below










This week:


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Tuesday,  June 10, 2003

This keeps cropping up:

Hold on Jerry,

I thought that business about the Saturn blueprints was just hogwash: 

So, you're telling us they really DID toss them out?


Aaron D. Ortiz

As I said above, my sources for the story were reliable at the time, and just because some debunker decides to say it's not true without offering any substantiation doesn't convince me.

It may be true that they kept copies on microfilm. If so they were in no hurry to let anyone know that. And there is certainly no question that they took two working man-rated Saturn V rockets and destroyed them, because they were afraid Saturn expendables would be a threat to their Shuttle. They also effectively destroyed the Skylab which they put on exhibit at the Smithsonian. This is NASA bureaucracy in action, and make no mistake about it.

In general I find many of these "urban legend" sites have an agenda, and are vulnerable to misinterpreting information or can even be victims of deliberate misinformation. 

I don't know for certain what happened to the Saturn plans, and it's moot now because we probably don't know how to build a Saturn today whether we have the plans or not: we've lost too much of the management expertise, and most of the contractors are long gone. But I do know that it's quite believable that NASA deliberately destroyed their capability to build Saturn in order to protect the Shuttle project. I do know that we have spend hundreds of billions of dollars and with that money we ought to be halfway to Alpha Centauri now, and instead we have a few people in orbit and none on the Moon.

On conscription and republics


The debate over the role of conscription in a Republic is interesting. I came of age in the wake of the Vietnam war and after witnessing the "greeting" that the returning troops received decided that this country was unworthy of my service. It is unfortunate that I had read RAH's "Starship Troopers" years earlier when I was too young to understand the underlying, political and philosophical message. If I had, I would have enlisted in spite of my dismay at the hostility that was expressed towards the troops.

I think RAH came very close to devising a reasonable compromise between relying on volunteers or using conscription. Military service should be voluntary, but only those who are altruistic enough to volunteer to serve should be granted the full rights of citizens. As RAH so eloquently illustrated, voting in elections and holding a political office are rights that should be reserved solely for veterans. At the risk of endorsing the views of the gun control lobby, I think it would be reasonable for a country to restrict the Second Amendment Right to keep and bear arms to veterans. However, I'd also point out to the Ninth circuit court in San Francisco that by requiring me to register for the draft, the US Government was either acknowledging my status as a member of "The MIlitia" or conspiring to subject me to involuntary servitude.

If we were to institute these reforms, I think we would find that the military has far more volunteers than can be used efficiently. Many countries such as Sweden and Norway solve this problem by requiring only a very short term of service. This results in a military that remains inept as well as small. A more reasonable approach would be to have all of the volunteers serve in a militia that would receive a few weeks or months of basic training at the end of which they might either be requested to serve a longer term as a full time professional or be assigned to the Militia which would act as both a reserve of moderately skilled soldiers who would be available for future conscription if the need arose.

James Crawford

Heinlein's Starship Troopers restricted the franchise to those who had honorable discharges from Federal Service, which included the Armed Services, many civilian positions, but not the Merchant Marine. Only veterans could vote or hold public office.

This is not unusual: in Republican Rome, all property holders were subject to service when and as needed, and those who failed to report in armor when called were no longer property holders: their property was sold at public auction. Other republics including the Swiss have had similar and very rigid rules connecting the franchise and military service.

Heinlein would have had none of that: his Starship Troopers republic was built on voluntary service, and you could opt out by not volunteering, although you could never vote or hold public office if you didn't serve. Sweden has or at least until recently had much the same kind of rule: manhood conscription for a year, but you can avoid it. If you do avoid it, you may never hold a civil service job, and any private employer may refuse to hire you because you did not serve.

The arguments for universal conscription are two: that a nation is less likely to be adventurous if the main armed forces consist of citizens who are not making the military a career, and second the socialization value of universal service: typically, everyone, college graduates or otherwise, would go through at least 10 weeks of Basic Training in training commands that simply take people in the order they come, and don't segregate on the basis of economic or social background. That was certainly the way it was in 1950, where volunteers and conscripts of every economic background and social class were mixed, and after Truman's Executive Order, there was no segregation by race either. At least for the duration of Basic Training everyone of every class and race is treated the same way and required to live in close quarters, and undergo the same stresses.

Machiavelli's analysis, which echoes that of many of the ancients, was that if a republic needed defending it had better be defended by citizens, which mean conscription. Professional soldiers had different interests from the citizenry. Hired soldiers, Machiavelli said, would either ruin you by losing battles, or they would rob the paymaster and might become the state. He had plenty of examples from both Roman and Florentine history. The Framers agreed, and restricted the American military to rather small numbers. No one was afraid of the Navy or Marine Corps, which tended to be long term volunteer career services through most of our history -- the Marines accepted conscripts during WW II but never had before -- but the Army was never allowed to be very large in peacetime.

The Cold War changed all that. Then came Viet Nam. And we are still in the midst of the debates.


The arguments against conscription include economics -- it is very expensive, because the military has no need for that many soldiers. It presents the military with unwanted problems. Training conscripts is costly and worse, it takes professionals away from their units, and makes the long term units less effective. It makes any form of Regimental System nearly impossible, and the training for conscripts cannot be a rigorous as for long term volunteer professional soldiers. Most career military people don't want conscripts, at least not until there is a Big War like WW I or WW II, or they can't fill the ranks without them as in Korea.

