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Mail 268 July 28 - August 2, 2003






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Last night's VIEW had an observation from me about James Baker going to Iraq. We have this response:

Subject: Re: Stupid Ralph Peters Column

Re Baker going to Iraq - I wouldn't be too sure about that. The situation sounds iffy, and there is doubt that he would take the job even if offered. Still the story itself is a sign of worry at the White House. Second, you have to subtract the local demand of about 700,000 barrels a day from the 1 million figure: exports will be 300,000 at most. Third, every body says that the oil infrastructure is in bad shape, fields have been mistreated - and that even reaching prewar output ( around 2.5 million barrels a day) is probably impossible without opening new wells in new fields, which means heavy investment. They're talking requited private investment of 30-40 billion dollars, and at this point the big oil companies say they they're not ready to do it - they need physical security for employees and political security for their investments _ Financial Times had an article about this a few days ago.

Don't hold your breath on the 8 million figure.

Current administration position is that most people in Iraq like us and that only a few Baathist diehards are opposing us. I wonder if this is the case. I know, from history, that occupying powers almost always say something like this. Sometimes it is true, but usually it is not.

Gregory Cochran

My own analysis falls in between. The US is extremely competent at accomplishing goals that are easily defined, such as "Pump 8 million bbls/day of oil." We are not so good at ill-defined goals such as "End history," or "Build a nation," or "Pacify Iraq."

On the other hand, our troops usually have been popular, because Americans tend to be rich, generous, and easy going. What's not to like? The "They hate us because of our freedoms" crowd will of course have a different view, but neither Cochran nor I think much of that argument, which always did seem a bit specious.

Why are we in Iraq?

I suspect that now that some of the original hysteria is over, the White House is beginning to wonder about that. No WMD were used against us, none seemed to be poised for use, and now there seem to be fewer than anyone suspected. It isn't that Saddam Hussein had moral scruples about such weapons, but he couldn't manage nukes (thanks to the Israeli raids on his his nuclear facilities) and chemical weapons are just a lot easier to tool up and make than most suppose: anyone with a decent industrial base can make them on rather short notice. Saddam was afraid he'd be caught with them and got rid of them, but he was so infernally macho that he wanted to pretend he had them anyway. So it goes.

So we didn't invade because of WMD although perhaps the White House believed there were some. We didn't invade because of al Qaeda connections: that case was thin going in and nothing we've found makes it stronger. 

We did invade because Saddam was definitely an evil villain and no one would miss him, and we needed a base not in Saudi Arabia. That may not have been the motive of the President, but it definitely was the Realpolitik reason and certainly was in the minds of many of the President's advisors. The problem now is that it's hard to admit that was the rational reason for going in, and if we're not careful we'll lose that outcome.

The real question is, we're there. What do we do now?

I copy the following from the discussion that began this:

Oil in Iraq is up to 1 million bbl/day; we need 8 million/day, and I suspect Baker and the Halliburton techs can do this.

Now my proposal:  the US should pay to everyone in Iraq who can show he was a former officer of the regular army (not the special units) $4 American per day, to every NCO $3 a day, and to every former private $2 a day: this to be paid each week in which no American soldiers are killed in guerrilla attacks.  This would be cheaper than what we are doing; it would be more effective; it would get some money moving around in Iraq again; and it would give an incentive to some Iraqis who have some abilities to stop the attacks on US troops.

Dr. Pournelle:

To quote your comments in the View from Chaos Manor on 27 July 2003:

"The SEC is now investigating accounting practices for computer gaming companies. Clearly Washington is determined to bring any successful segment of the industry into submission, lest there be any freedom left anywhere. "

I believe the Late Robert Heinlein said it best:

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded - here and there, now and then - are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as bad luck."

Very best regards,

Michael J A Tyzuk, CDOSB Tarnished Knight Ships OTHER Scotsman, Bad Ship BetNoirian MSN: YAHOO:

"Do not meddle in the affairs of Anti Depressants, for they are subtle and will make you play Spot The Side Effect." - Michael J A Tyzuk, Tarnished Knight


Subject: More on education 

Hi, Jerry.

Take a look at Fred Reed's column for this week: 

More reinforcement for what you've been saying about education and offshore workers.

-- Roger Ritter ( PP-ASEL, AGI 1946 Luscombe 8A N71983 "Rocky" Sheep do not so much fly as plummet! - MPFC

As you say. One reason we are losing manufacturing jobs is that our schools don't teach what is needed. The schools are run to benefit the teacher unions, not the labor unions. Or the students. Or the United States.



I've often felt that peer-to-peer filesharing and the economy are not the only reasons for the decline of music sales (regardless of the RIAA's blathering.) There are plenty of other reasons such as quality, the increase in the number of radio stations/formats and other entertainment alternatives.

I read your column about Property Rights in (on?) Byte today and you made a comment which stimulated my thinking about this in terms of books:

"The spectacular sales of the latest Harry Potter, and Hillary Clinton's book, obscure the fact that book publishing profits have been falling, and that's not entirely due to the general state of the economy."

I grew up in the late 50's thru early 70's and reading (especially scifi) was a big part of my life. I've always traveled a lot on business and reading was again a big part of my life. I've noticed though, that in the past couple of years, I've started watching movies or reading books on my notebook on airplanes since they are too cramped to do any real work on (and getting used to reading glasses is also a factor.) With the multitudes of channels (both video and music) I get on my satellite dish I find myself less inclined to read at home. (The unread copies of the latest Harry Potter and Wheel of Time sagas are a silent testimony to this.) I wonder how much of the decline in reading and hence purchasing of books is due to factors like this (not to mention exhorbitant prices?)

I think selling it yourself and eliminating the middleman is a pretty good idea. I download books from the Baen site now and I love the fact that I can carry several with me on my notebook on a trip (and it weighs the same.) I also can enlarge the print to a comfortable level. Eventually, I'll have a good enough PDA to read them on it and it will be even better (I use a Kyocera SmartPhone and the display just isn't up to it.)

This is where protecting your rights as a creator becomes interesting and I don't have an answer for that. I personally believe that a scheme that simply nags the reader each time the book is opened (much the way some shareware does) is the best. You can spend millions of $ trying to keep people honest and someone will still bypass it. Most of the time honest people will do the honest thing if you remind them of it. A workable scheme could be to distribute each book as a self displaying exe (for windows, mac and linux) which looks for some type of authorization file each time it is opened and nags throughout use if it can't find it. Nagging could even include simple clues which cause social pressure ("Oh look, he's reading a book with yellow pages. He must not have paid for it.") Couple all of this with a reasonable price and many of those books in decline might not be in decline any more (and the authors might make more $ as well.)

Regards, John

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint Voice: (770)449-9696 Fax: (770) 449-9003 Progress,Web and Java Specialists

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

Suggestions welcome because this is the future.


   [Continues a discussion] [For "what was Smoot Hawley", see also last week]  I am very dubious about the extent to which unemployment can be reduced by restricting imports. We are not talking about the generality of imports. Things like clothing are minimum wage employment in this country anyway. We are really only talking about two big-ticket industrial products-- automobiles and electronics. Both of these are extremely amenable to automation. Furthermore, they are durable goods, unless they are used as munitions of war. The automobile market is fundamentally glutted, and has been for years. New automobiles sell against used automobiles, and price increases are simply not feasible. The electronics industry, a victim of its own success, is rapidly moving into the same condition. Suppose you manage to institute a prohibitive tariff. The automakers are already marginally solvent, mostly due to their accumulated pension liability. The United Auto Workers' vested interests in these pensions make them nearly indistinguishable from shareholders. The automakers will not create vast numbers of new thirty-dollar-an-hour jobs. They will instead increase the number of robots, and they will redesign the automobiles to be more easily manufactured by robotic methods. The sheer momentum of design changes may very well lead to greater loss of employment than imports would have led to. As for electronics, all kinds of consumer electronics are converging into the computer. Someone mentioned the price of VCR's a few days ago. I got myself a TV tuner card a while back, and began playing around with the recording settings. I came to the conclusion that a quite acceptable picture quality could be achieved, even with the primitive Mpeg-2 system, using hardware real-time compression, at only about 375 Mbytes/hr. Say, the video equivalent of a paperback book. That is more or less within CD-ROM range, never mind about DVD's. A sophisticated coding system, with fractals and morphing, could obviously do a lot better. VCR's may very well be as obsolete as typewriters. If people started using VCR's to transcribe data from videotapes onto disks, and nothing else, the VCR market would simply crash. It is simply not a very good moment to be trying to raise the price of VCR's.