Another argument against conscription is moral: it's an unjust imposition on citizens. Heinlein took the view that a republic that can't be defended by volunteers isn't worth defending, although it's interesting to note that he didn't always have that view.


The United States is not likely to adopt any form of conscription at any time soon. The history of wealthy republics that kept large standing armies in time of peace doesn't make the prognosis very good. One prediction is that if you have a large and powerful army some politician will want to use it. Recall Mrs. Allbright's remark when she was Secretary of State. A nation that has Legions will often find uses for them. 

Rome's mission was to protect the weak and make humble the proud. They could do that with proud Legions. In Kossovo we used aircraft at high altitudes. There's no question that our adventure there made things better for Albanians. The effect on the Christians in the area is somewhat different.

And then

Dear Jerry,

I generally agree with Paul Beaver's comments. As a New Zealander, I have to add that the US and Australia have smaller, more conservative (socially) and more communitarian neighbours: Canada and New Zealand.

There is a division within NZ at present. The ruling elite (based in the capital) are very much against the US and demanding collective action: the recent (yesterday) deployment of combat engineers to Iraq and Afghanistan is sold as consistent with the UN. The opposition parties (three) and a sizable minority in the country argue that we have abandoned our traditional allies: that is a (almost Tory) fashion we have betrayed King and Empire.

As one of the ironies of politics, the main parties in the current govt (Labour) traditionally advocate for the alienated: however the members of the parliamentary party are either union reps, teachers, or university types. When out of power, they are in power within other institutions. There are virtually no farmers, workers, or business people. For example, the net income for GPs has shrunk from around 120 000 NZ to 70 000NZ over 5 years due to compliance costs (like having to computerize, filling in forms etc). Any attempt to increase charges is seen as price gouging. NZ is now short of GPs (my wife, who has finished her GP residency, has chosen not to join a practice but work as a part-time locum on an hourly rate in after hours emergency rooms) and the govt is puzzled as to why*.

They act at times like 1000 pound gorillas on methamphetamines, and are very quick to accuse those who put them under pressue of acting in the same way.


Thank you. Now see below.

And now

Subject: Tunguska 1908 redux in 2002

History has a neat way of repeating itself as shown here:

and this just recently:

"June 10

Space Rock Destroys Siberian Forest, Again

As The Times of London put it, if the meteorite that crashed through Earth's atmosphere last September were aimed at central London, "Britain would no longer have a capital city." But London was spared, as the space rock was drawn to what could almost be called a hot spot for asteroid strikes: Siberia.

The large object -- its size has yet to be pinned down -- soared into a remote region of eastern Siberia on Sept. 25, rattling windows and setting off flashes in the sky seen by only a few. Ground tremors similar to those of an earthquake were felt 60 miles away. The U.S. Department of Defense tracked the incoming object by satellite.

Scientists later began a hunt for ground zero, but weather and snow hampered the search.

The devastation has now been examined, the Interfax news agency reported late last week. Trees were toppled and burnt across some 40 square miles of forest. Pieces of the meteorite have been found, and scientists expect them to be valuable for studying the object's composition.

Researchers speculate that this may be the largest space rock to hit Earth since one in 1908, which fell, ironically, in the Tunguska region of Siberia. As in 1908, however, it appears the 2002 rock exploded before it hit the ground, scientists said. So while the event had tremendous impact, technically speaking the rock did not impact the Earth. "

Personally, I still like to think of it as a micro blackhole that happened to pass through the Earth. Thought you two would be interested to know.

-Dan S.

Alas, Chyba and others have made it pretty clear that Tunguska was a stony asteroid, as was this one. Why is Siberia attracting them?

And more on China and air power

Jerry, maybe the Chinese are looking forward to space. A Chinese Thor system would sure put the DoD's panties in a bunch!

Just a thought after reading that piece you linked on their AF.



It would indeed. It would indeed.

Subject: Imagine that.,12128,965311,00.html

------ Roland Dobbins

And this got buried:

Dr. Pournelle,

A while back you remarked on the utility of a language or compiler that would let you write code, then run it, without mucking about with forms and all.

I believe I may have found a useful candidate for you. To quote the author's website: "Rapid-Q is a cross platform BASIC programming language capable of generating GUI and CONSOLE applications (including CGI applications). It directly supports MySQL, DirectX, a bit of Direct3D, Sockets, a bit of COM, component/object programming, and many other nice features. Rapid-Q is currently available for Windows 95/98/NT/2000, Linux/i386, Solaris/Sparc, and HP-UX. Although Rapid-Q is still in Beta (for over a year already), it is fully functional and FREE!"

It seems to be a very nice little quick'n'dirty compiler. A (very) simple console hello.bas:

print "Hello, World!"

compiles and runs just fine. Rapid-Q includes text color, cursor location, and even PEEK/POKE commands!

I've been playing with it for a couple of days, and I'm pretty impressed. The only function they don't seem to have implemented is a RANDOM number generator, and that shouldn't be too hard to write. Recommended.

You can get Rapid-Q (by William Yu) at . This link takes you to a page where you can get distributions for Windows, Linux, Solaris/Sparc, and HP-UX. The same page code examples, optional libraries, and documentation.


I tend to use Python for those quick jobs, but this is interesting too. Thanks.


Dr Pournelle,

You wrote: "But in the case of Saturn they darned well did NOT want ANYONE to be able to build another Saturn which might threaten Shuttle. I don't know if they threw the plans away -- I still believe they did -- but I do know for certain they took TWO working Saturns and the Skylab they could have launched and laid them down as lawn ornaments and owl roosts. You can see them, the most powerful machines ever made by mankind, at JSC and the Smithsonian, and you can see the Skylab at the Smithsonian too. Dan Goldin once told me he wept when he looked at that Skylab and Saturn at the Smithsonian. They could have been launched. Instead we built the Space Station, which is what the NASA bureaucracy wanted. And just because something is called a FAQ doesn't make it true.

Just a minor correction.

No Saturn V on display is a complete Launch Vehicle. Rather, they are all a mixture of flight and the 500F mock up. Complete displays of the Saturn V are at KSC, JSC, and MSC. A 1st Stage is at Michoud. MSC also has on display a 1:1 model of the Saturn V displayed vertically. The KSC vehicle is displayed inside and is part of a truly excellent display of the Apollo 8 Firing Room and launch.

You are correct that the Skylab backup is at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has an excellent display of the business end of the Saturn V.

Saturn IB's are also on display at KSC and at the I-65 rest stop near the Alabama - Tennessee Border. MSC has two Saturn I's on display as well.

A Little Joe II is displayed at JSC and a couple of other locations.

Its a damn shame that we didn't keep using them. Look at the success the Russians have with their 40 year old designs. We would have had assured access to space, as you say.

Kind Regards

Mike Robel

Which should end this discussion I think.

Cool! Reading is no longer a requirement to pass school!

- Paul

PS: How divorced from reality can the schoolboards be?

PPS: I think in cases like this, it clearly shows how otherwise intelligent people can fall for/swallow/accept the "big lie". Incredible.

Shocking. You're astonished?








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Begin with a frequently asked question. Incidentally, please doublespace between PARAGRAPHS but NOT between lines, because in general I don't reformat mail:

Hey Jerry,

I like your books, and I from reading both them and your site, it seems I agree with most of your politics. But (if memory serves) you have advocated a $1 Billion government funded incentive for the first private company to get to space. Why do we need government to get involved? Free enterprise is already doing much the same thing with the 10 million X prize. Why do we want the government to get involved and take credit for something that would have happened anyway, and that the existance of a government space program may very well have delayed? I read Diamondis wanted to get in space with NASA, decided their was not much of a chance of that, and got the X prize together. Why do we want a government X prize to compete with any future private prizes? I understand government having military space projects, but I don't know that the government should be involved with civilian space transport. Private groups would not be able to leap straight to the moon, that is true; they would have to jump from one profitable step to another. They would have to build the infastructure gradually, but if private funds can get us to suborbital flight, (and is looks like this is going to happen early next year), why not orbital flight and beyond? The father private enterprize gets in space the more funds will be available to it. Why get the government involved? Sorry if I misstated or misremembered any of your opinions. I didn't see the particular place on your site where you advocated a billion dollar incentive. I seem to remember you advocated something similar in one of your non fiction books.


Ian Perry.

The X Prize is $10 million, and hardly an incentive to get to orbit. Rutan's efforts will not lead to orbit: there is no path from what he is doing with hybrid engines to real orbital flight. Hybrid engines are at best (assuming they can be made to work reliably) utility engines for small delta-vee. 

If you can raise a billion dollar prize for a reusable manned orbital ship -- if the Gates Foundation wants to offer one -- then you will see efforts at building them. The X Prize doesn't lead to orbit.

Meanwhile, there are more national defense needs for reaching orbit than there are commercial; if it were not so we would already have private orbital development a lot further along than it is.

For 40 years I have been trying to get both government and private industry to develop means for low cost manned access to space. With private industry it always goes this way: you convince people there are technical risks but we can solve them.

 They then ask "And what is your business plan? We know the market for communications satellites, but that can be done unmanned. Why do we need on-orbit construction capability? What can people do for money in space? What is the market?"

To which the answer is, "If you build it, they will come," and you wave your arms about a lot, and talk about tourism and such like, and the chap quite properly says, "Hmm. There are both technical risks and market risks, why don't I invest my billion in an oil company?"

The fact that I believe there will develop markets using large manned space facilities doesn't mean I can make arguments that survive due diligence inquiries. On the other hand I have no trouble at all showing why easy manned space access and on-orbit assembly capability has profound military implications. 

We could have developed all this in the 60's and 70's, but we went another path. Arthur Kantrowitz tried to convince Kennedy's people that the best way to the Moon was through development of manned space access, a von Braun manned space station, and on to the Moon in a logical way that left developed space assets. That didn't work, because Johnson's support of the Moon Mission was contingent on spending money in the South: the real objective was the reindustrialization of the South. The Moon mission itself was a stunt.

Developing space assets is not a stunt, and please do not send me mail citing all the various potential industrial uses of space. I wrote many of them, and G. Harry Stine wrote most the rest, Harry getting much of his data from the meetings I chaired (and don't take this as any kind of resentment against Harry: we divided the labor and he did the popularizations, and I miss him). Industrial potential is not a market plan. I know. Boy do I know.

Prizes are a way for government to reap the benefits of developing space capabilities without the government dominating everything through the creation of another monster like NASA. Prizes cost nothing until the feat is accomplished.

All this makes me thing I need a new TOPIC page, and I've started one.


Subject:  Lawyers and Global Government


Dear Jerry,

Lawyers and Global Government, what a combination!