Andrew D. Todd

First a word on formatting: please double space between paragraphs. Otherwise you end up with something like the above which is nearly unreadable.

Second, I am almost as concerned about keeping manufacturing abilities at home as I am at employing workers.

Third, I am dubious too: that is, I am not sure, given the condition of American schools, that ANYTHING can get us out of this downward spiral in which half the population is simply left behind as useless.

Finally, note that I have never proposed huge tariffs. Just a bit of padding to help through the transitions. And I see no reason why taxes should not fall on those who get the benefits of Free Trade instead of on everyone indiscriminately including the poor chap whose job as exported.

And see below for a lengthy objection from an economist.


These articles from the Washington Post might be interesting to those that have WiFi networks (or are thinking about them):

WiFi Is Open, Free and Vulnerable to Hackers -  WiFi vulnerability is now one of the most serious threats to computer security. - The Washington Post

Keeping WiFi Private Proves Arduous Task -  (The Washington Post, 7/27/03)

Rick Hellewell Information Security Dweeb



From Ed Hume


At one time in my life, I thought I had a handle
on the meaning of the word "service." The act
of doing things for other people.
Then I heard the terms:

Internal Revenue Service
Postal Service
Civil Service
Service Stations
Customer Service
City/County Public Service

And I became confused about the
word "service." This is not what I
thought "service" meant.

Then one day, I overheard two farmers
talking, and one of them mentioned that he
was having a bull service a few of his cows.
It all came into perspective.  Now I
understand what all those "service"
agencies are doing to us...











This week:


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Tuesday,  July 29, 2003

Begin with a letter from Zurich about a mad scheme:

Dr Pournelle,

I've read every column you wrote in Byte since about 1982 (when I was 10 years old). I'm very fond of a number of your novels as well. I haven't been keeping so closely up to date on your online post-Byte writings, I'm afraid--grad school doesn't leave as much free time.

I was curious about your thoughts on Poindexter's latest mad plan: futures trading in the Middle East, sponsored in part with DARPA funds ( ). I think it has some scientific merit, but is immoral and unethical. I feel it would be immoral for any government to do such a thing, but it is a particularly outrageous conflict of interest for a government so deeply involved in the Middle East, the scope of the current plan.

I find it deliciously ironic that Poindexter may be poindextered: Two Democratic Senators are fighting to have the budget for that item zeroed.

Highest regards, Scott

P.S. Soon after I joined ETH as a postdoc in May, I inquired about Niklaus Wirth; he has retired, but still comes to some colloquia and such. I haven't seen a Lilith machine here at the Elektroteknik building, nor at the main building, but perhaps there is one on display at the computer science building. My first "real" programming language was Modula-2 on my Amiga 1000.

|-| | Scott A Centoni
 <scentoni> | | ETH Zürich Integrated Systems Laboratory |
| Gloriastrasse 35 ETZ J88 | | CH-8092 Zürich 

If you see Dr. Wirth give him my regards. We have not forgotten his visit to Chaos Manor where I showed him Wing Commander...

My thought on reading about the market scheme is that it probably would work and whatever were they thinking of?

RE: Something else altogether

Dr. Pournelle, I try not to bother you more than once in a day but I found this on The Register and had to pass it on. 

Kill a Middle East head of state, win prizes! - Pentagon shows how By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco Posted: 29/07/2003 at 08:45 GMT

"Poor people aren't necessarily killers," the current President of the United States tells us. "Just because you happen not to be rich, doesn't mean you're willing to kill."

Phew! However, the poor now have an additional incentive to take up arms, thanks to an extraordinary initiative from the Pentagon-funded research agency DARPA. Long ago DARPA brought you the Internet, although its more recent windfall has gone on projects that range from the sinister to the whimsical, from Admiral Poindexter's Total Information Awareness surveillance research, to invisible body suits, and a self-healing minefield, complete with winking knight.

Now DARPA is launching an online gambling site called the "Policy Analysis Market". However, this one is, in its own words, "A Market in the Futures of the Middle East." What does that mean?


Douglas Knapp

I have a hundred letters on this madness, and all I can say is, whatever were they thinking of?




Subject: We are all lawyers now.... 

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA



And now two long and complex letters on tariff.

They present a good explication of the "orthodox" economic view of tariff and free trade. [Note I do not use orthodox as a pejorative; I am fairly orthodox myself. I do believe that the standard economic analysis doesn't take account of inescapable political realities.] 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I've been following the trade discussion, and I've noticed that the argument doesn't concur with some basic economics. To explain my view I thought I'd go back to the basics of International trade and why we do it.

The first principle of any Economics is scarcity. You can tell that some good is scarce if you made it free to everyone and there wasn't enough of that good available to everyone. So you can tell that cars, or trucks, or computers are scarce, because if they were free there would not be enough to go around. In a free market economy who gets what goods is regulated by price ( and it generally works pretty well. ) On the other hand things like dirt and tumbleweeds -which are free- are not scarce, because you can have as much as you want.

Goods sold anywhere in the world require various amounts of capital (the machinery of production), labour, land, and resources (things that are used up in producing a good, like rubber for tires.) Because of scarcity the production of any good requires giving up some other good. For instance if someone from Idaho decided to build a computer factory, he would have to give up land that could be used very well for producing potatos, he would also be required to get raise money to buy his factory (instead of buying a John Deere tractor for plowing the fields), the people to staff his factory would not be able to work in the fields growing potatos. In a very real way the cost of producing one thing is what you could have produced instead.

The final idea that makes trade work is different concentrations of the factors of production. In America we have an abundance of capital, and plenty of skilled laborers (college graduates in all manner of fields.) Whereas Mexico has a smaller ratio of capital to workers, and a very tiny percentage of those laborers would count as skilled. These different proportions of factors determine what a nation is really good at. For example Idaho with a lot of land to a few people (compared to say California) is a very good place to grow potatos, California with a high number of skilled laborers to a smaller proportion of land is a better place to assemble computers, or program games, etc.

Economists are kind of fond of examples, so I thought I'd explain the simplest trade example. Two countries two goods. America and Mexico are the coutries, the goods are clothing and grain. Lets say that America can produce 2000 units of grain, and 1000 pairs of pants. Mexico can only produce 200 units of grain and 800 pairs of pants. Now in this model you discover that in America to produce grain you have to give up the resources to produce 1/2 a pair of pants, this will cause the price of grain to be 1/2 a pant. In Mexico to produce the same unit of grain it costs 4 pair of pants. Now the differences in these prices gives incentive for trade. If the price of grain was two pair of pants for one grain, than America would focus on producing grain, and Mexico would produce pants. So America has 2000 grain and they want 400 pants which costs 200 grain; giving them 1800 grain and 400 pants. Mexico has 400 pants and 200 grain. Both of these results are outside what the country could produce on their own.

Both countries profited by speicializing in the goods they had an advantage in. Economists like to draw two dimensional graphs showing the two goods being traded, different slopes show trade is possible. The real world would probably have some hyper curve (millions of variables representing millions of goods for trade), but the principle of trade is still the same. To produce one good you have to give up resources that could be used to produce something else. So trade allows you to consume more than you produce by specializing in things that you can make well.

In the modern world we don't actually exchange one computer for say 50 pairs of pants. But the principle still works for international exchange. Countries sell things to Americans not because they like dollars, but because the want to be able to purchase things with those dollars. At this point the trade deficit is often used as an example of the failure of international trade. However if you track US dollars the money does in fact find its way back in to Americaa as investments in the US economy. The trade deficit is actually quite convenient. Americans are getting goods and the goods to pay for it aren't being sold, and the excess dollars floating around are being invested here in American business.

Now a tariff does several things: First it lets more domestic firms enter the domestic marketplace by pushing up the price. Second by pushing the price up domestic consumers buy less. Now with a simple supply demand graph it can be shown that consumers lose as a result of the price going up ( why don't we do anything? There are 300 million consumers in this country and if each us of loses $1 who cares?) producers gain, and the government gets more revenue. But the graph also will show there are areas of consumer benefit that no one gets part of this is lost because inefficient firms are selling goods, and part is lost because some consumers choose to leave the marketplace. It turns out that even with the tariff revenue, the economy as a whole is worse off. We could have free trade, tax everyone $1 and pay the workers to do nothing and the economy would be better off than without the tariff.

Why don't people do this? I'm sure President Bush is aware of the fact that his steel tariff is bad for the country. Plenty of politicians who pass tariffs know the economics is against them. So why do tariffs still get passed? Its a strait forward answer, the benefit from cheaper products being sold here is spread over every single person who buys something. The penalties for inefficient firms are concentrated in a very few places, the workers in that industry. So no one is even going to notice the benefits or even care all that much if they do see them, but the whole benefit to consumers outweighs the loss to producers. Also no one notices the jobs created by free trade, because if something is going well its not really worth commenting on. The squeaky wheel gets the grease (and gets noticed).

In conclusion I would like to appologize for the length and lecture-like tone of this letter. I was just looking at my Econ notes from last semester, and since I got them as a lecture they sort of came out that way as well. I like this site and have enjoyed the books I've read by you.

Sincerely, Jon Nielsen

To which I replied:

You know, I have read Ricardo. And I note you haven't said one word about the cost of supporting the unemployed worker.

I did teach econ 101. I am thoroughly aware of the theory.

 The Steel tariff is far higher than what I advocate; although steel is a strategic good and may need more protection. 

Defense is more important than opulence said Adam Smith...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I apologize, I didn't realize how familiar you were with Economics. There is however another type of economic analysis called partial equilibrium analysis. The model is useful for demonstrating what Government policy will do in a given market. The following site has a graph which helps to explain the gains and losses from tariffs. I have also included an explanation of the graph to emphasize some of the points this document sites. 

Some quick explanation of the graph. This is a representation of the supply and demand of a single product. Price (the independent variable) is on the vertical axis, Quantity (the dependent) on the horizontal (most math majors cringe when they see this, but Economists have been doing this for a while.)

What these lines mean: The line labeled P represents the world price. P* represents world price with a tariff. Q is domestic production Q* is domestic production with a tariff in place. M represents consumption. M* is consumption with the tariff.

Now to properly analyze the tariff we need to see how welfare changes once the tariff is emplaced. We begin with consumer surplus in a non-tariff situation. The triangle described by the world price line (P), the demand line (D), and the vertical axis (Px) represents consumer surplus. The idea is that many of the people would buy a given resource at a higher price if they had to, but since the price is so low, they save money, or get some kind of net benefit. The next area to analyze is producer surplus pre-tariff. This triangle is described by the world price line (P), the supply line (S), and the vertical axis (Px). This area is the profit domestic producers (including both firms and their employees) get from selling a product.

The next step is to look at the market with the tariff in place. The first thing we analyze is consumer surplus. The new consumer surplus with the price P* runs from P* to F to Px. Consumers have lost the area described by P*, F, D and P. The next thing we analyze is producer surplus. Producers have gained the area P*, C, A, and P. The final group to analyze is the government they gain the rectangle B, C, F, E ( The line B-C represents the difference between consumption and production or imports, the height of the rectangle is the price of the tariff ( this is computed differently depending on whether the tariff is a specific duty -say $5 on all goods imported- or a percentage tax). Now tallying up the net benefits and net losses of the tariffs we see that 2 triangular areas are lost to the economy. A,B,C, and D,E,F these used to be consumer surplus but no one gets the benefits now.

The effects of the tariff work out like this: P-A-C-P* went from consumers to producers (this is exactly like a tax of consumers and a subsidy of producers) area B-C-E-F went from consumers to the government (exactly the same as if a tax had been levied on consumers) triangles A-B-C and D-E-F disappear. This analysis suggests a better government policy: Tax consumers some amount equal to the area of P-A-C-P* give that money to the producers (owners and employees) this compensates them for the jobs they lose to lower prices (it might even be used for education and re-training.) If the government wants the revenue it picked up from the tariff, it can go ahead and tax consumers again to get the tax revenue a tariff might have given it. The consumers still keep the two triangles they would otherwise lose, so the economy as a whole is better off.

The issue of strategic/defense items is a good one. The idea is to guarantee a certain amount of domestic production in key industries. But there is another bit of economic analysis that’s useful in describing what to do. We’ll look at what our economic policy (a tariff) is trying to do (increase production) and what it actually does (increases domestic production, and decreases domestic consumption.) We can call a policy efficient if it only impacts areas we are trying to modify. In this case the tariff is less efficient then another option a subsidy. A subsidy is worthwhile because it lets domestic producers make more (that was our goal) but it also allows consumers to pay the world price instead of the price adjusted by the tariff.

Now the assumptions of this model need to be explained. First, it is assumed that consumers will buy more of some good if the price falls. Second, we assume that producers will make more of something as the price rises. Third, we assume that all government employees are equally efficient. That means that the tariff revenue B-C-E-F will be used just as effectively as the money the government would get by taxing consumers. Fourth, we assume that goods are homogenous; if textiles from one country could be readily substituted for textiles from another than textiles are homogenous.

Shortcomings of the model: Supply and demand aren’t lines, they are curves. This means that consumer and producer surplus are more difficult to calculate and thus taxation is a trickier issue (The department of commerce employs economists though, and I’m sure they could figure it out eventually.)

These shortcomings and exceptions do not however negate the fact that a subsidy is a generally better way to influence production than a tariff. Also a tariff is still an inefficient way to transfer funds to producers (if we decide that’s what we would like our government policy to be.)

Thanks for responding so quickly to my last long-winded e-mail.

Sincerely, Jon Nielsen

  [Emphasis added]

At which point I have run out of time. The key sentence is given in BOLD above; Jim Baen (who is pretty smart for a publisher -- I'll tell that story another time) and I had this tariff argument years ago, and he came to that conclusion: subsidies are better than tariffs, particularly for preserving key industries.

I don't agree, but my arguments are not economic, they are political-philosophical. I do not want American workers to be dependent on subsidies and government payments. I want them to feel, and be, important, and productive; and tariff has always been the means for accomplishing this, and I think still is.

There is also a place for arsenals, and subsidies for key industries, but they aren't really the answer. What I want is competition under a protective umbrella. I don't care which manufacturing companies survive, I am willing to leave that to the market: but I want to be sure that SOME of them survive.


I do want to make it clear that I understand the Ricardo argument about comparative advantage. It is also the case that Ricardo, like economists until very recently, thought of  "goods" as just that: things, which were consumed. They didn't live in an age when much of the world's wealth was in speculation and bubbles that could vanish in an eyeblink, and in which one of the best managed energy production companies in the world, Southern California Edison, could be turned into a hollow shell without energy production facilities, while the facilities were sold off to companies that make more 0n speculation than generating energy: and this at a time when energy was one of the most important goods of all.

The United States is losing its manufacturing base. The great plants symbolized by the name "Detroit", which defeated Germany and Japan, are pretty well gone. The implications of that for national defense have not yet been thought through, and this in a time when we have overseas adventures on a scale hardly contemplated in the past. The Cold War is over but it was not the End of History.

I will leave it to others to analyze the "model" above. At least it does try to look at what most economists ignore, that exporting jobs has a price, and the price is not paid by those who benefit from the job export. It's paid by everyone including the chap whose job was exported.

I will remind everyone that half the population is below average in intelligence. Few of them read this web site or indeed any web site. They have been, however, the backbone of America, the shop workers and assembly line workers, farmers before that, laborers whose labor is less and less needed -- but who remain as citizens, and are not "the great unwashed" or the "stupids" or clients despite what the intellectual class seems to believe (at least they act as if they believe that).

And I have work to do. But see below

One nit to pick in Jon's article (I generally favour free trade if only on the ground that you shouldn't interfere with the market unless you are sure you are doing good):

"We could have free trade, tax everyone $1 and pay the workers to do nothing and the economy would be better off than with the tariff."