Gordon Runkle

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


The Iraqi intifada has begun. Saddam Hussein was reported to pay a bounty to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Now he is rumored to pay a bounty to killers of American service people. Only a rumor. Who knows if he is alive, or where he is? But it is consistent with his past behavior. Saddam Hussein played bloodied-but-unbowed to the Arab community. He engaged in a contest of will with other nations over the embargo. And he had stared down every other country in this contest, except the U. S. A. and the U. K. The coalition forces advanced brilliantly into Iraq. Now they sit there. Saddam or not, another contest of will is taking place, as an American dies each day.

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

I expect you are exactly correct. Unlike Israel, we do have some options, including enclave the areas we want to hold and abandon the rest.

It is a test of wills, and of political skills, and the American republic has not been long on either in foreign policy.


Subj: Conscription - why make a Federal case out of it?

Assume, for purposes of argument, that it is true, that a Republic cannot survive without conscription, for the reasons already discussed.

Why, in a Federal Republic like the US (was?), must the conscription be into Federal service?

Why could not each State conscript its own citizens into its own service?

Was that not the way we started? The whole notion of the "militia" (a) belonging to each State and (b) consisting of all the able-bodied men?

Not asking for a long essay by Dr. Pournelle, just throwing out a question for the House to ponder.

Rod Montgomery ==

This deserves a better answer than I have time for; but it is certainly the way the Framers conceived of our defense. Whether it would work now I another matter.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have wondered if anyone else has considered having both conscription, but also have a professional army. The conscripted army would be solely for defense, and the volunteer army would be for adventures abroad. I think people wouldn't mind going through some training, and then being called up to defend their country when necessary.

And when the government feels it needs to go meddling somewhere else, those who chose to join the military should go.

By the way, from what I know, the new rules in Switzerland for refusal of conscription, are 15 weeks (the length of initial training) in military prison.


For a long time that is precisely what we had, the Marine Corps being the small professini0nal force we used to occupy the banana republics and such like. It will certainly work, but possibly not quite the way you think.



Subject: Polygraphs

"Junk science fundamentally unfair to individuals, a danger to national security and public safety." It seems a lot of people are upset about having their careers on the line in inquisitions by dweebs and tricksters. Advice offered on "beating" the tests. 

--Mike Juergens

I don't have time to go look at the moment. Perhaps our resident pshrink can have a look. I was once much involved with polygraphs, and it is largely the skill of the operator that determines the success of the examination, which can detect stress but isn't too good at deciding the cause of the stress...

But see below.

Subject: truly annoying popups

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

After reading the latest from your fine site and signing out, I was exposed to a new, and truly annoying, popup. Among other things, it informed me that it had detected a Windows system on my computer, and that I was suffering memory leaks. A request for information revealed that this was an outfit trying to sell me a product called "MemTurbo".

This computer has no Microsoft software, particularly Windows, and never will. I have two versions of Linux running, and no desire to change. The chance of them selling me their product is the same as your buying cases of snake oil (Made Fresh Daily) from me.

They did one thing right. They claimed to come from Netscape, and not from .


William L. Jones

The popups didn't come from me, I can assure you. I don't even know how to generate such things. The only way we get any revenue here is through thoroughly voluntary subscriptions. And a check with editors confirms what I already knew: we don't use pop-up advertisements at either.




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Thursday, June 12, 2003

On Polygraphs

Re: polygraphs

The NAS study < > indicates polygraphs work much better than chance but well below perfection in identifying lying by naive subjects during investigations of specific incidents. Of course the same thing can be said of the unaided judgment of a smart investigator, and we try to avoid convicting solely based on that without supporting evidence. Humans _are_ good lie detectors--better than any computer system we can build--that's why we use the jury system. Investigators aren't perfect, either--the best at detecting lies also generate many more false alarms than the average person.

On the other hand, polygraphs are invalidated by the base rate fallacy when used for screening. That is, they usually generate so many false alarms per real lie that the results claimed for them are really produced by the unaided judgment of the polygrapher. Additionally, skilled liars can fool a polygraph, just like they can fool an investigator.

Now why. Basically, a lie is a untruthful statement by a person. That is, the person producing it _believes_ it to be untrue, not that it is objectively false. Belief in this sense is only _correlated_ with factual truth, and probably reflects an emotional response produced in the CNS, much like love, hate, fear, anger. Basically, we observe an evolving situation, predict the outcome, and the observed correctness of our prediction produces a reinforcer that leads us to make the same prediction in the future. I.e., we become addicted to those predictive models that consistently produce this reinforcement and we tend to ignore evidence inconsistent with them. When we are forced to observe or make a statement that violates one of our internal predictive models of how the world _should_ be, it seems to produce an orientation response in the CNS that can be detected using EEG, MEG, fMRI, etc. It also can produce a galvanic skin response, blood pressure changes, etc., that can be (but need not be) detected by a polygraph. Since other stimuli can produce the same observations, we can't deduce that the individual's responses were produced by a lie, but that is often the assumption. (We also have to be careful in our acceptance of statements that the individual believes are true. Both bats and people are very good at ignoring evidence at variance with their internal models.)

Why then use polygraphs in screening? They're props, but effective ones when dealing with naive subjects. However, the real threats are rarely naive and are hard to catch. The real lie detector is the human being, and the real solution is to realize that you have to trust your people in the end, so get them on your side in the beginning and get their buy-in on security.

Harry R Erwin, PhD, <>

Thank you. And from Ed Hume:

On polygraphy


As a shrink, I have never had any faith in polygraphy. It measures when you get upset about a topic. The psychological concepts that underpin its use are naďve and don't reflect how the mind woks. A better use for this technology is in the e-meters used in Dianetics. At least there the point is to identify areas of upsetness and the target those areas with therapy until the sufferer is "clear."