This assumes that raising the $1 tax in another way would have no effect. As Schroedinger pointed out anything we do is going to have some effect. Raising the money by income tax discourages earning in the legitimate economy & encourages accountants. My favoured taxes are on alcohol, cigarettes, pollution & other things which I personally think should be discouraged but I recognise there would be an effect)


And it assumes that paying people to do nothing -- bread and circuses -- is a good thing. Economists often think this way. People are not people they are "workers" and "consumers": units in a model.

But in the real world it doesn't work quite that way. And see below



And on another favorite subject:

Subject: Global Warming Hype


Thought you might find this article on Global warming interesting. This brainiac has came up with the brilliant idea that global warming is actually a weapon of mass destruction and of course it is our fault. The not so subtle, underlying message is that our culpability in global warming makes the 9-11 attacks justified. I suspect that this is the kind of political hype that set the stage for your book "Fallen Angels." This kind of political posturing makes it understandable why someone in the developed world might become arrogant and vicious enough to launch the kind of biowarfare attack that Niven described in "Saturn's Race."

James Crawford

Why am I not astonished?





This week:


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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I am down at the beach so this is very much short shrift.

Subject: Tablets.

Roland Dobbins

Interesting. But I like Tablets.


This article (  in the Washington Post gives an excellent summary of a case in which an American citizen is being held incommunicado in a military prison without ever having been charged of any crime. If anyone still thinks that we were not “subjects of the empire”, rather than free citizens of a republic, and subject to the whims of the emperor, this should disabuse them. At least the courts are still arguing over whether the government may do this. It may even come out right in the end, but the fact that our highest government officials don’t see this action as a violation of the constitution is frightening.


John DeVries

We clearly need to work out procedures; how isn't so clear. But this is clearly not Constitutional, and no Declaration of War has suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus so far as I know.

In Tuesday's mail you said:

"The United States is losing its manufacturing base. The great plants symbolized by the name "Detroit", which defeated Germany and Japan, are pretty well gone."

Just another data point: I grew up in Flint, Michigan across from the Fisher Body plant on South Saginaw Street. My earliest memory from childhood is the hum from the factory coming through my bedroom window in the summer. It was closed for reasons of "efficiency" in the late 1980's. The entire plant was torn down except for the original carriage factory which was converted into offices for the Michigan Employment Security Commission.

The home of the 1937 sit down strike was made into an unemployment office.

I graduated from high school in 1982 when 300 families a day were leaving for Texas and Arizona. Everyone I knew was affected either directly (laid off from GM) or indirectly (losing their job or business because everyone else was losing their job). Entire sections of the city became ghost towns; many still were when I left. I got out in 1999 and headed for the more northern parts of Michigan. I've never gone back. I see no reason why. The city I grew up in is dead.

Latest news: the State of Michigan has essentially put the entire city of Flint on welfare in an attempt to "revitalize" the city. Yea. That's always the effect of welfare: revitalization.

Anyway, I've used up enough of your time. Keep cranking out the fiction and I promise to keep buying it.

Richard Frost

Detroit won World War II.

Sometime in the mid 90's I was wandering in the MIT bookstore and picked up a book who's title escapes me right now that was from an MIT group that was studying manufacturing both from the practical and economic view.

One of the study's findings was that at that time labor cost was one of the smallest factors in determining where to set up a production facility. In almost every case that was examined the lower productivity and transportation costs were more than the difference in pay.

Regulatory restraints and legal (lawsuit, insurance) restraints were much more important factors. This pretty well matches my personal business experience in dealing with entrepreneurs.

Now, I personally agree with a minor (5-10%) tarriff. I'm just not convinced that it will have much effect on providing jobs.

Gene Horr

I am not sure it will do it either, but it certainly isn't going to end up as the disaster some are predicting.

From Joanne Dow:,2933,93245,00.html

New Illinois Rape Law Protects People Who Change Mind During Sex

Under the law, if someone says "no" at any time the other person must stop or it becomes rape.

Where are their brains, up their anal orifices or something? Suppose a guy is mid ejaculation and the girl says the fatal word, "No." I suppose the guy must halt his ejaculation and pull out instantly.

This is carrying it too freaking damn far. IMAO if a girl or woman is stupid enough to initiate sex and then change her mind mid coition then it's just plain too late. We're protecting people who cannot think from themselves. This doesn't work. You cannot "guess right all the time" when this is the state of law.

It is a furtherance of the effort to make us all de facto criminals via a maze of laws impossible to obey even if you fervently wished to.



Subject: a message from a fanatic

can you please send me the e-copy of the harry potter and the order of the phoenix.  i really need to read that book but i don't have the money to buy.  thanks and god bless!!!!

 Byron Cyrus Alexander de Marco y Saavedra

Uh -- no.


Dear Jerry

I have been reading your columns for a few years now and I like the mixture of technical, political & social observations. This weeks column (28/2/03) got me thinking about something I heard on the radio today (Radio 4 Thought of the day ) this is usually some attempt for a religious leader/commentator to try & link current events with some sort of biblical moral. Today's was about trust, recent events in the UK about working practices has shown that large employers don't trust their staff so they are changing the way staff 'clock-in & out' this has lead the staff to mistrust the employer resulting in low moral, resentment & disruption to customers. In your column you tell of a company contacting you and posing as your domain registration company and 'conning' you into sending them money & possibly changing you registration company by deception. Also you tell of a site than posed as Philips and tried to get you to disclose various details in return for a software driver (that it may not of had as I have found out myself). The internet relies heavily on trust, you never see the people on the other side and it is very easy to hide who you really are or to pose as someone else (often by stealing or similar domain names). Eventually we will have to treat all we see with mistrust, is that URL real? will it redirect me to somewhere else? The same goes with the amount of spam & scams that appear in all our mail boxes (does someone really want to pass 32million dollars through my account?). of course we can trust some, I assume that my Byte subscription details are not passed on unless I give permission and that my on line shopping is generally secure. But other than dealing with big/trusted sources will I want to use the internet for other things (finding freeware/shareware, screensavers etc). I know the answer isn't legislation because if you want to get round it you will, either by simply lying or by using servers in other countries. Again it comes to trust, we must encourage trust and create an environment where those who set out to confuse and cheat us are shown up and ,ideally, shut down.

Unfortunately I don't have any answers just an ideal.

Yours Sincerely

Steve Smith






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Thursday, July 31, 2003


One writer picked up a point which was implicit, but not explicit, in my earlier e-mail on the subject.

One factor in driving manufactuing off-shore has been the proliferation of regulation (EPA, OSHA, labor reporting, mandatory benefits, etc.) which manufacturers must obey in the US.

Yes, the regulation is -- in many cases -- based on good common-sense practice. However, it remains highly prescriptive, must be studied carefully by companies seeking to set up manufacturing operations, imposes materials cost on compliance (when I did the safety plan for the small motor test stand at the Univ Al Hsv, we spent about $800 on materials specifically for compliance based on non-toxic, pressurized propellants -- plus the burden of about 10% of total project cost for my related labor, researching of the compliance plans and preparation of safety procedures, inspections, etc.)

EPA and OSHA have long been cited as a factor in export of extractive and chemical/materials/petrochemical plants and jobs.

Hot off the presses: in a not unrelated matter, the final Alabama environmental approval for the chemical warfare agent incinerator at Anniston to begin "hot" operations has just been granted, after about 8 years, against violent public opposition (see for details of the opposition efforts in Anniston and elsewhere). Another example of environmental regulation perhaps run amok. (At the same time, as a propertarian, does the government have a right to license one property owner to generate potential vapor and aerosol chemical hazards which impact the air and may settle on the land of other property owners without their permission?) The regulatory and public opposition hurdles of the chemical warfare agent incinerators is at least equal to nuclear and may these days be greater.

The economics of export is not all apples vs. oranges in other ways. Most of the "hot" manufacturing centers these days have some sort of universal health care system; though probably not as good as the US system in quality (which is a topic for another discussion), this cost does not figure in direct salary but the manufacturer will still be paying it as taxes or use fees. One of the reasons why the US system is "broken" is that most of the major pharmaceuticals are required to cover their entire R&D and approval costs based on US sales, but because of the socalized medicine worldwide, must sell their products at the marginal cost of production plus markup in most other parts of the world.

There are probably some oversimplifications here, but the bottom line remains that the regulatory basis of the US is one factor driving most of the manufacturing industries overseas. Labor cost is a secondary factor.

I agree we need to get manufacturing back; I once did a naive analysis which suggests that manufacturing dollars get a much higher "economic multipler" than service jobs. Or to phrase it differently, each manufacturing job generates more supporting service -- and manufacturing -- jobs than an equivalent service job. But education (as you note) is only one factor. The regulatory burden isn at least equivalent.

Jim Woosley

I completely agree and this is terribly important. Tariff alone won't do the job; you can't protect all the bureaucratic jobs as well as the manufacturing jobs, and many of our well intentioned regulations including Americans with Disabilities Act will have to go if we are to have the thin edge of a quarter of a chance at competing in manufacture.

Otherwise, we may get some manufacturing competitiveness, but it will all go to automation.

Seen on Drudge Report.

The guy jumped at 30,000 ft. near Dover, England. He pulled the ripcord at 3,000 ft, near Calais,France, having flown the English Channel.

He had a six-foot carbon fiber "wing" to help extend his glide.

Observation: the implications for special ops should be obvious. My first question is: What kind of radar cross section did that wing have, from the aspect angles available to search radar?

--John R. Strohm


Dr Pournelle,

Three questions never asked about Iraq:

(1) If Saddam had no WMD, why did he behave exactly like someone who did have them and was trying to hide them?

(2) If the US/UK governments made the WMD threat up, why did they not complete the job by arranging fake ‘discoveries’ of WMD once they occupied Iraq?

(3) If the anti-war people objected to the deaths war would cause, why are they now bleeding their hears out over the deaths of Saddam’s two murderous sons and the lives that will save?

Jim Mangles

Good questions.


On a subject I have written about:

Mark Steyn has written the best single article summary of the Liberian situation you are likely to see. The complete text is here:

and gives much historical / geopolitical / societal background.

These four paragraphs from the end really boil it down:

So the question for the Americans is not whether you want to send 2,000 boys in to get picked off for a few months, until whichever warlord is willing to be bought can be installed as head of a provisional government after a token ‘election’ for the benefit of the international community (Taylor held his in 1997). The question is whether you want to commit yourself to fixing West Africa.

I know how most Americans would answer that. But the Bush administration thinks more about the Dark Continent than its predecessor did. Disease in Africa, for example, has been identified as a potential national security threat. An American diplomat recently described to me the war on terror as a Saudi civil war that the Saudis had successfully exported to the rest of the world. What would it take to export West Africa’s troubles to the world? For some no-account nickel’n’dime operator, Charles Taylor has done a grand job of destabilising a region. Where’s next? Benin? Togo? If you don’t think West Africa can be contained, it’ll have to be cured, and that’s a 30-year project. Otherwise, George F. Kennan’s argument against intervention in Somalia holds for the west of the continent, too: ‘This dreadful situation cannot possibly be put to rights other than by the establishment of a governing power for the entire territory, and a very ruthless, determined one at that. It would not be a democratic one, because the very prerequisites for a democratic political system do not exist among the people in question.’

On the other hand, if anyone in the Bush administration were to start talking about Liberia in those terms, you can pretty much guarantee that Howard Dean, Bishop Griswold and all the other enthusiastic interventionists would be marching up and down chanting, ‘It’s all about diamonds!’

Stay tuned. Or, as they say in Monrovia, keep your ears peeled.

Thanks for all you do, looking forward to pre-ordering Burning Tower.

Jim Riticher

It is certainly the case that if we go there we are talking about fixing the place. More, the only "fix" is to put the civilized elements in charge. Straight one man one vote democracy will not work. Since we are politically unlikely to do the right thing, which is to restore civilization rather than democracy, we probably ought to stay out.

I quoted Mill on the subject. We would have to function as Charlemagne, or at least as his bodyguard. I don't suppose the Democrats would allow that. But it was Jimmy Carter who allowed anarchy when a handful of Marines would have restored order and civilization.


Hello Dr Pournelle

I have been following your Website for some time and thought the following link relevant to one of the discussions. 

I particularly gag at the hypocrisy shown by

"Pal knows American workers resent the "offshoring" trend but says all Americans will benefit in the long run."

If this Pal person could point out the benefits, I'm sure we would all feel better. This trend is very scary, even for those of us not in the US. After all, if America sneezes, we all catch a cold.

Keep up the good work Regards Richard Meyer

It's a grim story.


Subject: "Vampires, vampires . . . "

-- Roland Dobbins








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Friday, August 1, 2003

We're just getting safer and safer:

Subject: Joe Adams, Enemy of the State.

Roland Dobbins

What is needed is some compensation: say $150 an hour compensation for people unfairly detained or delayed by the system. The money should come from the salary appropriations of the GS-13 and above members of the TSA: every dollar including administrative costs comes out of their pay. This would give them an incentive to fix the system without overwhelming it.

Black lists of known terrorists makes a certain degree of sense, although it's pretty easy for real terrorists to defeat. Still, they have the task of defeating it to do, and it may be worth making them go through the exercises of getting new identities every now and then. When that happens, it is inevitable that people like Joe Adams will get caught in the threads. Since it's inevitable, anticipate it, and build compensation into the system; but to keep the costs down, build in some penalties for not fixing the problems in a timely manner.

 Tariff, Jobs, and Education

Subject: Report: 1 in 10 tech jobs may go overseas

10% in 18 months is stunning.

Francis Gingras

And you ain't seen nothing yet. The quality of US schools is part of the problem. More another time.

I've enjoyed following the recent discussions on Ricardo and job exportation. One has to wonder, though...

One can characterize the US job market, with some degree of fairness, thusly: There is a reduction of available jobs in unskilled areas like manufacturing, because of technological innovation and relocation of manufacturing to foreign countries. Some of the unskilled workers will be able to train themselves and become skilled workers. Some of them will be able to find work in service industries. Some of them can find jobs in other unskilled areas (construction, for example). Some of them are going to have trouble doing any of these, which is the crux of the problem. And some people who are skilled workers will have the same problem, though re-employment isn't quite so difficult for the clever and well-trained.

There's another exacerbating factor, however... the US constantly imports labor. I wrote a fairly detailed list of ways which we could see this happening, but frankly you hardly need to hear it from me (I'm in Houston, you're in California, and you've posted several letters on things like the H1-B program.) Seriously, if we know that we have a labor market with more low-wage workers than the market can support, why are we exacerbating the problem by further flooding the market? This says nothing of the secondary effects of illegal immigration on the fair labor market, something that doesn't affect many professors but definitely is a problem if you're looking for a job in a service industry.

I have to admit to finding your objections to Ricardo persuasive; at the end of the day, workers are not ideal work units, and there are real social costs to the "reallocation" of workers into other industries. It costs money to move workers, more to move families, much more when entire cities are hollowed out by the relocation of a large employer; it costs the self-respect of the worker when despite hard work and fairness, he cannot find employment to which he might turn his hands. People who don't believe they have a stake in the system don't have much use for the preservation of that system, after all.

I'm not certain that a fixed tariff would be a solution (but then again, I work for an importer of Japanese entertainment programs and literature... but we manufacture our products domestically - do we pay your tariff or not?) I like the thought of doing something about illegal immigration because doing so has other benefits, least of which in this day and age are security-related; the question of how many immigrants ought to be legally welcomed to the country is only proper when we have any confidence of our abilities to restrict immigration to that number. Currently pretenses at limits to immigration are, sadly, a joke.

Am I completely barking up the wrong tree or missing something obvious? It's two in the morning and I'm still at work, so my powers of reasoning might be somewhat impaired.


Andy Kent

Well, my views haven't changed: a nation that doesn't have control of its borders is not sovereign. Empires think of subjects, and the distinction between subject and citizen is blurred. Republics think of citizens, and the distinction is not blurred. A Republic governs by the consent of the governed, and is "for the people" as opposed to a means of keeping the subjects under control.

Education and immigration are two of the root causes of our problems. Both have to be fixed. I am not silly enough to believe that a tariff is anything more than an expedient, a way to buy time while we fix some other problems.