Imagine knowing this and then having to take a polygraph exam to get a job? I did this and flunked, twice, while telling the truth. That fairly well demonstrated for me that I had not been wrong.

I've seen a study using SPECT scans to identify areas of memory and making stuff up. This is a promising beginning for an expensive lie detector that might actually detect lies.

There is a psychologist, Michael Tansey, PhD, who has invented a method using narrow-bandpass EEG's that appears to reliably distinguish between truth and lies in his studies. Because the method is relatively inexpensive, it seems to me that research on his method would be worth doing. But government polygraphers don't want to lose their employment, so these "experts" have advised against funding any studies.

As for the website, it looks like someone is fairly upset with government practices. A lot of argumentum ad hominem there. I didn't look at the details for fooling a polygraph test. How would I know what's valid? I flunked mine . . .

At bottom, polygraphy is a terribly weak reed on which to support our nation's security. Somebody in the security business needs to fund some studies on a more reliable replacement technology.

Ed Hume pshrink-dot-com

As some of you know, I was involved in some of the very earliest experiments in use of physiological measures to psychological stimuli, done at the Seattle VA by Al Ax of the University of Washington. We used a LOT of measures, including both face and hand temperature, ballistocardiograph, a good EKG as well as heart rate, and of course the usual skin resistance (GSR, much used by Dianetics advocates) and breath rate (actually we used strain gauges and got the actual breathing pattern including depth.

Albert Ax published his results in various places, the best known being "The physiological differentiation of fear and anger," (I am sorry I have forgotten the exact reference but it ought to be easy enough to find); the upshot was that you can in fact recognize physiological responses to psychological states, at least in naive subjects. Other work included attempts to spoof the system with graduate students working to fool each other, or using "20 questions" techniques to find out a secret. My conclusion -- and this was in the 1950's -- was that you could refine these techniques, but we didn't then have the computing power to reduce the data to anything we could analyze. We didn't even have decent analog to digital converters and one model of the UW Polygraph used stepping switches, big banks of them to convert analog data to digital: the place sounded like a typewriter factory.

We had other problems including artifacts: every time the VA hospital elevator came to our floor we got big spikes. Later when I was a Boeing in human factors we developed filters to take out lab noise artifacts, using large feedback amplifiers. Now all that is built into a few chips.

But in 1954 we concluded and could prove that skilled operators with the machines could find out a surprising amount from people trying to hide the information even when the subject was himself (or herself, but we were mostly male) a graduate student in psychology and an experienced polygraph operator. A good interrogator with polygraph backup is going to be a lot more effective than either would be alone.

Using these things to detect potential problem people in sensitive positions is probably justified but just barely: there will definitely be false positives and everyone involved should know that. But if someone in a very sensitive position is extremely disturbed inside but doing a good job of hiding it from the world, I'd certainly order a discrete investigation into finances and contacts: people with something to hide ought not be privy to such things as intelligence sources and particularly names of important assets, at least until we know what is being hidden. It might merely be something embarrassing such as the chap finds out his wife is having an affair, and he doesn't want anyone to know he knows: he'd rather ignore it and hope she gets over it than have to deal with it and perhaps break up the marriage. (That example comes from a real case I know about some 25 years ago.) But he might also be hiding the fact that he hired a hit man to take out his wife's lover, and while that might be justified, you surely want to be certain he's done it right so he he won't later be blackmailed... Of course that puts the supervisor in an embarrassing position of knowing something he'd rather not have found out.

Polygraphs are a tool. They're expensive if used well, and hardly justified in matters not involving a lot of money or people's lives' but sometimes they can be useful tools. They should never be used as the only tool.

And now, Why Do they Hate Us: Common sense from Greg Cochran

 I have seen more nonsense written about this topic than you could shake a stick at. If anyone really wanted to know, they would systematically investigate the question. Anyhow who thinks that they can up with an answer ab initio, using no data, is a fool ( or a columnist - is there a difference?) . If you really wanted to know, you would go _ask_ a stastical cross-section of Moslems ( and Europeans, etc); do depth interviews, track changes over time, etc etc etc.

I have at least have some quantitative data: the fraction of the Moslem world that strongly dislikes the US has greatly increased over the past three years. For example, in 2000, 75% of the Indonesian population had a favorable attitude towards the US, while today 83% have a negative opinion. Favorable numbers have dropped dramatically in traditional allies like Turkey

So, when trying to explain this dramatic increase, I think we can drop the idea that factors that have existed more less continuously for the last few decades explain these recent changes.

Gregory Cochran

But columnists who insist on data lose their columns! See below.

Subject: Incompetent empire.

------ Roland Dobbins


On Israel

When I lived in Israel in the late seventies, the PLO regularly lobbed rockets from Lebanon into the northern Kibbutzim and terrorist bombs (non suicide) went off monthly if not weekly. With the peace process on its way with Egypt, the country felt like it was on the cusp of substantial change. While Israel had occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai for over a decade, the majority of the Arab population still remembered time from before the occupation and many still remembered British occupation.

At that time there were around 3 million Jews and 2 million Arabs in the country. If Israel had been willing to give the Arabs full citizenship rights, I believe there was still enough good will within the Paletinian community to make go of it (very speculative of course). Unfortunately, with the religious party acting as the swing party in the Knesset and with Israel's identity being wrapped around being a refuge for the Jewish people, that would never have been allowed to happen.