On the other hand, if we don't keep core and root industries here, we'll lose the ability to ever get back in those businesses. Something has to be done fast --and we won't fix education fast. We're worse off now than when the National Commission on Education concluded that "If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States we would rightfully consider it an act of war." Things are worse than that now, and they don't much show signs of getting better.

And how long will it be before politicians understand the truth that "Gold will not get you good soldiers but good soldiers can always get you gold."  Empires always discover that. But of course once you use them to get you gold, you will find your soldiers are less and less willing to do that for you...

I fear I am rambling, and I need both time to think on this and a better place to work on these thoughts.

Most of the problems appear to be a widely different set of priorities. The concerns you have are far down on the list of the pro-free-trade people, and vice versa.

It's not as bad as the abortion issue, but I don't see how this situation can be resolved other than for one side to suffer a crushing political defeat.

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA ---
 "Been there. Done that. Don't remember most of it."

Once again: I have no objection to the main thesis Schumpeter produced. The question is timing, and who bears all the costs of this creative destruction; and do understand that there is a difference between capitalism within nation and globalization with unrestricted free trade. If you doubt that, try a thought experiment: if the rest of the world vanished would North America survive? Would the US?

And of course they would.

Efficiency has a human price also.

And now for something dangerous:

Here we go again.

China and Russia are pushing for talks to prohibit placement of "weapons" in outer space.

The focus is on the U.S. National Missile Defense system, and on follow-on systems based in orbit.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall that it was Reagan's commitment to SDI that brought down the Soviet Union. I also recall the Soviet Union saying they would do ANYTHING WE ASKED if we would just not pursue SDI, to which Reagan replied, essentially, "When you get tired of playing the game, you can tear down the Berlin Wall."

--John R. Strohm

All true, and the implications are obvious. I suspect Bush will pay little attention to this nonsense.

Subject: WHY?

(1) If Saddam had no WMD, why did he behave exactly like someone who did have them and was trying to hide them?

One possibility: If he let it be widely known that he no longer had poison gas or biological agents to use against them, how precisely would the Kurds, Shi'ites, and others react?

Mike Flynn

The problem, of course, is that we have no choice but to believe him when he puts on that act.





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Saturday, August 2, 2003

A lot of mail. Begin with a Defense of NeoCons...

"And I weary of the ideology of the neo-cons: now they want to "privatize" the national parks..."

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I do not know the source of this allegation, as you have not included a link. However, I think you are injudicious in attributing any such proposal to "neo-cons" in general. It is of course possible that whoever proposed this specific thing is, in fact, a neo-con: but you must be aware that "neo-con", in its classical sense, is simply a synonym for "former Jackson Democrat" (back in the days when a "Jackson Democrat" was a follower of [the late] Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington, rather than a folower of the Rev Jesse...).

"Neo-cons" are concerned with (1) a muscular foreign policy, and (2) a sociologically sound domestic policy. Few if any are interested in such proposals as privatizing the Parks Service: such proposals are more likely to emanate from "Big-L" Libertarians such as the Cato Institute, who are in many ways the exact opposite of "neo-cons": believing as they do in a minimalist (some would say "isolationist") foreign policy, and a domestic policy that puts as few burdens of law or custom on the autonomous individual as possible (in other words, one that ignores sociological implications).

I would also point out, very respectfully, that "neo-con" is traditionally a term of opprobrium: coined back in the 1970s when the Jackson Democrats were breaking with their party over foreign policy as a way of suggesting they were /arrivistes/, the current use of the term is loaded with the (undeniable) fact that the vast majority of "neo-cons" are Jewish: hence--like "Unitarian" in my parents' generation--it has been transformed into a genteel, but opprobrious, euphemism for "Jews".

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

Well. You have some good points.

The source was yesterday's national TV news. There were interviews with the Department of Interior people who say they can save Ten Million Dollars by "creative outsourcing" of the Ranger jobs, and had several government officials sounding like Libertarians on the subject, with absolutely no understanding that there is more to being a Park Ranger than just taking the money to clean toilets. Sure I can get that done at lower cost. And I don't want to.

Neo-Con is probably not a pretty term, although the phrases like "Unpatriotic" that Frum used to describe Tonsor, and for that matter me, and all the "paleo conservatives" who questioned the Iraq war were much uglier. Frum read us out of his party, as if a light weight like him had any authority to do it. He can't even hold down the back page of National Review (admittedly the Original Southern Lady is a very hard act to follow). I don't know where a Canadian like Frum gets the authority to pronounce who is and who is not Patriotic to begin with. So I will admit to a bit of biliousness when it comes to writing about Frum and his Neo Con friends who seem to believe that adherence to their policies is the criterion for being "conservative". And here I thought that keeping the Republic intact and minding our own business was pretty conservative, and rushing about righting all the wrongs of the world was fairly radical. But until Frum announced that his group had "turned their backs" on people who didn't enthusiastically endorse the war, I had little to say about that group of mostly former Trotskyites who came over to the cause of Capitalism and Freedom during the Cold War, and who now seem to think they own the conservative movement. As if they won the Cold War. The Protracted Conflict was won with strategies developed while they and their parents were still debating left deviationism. (Frum himself is apparently not from that group, which may be why National Review chose him as a spokesman in its capitulation to the Neo-Con line.)

And of course any criticism of neo-conservative policy is almost instantly translated into being against Israel, which is then used to show some form of anti-Semitism and being against Jews and such. Frum pretty well said as much. Incidentally, I was brought up in a Unitarian home but sent to Catholic schools, and yours is the first hint I have that being Unitarian had anything to do with being Jewish. I have a number of Unitarian friends. I also have a number of Jewish friends. Some of my Jewish friends agree with me on my views on Israel. Some don't. I would have thought that the essence of any discrimination was in fact an inability to discriminate: to lump all blacks, or Jews, or Armenians, or Indians, into a single group and try to treat them all alike. I do discriminate, and I confess I have little tolerance for some people, but it has nothing to do with their origins. Us old Frenchified Vikings can't afford to be picky about ancestry.

But my reluctance to go about righting the world's wrongs comes from a conviction that Trotsky wasn't just an enemy, his whole notion was wrong: we aren't going to make the world a more wonderful place with any kind of revolution whether it's communism and the Red Army, or Capitalism and Libertarianism. It is precisely my reluctance to think of my neighbors and fellow citizens as economic units to fit into models, or as eggs to be broken to make omelets, that makes me believe there is precious little conservatism in the neo-con position. I was willing to go along with Frank Meyer and James Burnham and their attempt to fuse the various threads of Meyer's "fusionism" into a political alliance, but I have never thought that Big L Libertarians and big or little C conservatives were anything more than allies against common enemies.

Conservatives don't reject government. The Framers were not anarchists and didn't seek to set up any kind of anarcho-capitalist society. Indeed, they sought to form a Federal Union of a bunch of rather disparate places, Virginia High Church aristocratic society, New England hard headed Congregationalist farmers, Deep South slave holder plantationist, other Deep South (White) egalitarian advocates of popular democracy, even Kentucky and Tennessee and later Mississippi radicals -- all that in a federal alliance that would stand against common enemies and be a common market (with quite high tariff against the rest of the world). And while there were crusaders and world reformers in American political life at the close of the 18th Century, not many of them had a hand in the framing of the Constitution.

We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own.

As to "Isolationism", depends on when, doesn't it? Isolationism would have been a splendid policy for the US in 1914 and except for some crusaders who wanted to make the world safe for democracy, most of the country was "isolationist"; and our intervention to smash up the old power centers unleashed Bolshevism and the Seventy Years War, and made World War II (and our intervention in it) well nigh inevitable. But I put it to you that had the war ended in 1916 with Status Quo Ante, wouldn't everyone have been better off? 

For that matter our intervention in forcing the end of the British Empire did the world no easily discernible good. On the other hand our failure to intervene in the first Liberian uprising doomed that poor country to decades of Hell. Sometimes America ought to intervene, but we don't always look where we tread when we do it. Intervention is a direction. Isolation is another. Converting them into mutually exclusive policies and turning them into ideologies is quite stupid, and nearly the opposite of intelligent statecraft.

I suspect you are right in this case: I really ought not lay the imbecile impulse to privatize the National Parks entirely at the doorstep of the neo-cons. There are plenty of other ideologues who will sponsor that move.

But it's a good test case: conservatives, I would think, start with the notion of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and "if you don't understand how it works, leave it alone until you do." Liberals and radicals start with the premise that "there's little we don't understand, and everything needs improvement." They differ on what improvements are needed and indeed on what would BE an improvement. But that's another story.

But to apply an ideology to the National Parks is no part of any conservatism I understand.



I saw three questions on your Web site. Your correspondent suggested that these questions are never asked. Well, maybe they were. Maybe it's not really hard to come up with some plausible answers:

(1) If Saddam had no WMD, why did he behave exactly like someone who did have them and was trying to hide them?

I didn't realize that he behaved like that. As a matter of fact, I'm quite sure I wasn't dreaming when I heard that he gave unfettered access to UN inspectors months before the war. In fact, I believe that the very suggestion that he behaved like he had WMDs didn't come up until people in the pro-war camp first began to seriously worry that there may be no WMDs after all.

(2) If the US/UK governments made the WMD threat up, why did they not complete the job by arranging fake ‘discoveries’ of WMD once they occupied Iraq?

One possible answer: maybe it's because they were merely incompetent, not malicious, when they made those WMD claims (i.e., they believed their own faulty evidence). Another possible answer: they don't have to, most of the American public is satisfied anyway, and the rest of the world doesn't count. Yet another possible answer: they can think of no way to do so without being found out. And one more: perhaps those imminent discoveries hinted at by some US politicians are just that?

(3) If the anti-war people objected to the deaths war would cause, why are they now bleeding their hears out over the deaths of Saddam’s two murderous sons and the lives that will save?

I suspect that most of the "bleeding hearts" don't give a hoot as to whether Saddam's sons are dead or alive. What their hearts bleed for is our own disappearing standards. What their hearts bleed for is the no longer fashionable idea that people, even truly evil and murderous people, should be afforded the due process of law, and not blown to smithereens by force that was sufficient to vaporize a city block.

Incidentally, I believe that not all who objected to the war were bleeding heart liberals. There are also a few who have not quite forgotten what conservative ideals were like before they were perverted by this militant neoconservativism. Hint: I don't think that until recently, "might makes right" was part of the conservative vocabulary. As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that you're the kind of conservative who doesn't believe in this motto either!


No, I don't believe that power makes truth or might makes right, and I was certainly not for the Iraq intervention. We're there now, though, and we have to do things right. One starts where one is...

A letter from England:


There seems to be a level of taxation in the UK where tax increases begin to degrade the standard of living of everyone including those who are supposed to benefit from the money brought in by the new taxes. This last year, they raised taxes to pay for improvements in the primary and secondary schools, but the resulting increase in National Insurance contributions and payroll deductions that the schools had to pay for their existing staff generally seemed to force them to reduce staff. In any case, the schools came out no better than even, while the rest of the population did poorer. This is not too surprising given that the governmental sector seems to be the least efficient sector of the economy.

The problems with the UK university system that you've seen me muttering about seem to be coming home to roost. I was at an academic conference this weekend, sounding out job possibilities. One of the senior people I talked with mentioned that his university (a big state one on the east coast) rates a UK PhD (3 years of research, no coursework) as essentially equivalent to a good US masters in making their hiring decisions. I had previously noted here that most UK graduates need a taught (1 year) MSc to be qualified for an entry-level position in a technical field. That means the UK has solved its brain-drain problem, because its university graduates and PhDs are no longer seen as internationally competitive. First class institutions are unlikely to hire the PhDs as post-docs or for teaching posts or accept the BSc (Hons) graduates into graduate programs.

On the other hand, it also means that the UK is no longer producing the number of entry-level technical professionals, post-docs, and university lecturers it needs for a modern economy. The Labour Government seems to believe that the only beneficiary of a university education is the individual, not society, so we're currently seeing most UK universities shutting down their more expensive and less popular courses (like engineering and other technical fields where the costs of lab sciences and support resources are relatively high), without considering the long-term role in maintaining the infrastructure of a technical society. Before the US goes the way of the UK, perhaps some politicians and managers should look at where the UK is actually going.

Harry Erwin

Well, well, well.


Subject: Nice paper from legal mind examining the SCO/IBM/Linux case

Basically, he doesn't think SCO has a leg to stand on in its threats against linux users.  



-- John Harlow, President BravePoint






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Sunday, August 3, 2003

My old radical friend Dan Duncan says:.


Just read your screed on neo-cons and as usual you are on target.

"...I had little to say about that group of mostly former Trotskyites who came over to the cause of Capitalism and Freedom during the Cold War, and who now seem to think they own the conservative movement."

Which reminds me of a little almost aphorism of Robert Frost who said, approximately:

"I tried not to be too radical in my youth so I would not be too conservative in my old age."

Having so said, what is your current assessment of our president, such as he IS and not as we would have him?


Well, Mr. Bush has fairly sound instincts, and he doesn't want to be emperor. But we still have The Stupid Party (mine) and the other one and they seem to compete. Sigh.

And no one wants to go back to the notion of local cheap self government that doesn't even try to fix all the problems of the world. 



Dear Jerry:

As you know, I am that rarest of all political birds, a liberal hawk. Like you, I thought the war in Iraq a bad idea , but agree that we must finish what we started. My reaction to people like Wolfowitz and Cheney is essentially the same one I had to the Iowa National Guardsmen I went through Army Basic Training with. They were very proud of themselves for having found a safe way to avoid service in Vietnam and openly pitied the rest of us as poor dumb smucks without the political connections to get into the Guard. The four of us who had volunteered for the Regular Army were viewed with suspicion as possibly insane. I think Gary Tread eau's recent "Doonsbury" cartoons have tapped into the current situation nicely though. B.D. and his pal Ray are Guardsmen in Iraq and both enraged and confused as to why they are there.

This was part of the restructuring of forces during 90's. Push the units whose skills don't need constant training into the Reserves and Guard. That includes almost all of the MI, MP, Civil Affairs, Chemical, and similar units. Eliminate the shelter of service without real commitment because you will be deployed. This saves money and, the vain hope was, also makes it harder to get dragged into another war without defined goals and a clear exit strategy. Except the draft dodgers who never served themselves (who Treadeau characterizes as "chicken hawks") view these units and the people in them as game pieces to be deployed to advance their agenda. The military, especially the Army, finds itself in a very strange position. It is the most powerful in the world, yes, but also overstretched and overdeployed. After fifteen years of cutbacks, the civilian leadership is reversing course and saying that we need more active duty military. So we can deploy faster. So much for the Powell Doctrine.

The problem is that there are not an infinite number of people available to do this work. I watched some of the Senate hearings on CNET last week, including the part where Biden more or less accused Wolfowitz of outright lying about the number of troops and the amount of money required. Also the one where the new Army Chief of Staff, Shoonmaker (sp?) indicated that that he was not going to put with the nonsense that Shinseki did from the SecDef. I know you saw my letter in the New Yorker, but that was a severely edited version of the original and did not include a couple of key points. One was that anyone who is a three star or four star general earns no more credit for retirement by staying in. Additional service actually deprives one of a number of lucrative civilian opportunities and is done for love of country. Another was that political generals have never been in favor in the Army. (In my father's day, officers didn't even vote, so determined were they to remain above party politics). I said that trying to vet general officers for their political views goes against both Army cultural tradition and the National Security. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al are planning for the next election. The Army is planning for the next hundred years and beyond. (There is a program called "The Army After Next"). The U.S. military will always be responsive to civilian leadership, but, as I said in my original text, political administrations come and go and the Army remains...and plans accordingly.

Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but I think this is a good thing. Part of the reason for integrating the Guard and Reserve more fully into the regular force was to lessen the growing disconnect between the military and the rest of American society. Part of it was to provide a safety rail to keep us out of wars like Vietnam which are fought because of someone's ideology rather than any real threat to the nation (that didn't work so well this time, did it?) I think we should be very careful about gearing up for an expansion. Special Ops is being increased because, as the new CG said, "we have more requirements than people" but these folks are recruited from within the active duty military itself. Because of the special abilities required and the long training times, filling additional slots will be very hard.