From what I have seen over the last decade, any ability for the two communities to work their way towards peace has been lost. When asked what I would propose, the only solution that comes to mind is for the West Bank to become part of Jordan, for Gaza to become part of Egypt and for the international community to pump money into those countries to ease the burden and to ensure they enforce the security measures needed to provide Israel some peace. Not a great solution, but the only one that seems to have a small chance of success.


Jordan doesn't want the West Bank and Egypt doesn't want Gaza, and I am not at all sure you can force them to take them. I keep looking and I see nothing that doesn't involve ethnic cleansing: either Jews to New York and Florida, or Palestinians to Lebanon, Syria, and other places outside Israel and the West Bank. Gaza can be walled off with the settlements removed. Judea and Samaria are another story. Even with the settlements gone. And non-Jews inside Israel have more children than the Jews.

Of course similar problems now face much of Western Europe, where, as in Kossovo, the original inhabitants become minorities, sometimes rather rapidly: Kossovo was majority Christian Serb as late as the 1920's and possibly later than that. Albanians fled their own country and infiltrated into Serbian Kossovo. Then Clinton bombed Serbia into allowing Kossovo, which was the original Serbian homeland and the symbol of resistance to Moslem conquest of Serbia, to go over to Albanians. I am not sure I see this as much different from a time in future when France  claims the right to bomb Washington and New York in order to force the United States to hand over California, New Mexico, and Texas to Mexico, but I am probably missing something.

And finally for the day

Dear Jerry,

Seems TSA screeners were given the answers to their certification test in advance.

Fav quote:

"The TSA said there was no wrongdoing because "training was conducted as prescribed by TSA curriculum guidelines," according to a letter from TSA Administrator James Loy to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sought the probe."

Once again we see Bureaucratus Nincompoopus in action. There's no objective right or wrong, certainly no common sense, only procedures and guidelines divorced from reality.

I feel so much safer.


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








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Friday, June 13, 2003

I just read this passage from Weyl and Possony, "The Geography of Intellect", Regnery 1963.


In the early 1930's P.I. Leventuev gave group Binets to 226 male and 273 female children in Moscow schools. Finding that workers' children scored markedly lower than the children of intellectuals and that this class gap widened with age, Leventuev proposed that the psychological tests be doctored to eliminate this difference, one which was naturally repugnant in the extreme to the pundits of Marxism-Leninism and to the rulers of the Soviet state.

The proposed solution of tampering with the tests was not considered drastic enough. In 1936, mental tests were abolished by proclamation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Societ Union. The tests were denounced as "a device for perpetuating the existing class structure by mass tests which demonstrated the superiority of the dominant classes and 'superior races.'" The authorities added tht these tests were "a very poor way of evaluating the child since they made only a partial assessment of his personality." This decree was lauded ten years later as a milestone in Soviet education development...."


Sounds eerily familiar doesn't it?



Dear Dr Pournelle, It begins, perhaps?

<,12858,976659,00.html  > But the BBC notes:

"The authorities are anxious for the situation not to get out of hand.

They have stressed to students that they will not tolerate a repeat of the events of 1999, when clashes with law-enforcement officers lasted for three days and left at least one student dead.

Those anti-government protests were the most serious since the fall of the Shah in 1979. About 70% of Iran's 65 million population is under 30, and has little or no memory of the former President Khomeini's Islamic revolution."

<  >

Regards, TC -- Terry Cole SA, OU Maths & Stats ( PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Tel:64 3 4767167

We will see. I don't know much about modern Iran, and I have little confidence in most of the sources I do have. I had some understanding of how things were under the Shah, who was trying to balance interests while creating a middle class, but who always relied on the United States to help him with good advice: a reliance that was misplaced when Jimmy Carter was President.

In deleting old mail I found from Joanne Dow:

A fossil fly of a species similar to house flies has been found in Antarctica. The Professor who found it goes on to "lecture":

"The landscape at that time was sort of like what's on the west coast of Greenland now," Ashworth said. "There was a lake, ice sheets that are much smaller than they are today and some patchy, tundra-like vegetation."

He goes on to say this about our "greenhouse" models: "We have to look at the models more closely: Obviously it wasn't greenhouse gases warming Antarctica 15 million years ago," he said. "Some other variables, other than human variables, caused [it]."


Which is interesting. But we all know the Vikings lived in Greenland before the Little Ice Age, and that sure wasn't greenhouse gasses that let Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky found his colonies.