Indications are that we are about to enter an era like the 70's when retention of forces became more difficult. This will be especially true in the Guard and Reserve, whose current attitude can be summed up in the words of a sign spotted in a HUMVEE in Iraq. "One weekend a month, my ass!" it said. This attitude is part of the collateral damage we will inherit from this war. Because these units and the people in them are not game pieces on a board, but real people who have lives and who get killed and injured as a result of their service. So far the many justifications put forth for this war seem to be false and the expense in lives and treasure a bottomless well of deficits. This is why we want leaders at all levels who really have served in a combat situation. It's a reality check. I would like to see a law passed that no one can serve in the civilian side of the Defense Department without prior military service, preferably as an enlisted person.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Well, many Emperors rose from the ranks. "He carried the sword and the buckler, he mounted his turn on the Wall, 'till the Legions elected him Caesar, and he rose to be master of all..."

Of course Mr. Heinlein was considered a fascist for suggesting that one should not be able to vote or hold office unless one had served; veterans only. As he put it, "It's stable. "

Of course he didn't personally advocate such a system or at least not strongly. It was a story, and a thought experiment. But he was certain it would be 'stable'. 

Actually that's historically not been so true nor is it all that new an idea. All Roman citizens were veterans in the old Republic: if you didn't turn out in the proper equipment on call they sold your property at public auction and cast you off the citizen rolls. But the Republic fell anyway.


You make some good points about anarcho tyrany. One of the issues that I've to bring to the public attention in my failed attempts to influence the gun control debate is the fact that clearance rates for violent crimes have sunk to such low levels. Back in the early 1960s, police in the USA routinely arrested a suspect in better than 90% of all homicides. 

Clearance rates suddenly declined during the mid 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, prosecutions became far less vigorous. (incidentally, arrests and prosecutions for narcotics and prostitution went through the roof as the authorities redirected their resources into areas that civil forfeiture laws made profitable for them. Would someone please tell me who the whores really are?) 

As one of the detectives who was investigating my brother's murder explained to me, unless you have the dubious good fortune to be murdered by someone you know, it is doubtful that your killer will ever go to jail. As a general rule, criminals aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer but they seem to have an intuitive understanding of game theory. The realization that it was becoming far less likely that they'd have to do the crime has made them far more willing to do the crime. Everyone is celebrating the fact that crime rates have dropped so dramatically during the 1990s. Of course the police are eager to take credit for it, but clearance rates have remained at or near record lows even in jurisdictions where the case load is only a third of what it used to be. I guess the outlaw bounty biker on "Raising Arizona" was right. "If you want to find an outlaw, call an outlaw. If you want to find a donut shop, call a cop."

While the crime that results from this stupidity is tragic and outrageous, the eagerness with which the authorities exploit the public reaction to advance a totalitarian agenda is far more dangerous. Mandatory sentencing laws like the "3 Strikes" are an attempt to restore some credibility to the justice system and they do have some merit. Unfortunately, these laws can be and often are abused by the authorities.

I find it interesting that so many people in the High Tech industry are suddenly beginning to favor protectionism. This used to be the exclusive territory of Buchanan Republicans and neoNazis. Up here in Oregon we made the mistake of trying to diversify our economy by promoting the development of an electronics industry so that they could compliment timber and agriculture. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Tektronix had been around for decades and the company had provided hundreds of high wage jobs while the company and its employees were good citizens. Unfortunately, the yuppies who immigrated into the state to take these high tech jobs haven't been good citizens. To be blunt, they like to sit in their mansions up in the Lords Hills looking for ways to deprive everyone else of a decent living. Since these yuppies had no previous experience with the timber industry, they didn't understand that clear cuts are promptly replanted so that they grow back in a few years. They decided to immediately assassinate the timber industry. As one eco freak so candidly admitted, if the spotted owl hadn't existed, they would have invented it. Of course the spotted owl's alleged preference for old growth forest was a scientific fraud. Now they yuppies are out to destroy agriculture in Oregon two. After less than successful strike at Oregon's beef industry, they've set their sights on Klamath basin farmers who are to be deprived of irrigation water to save the sucker fish that no self respecting angler would want.

Look at the bright side of the situation. There is nothing wrong with this society that a limited nuclear war wouldn't cure.

James Crawford

Well you are more discouraged than I am.

On the other hand, I am pessimistic about ever getting back to a Rule Of Law; we seem to be stuck with a system of prosecutorial discretion in which everyone is guilty of something, so it's a question of who do you want to get.

Also, understand that my "protectionism" isn't so extreme as most want. I'd be satisfied with 10% tariff which would have several beneficial effects. First, it's enough revenue that beefing up Customs and inspections is worth doing, and that will have beneficial effects on security, and suppressing outright piracy of trademarked items and such. (We now have some cases of books being shipped to the US from Taiwan printers who have no contracts with the authors or publishers and who are selling "instant remainder" books to discount houses...)

And 10% is an edge. Not a huge edge, but a bit of a cushion. At the moment our below average workers (half the population is below average, this not being Lake Woebegone) must compete with above-average workers in foreign countries. This is good for consumers, lousy for workers, and I want to give some incentive for us to use technology to overcome some of that. Citizens are citizens, and we can call on them for defense; I can't call on the overseas workers to defend the Constitution. What I am after is for the social costs of Free Trade to fall mostly on those it benefits.

Huge tariff is not part of the picture. I think 15% may be better than 10 but I am willing to be persuaded, once someone starts factoring in actual social costs to the economic picture.

Francis Hamit above notes the tendency for war games types to think of military units as game pieces. Economists think of workers in the same way.

Subject: Give this man a medal.

Roland Dobbins


And to show I am not mad:

"Saturday, December 11, 1999 This system is shutting down, said the message. Save all your work. It gave me about a minute. The message came spontaneously, from "Win NT Authority" and it did just that. I had time to save. This is Windows NT Professional RC 2 (I have 3 but it is not yet installed on this system). Nothing seemed to be wrong before that message and nothing is wrong now.

Does anyone know what is happening?

I seem to have a plethora of explanations, none of which make sense to me. It hasn't happened again and I am about to scrub this system and install W 2000 RC3 so I guess I will never know..."

This was taken from your site, obviously a post made on Dec. 11th of 1999 - strangely, this is the only other mention I can find of this specific error, which I just recieved on Sunday, August 03, 2003.

I can't find any possible explanation for the occurance either, and it was completely random and spontaneous.

I know it won't help much, but I'd just like to mention that it has happened to someone else, and I'm just as bewildered as you.



And yours is the first answer I ever had to that. Ah well. Mysterious are the ways of Microsoft. But the Navy is running its ships with NT 4...


I only discovered your MAIL and VIEW pages several weeks ago, and enjoy reading them each week. Thanks for taking the time to do them. The subject matter is timely and thought provoking.

Concerning the motives of the US and GB to go to war on Iraq, I believe that the major motive was to show that we can take out anyone we care to - with a limited number of casualties - and thereby deter others who might be considering attacking us. Of course, we couldn't state it that way - and the public arguments for doing regime change -- WMD removal, oil, democracy, etc all add up to a win-win for the US and GB.

I just finished reading the book "The Cell" by John Miller (ABC News), Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell. It's an excellent read - it traces Al Qaeda cell activities from pre-1993 to the present. Al Qaeda did not respect the USA before 9/11, and the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were required to force the Islamists (and others) to respect and fear us again. Left unchecked, the terrorism would have escalated.

Keep up the good work -- Randy Seaver

I suspect that's as close to an answer as any.  It was my immediate reaction too.  Build monuments.

One of your correspondents stated:

"Concerning the motives of the US and GB to go to war on Iraq, I believe that the major motive was to show that we can take out anyone we care to - with a limited number of casualties - and thereby deter others who might be considering attacking us. Of course, we couldn't state it that way - and the public arguments for doing regime change -- WMD removal, oil, democracy, etc all add up to a win-win for the US and GB."

I agree with this. I've been saying for months to people who question Iraq's ties with terrorism, "We're not creating a shortage of terrorists, we're creating a shortage of people willing to fund and support terrorists."

Mark Stang

Indeed. It was by far the best argument for the invasion. A second argument for the invasion is to give us a place to withdraw to so that we are out of Saudi Arabia and don't have to make nice to them while they fund our enemies.








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