And Mr. St Onge replies to Cochran

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: June 13, 2003                                 subject: Mr. Cochran on Why do they hate us?
Dear Jerry:
        Greg Cochran's suggestion for finding out why they hate us "go _ask_ a stastical cross-section of Moslems . . . do depth interviews, track changes over time, etc etc etc." has one big problem.  It's been done, and it gives nonsensical results.
        If you'd asked Germans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries why they hated Jews, they'd have told you about the sinister Jewish conspiracy that controlled all the banks and was working against Germany.  Ask them in the 1920s and '30s, they'd have repeated the above, and added in the stab in the back during WWI.  Only problem was, it was all untrue, and obviously so.
        Modern Muslims believe in the same sinister Jewish conspiracy, believe the West is out to get them, and that's obviously untrue too.  But fact and logic have no effect, just as they had no effect on the Germans.  Collectively, Germany was insane in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and most of Islam is insane now.
        It's not really surprising.  In 1212, the Spaniard won at Las Navas de Tolosa, and began rolling back Muslim rule in Spain.  In 1529, the Turks besieged Vienna, and lost.  In 1571, they lost the battle of Lepanto.  In 1683 they tried Vienna again, and lost again.  The Austrian Empire began conquering their territory.  In 1798, Napoleon's invasion brushed the local forces aside contemptuously.  In the 19th century, Europeans took whatever Muslim lands they wanted.
        This wasn't supposed to happen.  Islam is the only true religion, and God is supposed to guarantee Muslim victories.  It shouldn't be possible for this to be occurring, but it is.
        Quite a few Western scholars have been studying Islam for centuries.  David Pryce-Jones, Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis, and the late Raphael Patai studied the beliefs and attitudes of contemporary Islam, and they all come to the same conclusion: Islam can't deal with the modern world.
        Muslims have built universities, studied science and engineering, tried to industrialize, had their armies trained by Europeans and USAmericans, they've bought Western military equipment -- and most of the time, nothing happens.  They can't employ what they've learned.
        The equipment has to be maintained, but most Muslim armies refuse to do maintenance.  It involves manual labor, and they consider it demeaning.  The foreign military trainers stress initiative by subordinates, and flexibility on the battlefield, and they refuse again.  It would involve the superiors surrendering part of their power, and that would be shameful, and dangerous to boot.  And on, and on.
        One of the things Bernard Lewis has emphasized is the Muslim fear that the impact of Western culture will trivialize Islam, just as Christianity has been largely trivialized in the West.  They are right to worry.  When Charles Lindburgh studied aeronautics, he lost his religious faith.  He couldn't help noticing that religion was irrelevant to flying.  Islam is irrelevant to almost all the questions that Muslims face in adapting to the modern world, and at some level I'm convinced they know it.  Know it, and can't stand it.
        Yeah, I know: Turkey has changed, somewhat.  But only by systematically assaulting anything in Islamic culture that interferes with adopting modern ways.  And even so, there is still a substantial danger of falling back.
        The example of Germany is particularly illuminating here.  Bismarck unified Germany and stole most of Alsace-Lorraine through war.  Later, reflecting on the strategic situation, he settled on a new, two part policy: a) avoid war whenever possible; seek no further conquests; Germany was in danger of uniting the continent against her. b) the five great European powers would tend to divide into an alliance of three against two; Germany would be part of the three, no matter who the other two were.
        These eminently sensible ideas was thrown away, and Bismarck was dismissed as Chancellor.  Objectively, Germany was better off than any other European country.  But Germans started fantasizing about everyone being out to get them.
        So Germany began antagonizing as many neighbors as possible.  Britain was challenged to a naval building race, one that Germany could not possibly win.  Colonies were pursued, even thought they were now fairly obviously drains on the homeland.  Russia was driven into the arms of France.  Germany was "handcuffed to a corpse," the Austro-Hungarian empire that was racked with nationality problems.
        And Germany capped it by settling on one strategic plan in case of war: no matter who you go to war with, no matter what the circumstances, invade France via Belgium in an attempt to get a quick, knockout blow.  This was the famous Schlieffen plan.  Meticulous research and wargaming showed that the plan as a whole failed.  That's right, failed.  The only logistical study done showed that the supply broke down before the German troops were in a position to besiege Paris.  In wargames, when the German troops got near Paris, the French general staff reinforced the city quickly via rail (Paris was the hub of the French rail system).   The Great General Staff went with the plan anyway.
        When it was executed in real life, the logistics broke down, and the French used the rail net to reinforce Paris.  They lost the war, then told themselves that it hadn't really happened, they'd have won if they hadn't been betrayed at home by the Jews . . .
        I can't see any explanation for this except that Germany went insane, collectively.  They didn't want to move most of the population off the farms and into the cities and their factories, all under Prussian rule.  They did want the wealth and power these shifts generated.  They dealt with their dilemma insanely.
        Eventually, Germans stopped longing for agricultural lebensraum and adapted to the industrial age, more or less.  Eventually, Islam will stop longing for the pre-gunpowder age and adapt to the modern world.  But there's going to be a lot of blood spilled before then, because short of dying, there's nothing we can do to satisfy them.  The fault is not in our policies, but in our existence.

I would not have said that finding out what people think is nonsense. If the question is "Why do they hate us?" then what do you care if it is nonsense? You have answered the questions. Christopher Isherwood in I Am A Camera, which was adapted to become the musical Cabaret, had to deal with the realities of race prejudice which were pretty ingrained: in the book, Sally said "Sorry I'm late, darling. I had to sleep with a Jewish producer. Didn't get the part, though." Whether or not there was an objective reality behind the belief that you had to make nice to Jews to get ahead was important in the real world, but as data on why there was anti-Semitism, beliefs are what you need.

Similarly, prior to US involvement in the Middle East we weren't particularly hated by the populations, as anyone who traveled in the area could tell you.

And of course your views show through: "Germany stole Alsace." But when did the French get it? Who for that matter blew up Heidelberg Castle? There is a lot of history in there. The French subsidized some of the Turkish invasions of the Holy Roman Empire, and had a hand in the Thirty Years War, eventually taking Alsace in the Treaty of Westphalia. Germany's "theft" is a matter of interpretation and view. And what the complex genesis of The Great War has to do with why the Arabs hate us is beyond my ken here, so I won't comment on your interpretation of those events.

Cochran said "I have at least have some quantitative data: the fraction of the Moslem world that strongly dislikes the US has greatly increased over the past three years. For example, in 2000, 75% of the Indonesian population had a favorable attitude towards the US, while today 83% have a negative opinion. Favorable numbers have dropped dramatically in traditional allies like Turkey" and you answer with views on how WW I started, and protests that the Arabs believe in magic, all of which may be true, but has little to do with Cochran's assertion. Is it untrue? I think not. Why is it true? Because the Indonesian and general Moslem Weltanschauung has changed since 2000? I doubt it.

They hate us because we are over there and in their faces. Perhaps we have to be, but we should recognize the consequences of those actions.


"Secret Squirrels" and the Hunt for WMD

Pretty interesting and in-depth article on the covert counterpart to the public search for WMD in Iraq
? nav=hpto p_tb


Leander Kalpaxis


Subject: Looks like Mgt at SCO know that the jig is about up... 

The rats begin to leave the ship.... -- John Harlow, President BravePoint 

A mind is like a parachute; it works best when fully opened....






This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 14, 2003

Flag Day

And I took the day off.






This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 15, 2003

Several From Roland

Subject: A Mighty Wind 

Wind power isn't going to solve our problems. And there are no hydrogen wells.


Subject: Bhutan succumbs,3605,975769,00.html 

And there goes the neighborhood...


And then we have:

Subject: Oh, my God.

Roland Dobbins

Which is frightening enough and then some. Where do such things end?

Subject: NASA shakeup


Thought you might find this interesting:

Best Regards,


Indeed. Although shakeup isn't quite the way I would characterize it. Isn't KSC sort of involved in Shuttle decisions?

And on exporting jobs,

Dr. Pournelle:

Fortune published an article that seemed to echo some of the concerns you have written about in the past about exporting our economic strength overseas. I thought you might be interested.

Tom Brosz

Down and Out, indeed. Was that a giant sucking sound we heard?


This is just plain cool. Build a robot from a floppy drive. 

Best wishes,

Clyde Wisham

**** "To test a man's character, give him power." -- Abraham Lincoln ****


And I got this in response to a thank you for a renewal:

Not a problem Jerry.

"you do those things so that the rest of us don't have to"

I cannot tell you how valuable your site is in terms is 'slightly faster' intelligence on a wide variety of topics. Info is power. There are any number of instances of my reading of Something Important on your site hours before it's reported in the 'general press'. That this happens on a consistant basis is a tribute to both your reader/subscriber base and yourself.

Some of used to call this the 'BIX Factor' in that we'd talk over info hours or days before same-said was reported in the open press often using the same wording and phraseology. I often wonder if the "lazy print journalist" that we all suspected was lurking on BIX followed you over to

Thanks again for all the work. Best to Roberta, Alex, and all of the clan.


For which much thanks. 

And will we build an African Empire?

Backwater Bases for GIs Pentagon unveiled plans to significantly shift the 70,000 troops in Germany to Africa and the Caucasus.

excerpt:U.S. officials also noted that a key mission would be to ensure the stability of Nigeria's oil fields. The United States depends on sub-Saharan Africa for 15 percent of its oil and that percentage is expected to as much as 25 percent in the next decade. But Africa needs America just as much, with sub-Saharan 

Tom Weaver
 Radioactivity Decays
 Stupidity is FOREVER

And Eric asks

Subject: Is the hydrogen cure worse than the petroleum disease?

Eric Pobirs

That is also the subject of an editorial in Access to Energy. 

My guess is that if you have enough energy to be able to use hydrogen as your energy distribution system you will find better ways for much of the distribution; but it has some advantages too. The important thing to note is that there are no hydrogen wells, and it's energy expensive to make hydrogen from electrolysis. It can be done, but it's not terribly efficient. On the other hand, fuel cells may be the answer to a lot of problems.

I don't claim to know. I do know that hydrogen is not a primary source. There are no hydrogen wells. What I tell you three times is true.


RE: Barzun's Dawn To Decadence

Dr. Pournelle, I took your advice and picked up this book. Not an easy read. Good, but not easy. I am a grand total of twenty-five pages into the book and have already learned things I didn't know. Barzun's commentary on Luther and Erasmus is both lucid and compelling. I find, though, that I need to go back and reread passages to make sure I understood what was being said. I am really enjoying it so far. I can finish a Pournelle novel in two days. This book is going to take me several weeks. I am also reading Machiavelli's The Prince, a much smaller book.

Thank you for your advice,

 Douglas Knapp

I never had any suspicion that this was an "easy" book, but then trying to encapsulate and distill the knowledge of centuries isn't supposed to be easy. Education is enlightening, but getting one takes work.

You might read Pratt's Battles That Changed History first; that will give a bit of framework for the enlightenment and after. And you are welcome...

Spammers and Postage Due

Email postage charges might be usable against spammers the way Federal income tax was used against Al Capone - as something they *can* be convicted and put in jail for evading in the course of their noxious but hard to prosecute business.

The amount and obnoxiousness of spam I've been getting lately has been severely weakening my principles as far as opposition to expanding Federal powers goes. (Hmm. You don't suppose John Ashcroft is actually behind all this spam? Nahhhh, couldn't be...)

Henry Vanderbilt

O subtle one. O serpent...

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
   subject: Life imitates Chaos Manor
Dear Jerry:
        A city councilwoman in Sacramento wishes to fire the local superintendant of schools.  Half the kids in Sacramento are below average. 

Ye flipping gods...






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