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Mail 275  September 15 - 21, 2003






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Dr. Pournelle:

Interesting link about bucky tubes and space elevators.

The question I have about building the things:

Mr. Niven's Rainbow Mars; Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise; David Gerrold's Jumping off the Planet; Mr. Heinlein's Friday; Sheffield's The Web Between the Worlds--All of these works feature some type of elevator, and all of them, without exception that I recall, are dystopias. [Yes, I know Svetz ultimately saved the day, but NASA doesn't have Larry Niven's brainpower, more's the pity.]

Is there some type of collective-unconscious Cassandra thing going on here? Are we being warned by almost every major writer of SF to touch on this theme? Or is there a bunch of really happy-ending elevator SF out there that I've missed?

Mark Thompson jomath #

Interesting question.

Here is one answer:

You probably can tell that I've not read either Clarke or Shieffield on this....

Not sure this is relevant to the various authors' points, but imho a "space elevator" is...

(a) so hideously expensive I think it very unlikely that private enterprise will ever be involved in the construction of one. It certainly is unlikely until we can build one with materials synthesized from asteroidal resources (building outward from the balance point at geosynch instead of reaching upward -- probably by conventional rocket to geosynch, and then build outward -- from the earth's surface). Not to claim that the shuttle is the be-all and end-all of launch vehicles, but purely for purposes of comparison, of beanstalk "segments" are assembled on earth and launched into geosynch, then melded to an existing structure, using a system with a carrying capacity even 10x greater than the shuttle would require on the very rough order of 500,000 launches. Assuming we can launch 10x the payload per launch at 10% of STS costs per launch yields a cost -- just for launches -- of $15 trillion. (Did I DO that right? You can bring the transportation costs down by a factor of maybe 30 with asteriodal materials, which probably would make competitive with other means for the traffic carrying capacity, but....

(b) so hideously vulnerable to terrorism (note that one beanstalk had been brought down by terrorists in Friday). If a beanstalk is brought down to wrap around the planet -- twice over -- the death toll would be in the hundred's of thousands, most likely. On the other hand, if just the anchor is lost, the support wires would snap and the whole expensive structures fly away....

Only a society that can have and hold total social control can ever afford to build one. Cheaper options with more conventional launch systems make a lot more sense, to me.

Jim Woosley

I am not sure I believe in beanstalks, but we'll see. I need to look at it again.


Subject: Allergies


Regarding the mail on the subject of a “peanut free” school, my grandson’s grade school is in the same condition, but is “latex free.” One child has what is known as a type 4 reaction to latex proteins. This means the child may get some skin irritation if she comes in contact with the proteins, but it is not life threatening.

Consequently, many adhesives, pencil erasers, balloons, and even bananas (which have some of the proteins), are not allowed in the school. The children must have their shoes and in some cases clothing inspected before they enter the school. The cafeteria workers cannot wear latex gloves, nor can the school nurse. Food coming into the school must be wrapped or sealed in “latex free” containers. I could go on, but you probably get the idea.

I am for open schools, and accommodating persons with disabilities, but I think this has gone a bit too far. A couple hundred kids and their families must be very careful about how they handle daily routine to accommodate one child, who might get a skin irritation. It’s frustrating that we have to search for special gym shoes for our grandson, have to extensively check labels on clothing to make there is no latex, and have to purchase special, more expensive school glue to accommodate one person.

I do think this child deserves an education, and as much normalcy should be in their life as possible, but I think the steps that are being taken are unrealistic. People are going to great length to accommodate her condition, and the child is definitely getting the idea that she is “special” and everyone must bend over backwards to accommodate her. As she goes through life, it’s going to be miserable for wherever she ends up going to work, because it will be a never ending battle as she finds new things people must do for her.

I’m on a bit of a soapbox here, and I apologize, but I’ve seen the issues before, and I’m concerned that our society is becoming crippled by this stuff.


Freedom vs. safety. Freedom is not the top priority.

Jerry :

>> Freedom vs. safety. Freedom is not the top priority. <<

It's not so simple as that. The real issue is performing risk assessment on identified problems, not making freedom and safety mutually exclusive goals - they are most assuredly not ! Basic safety doesn't compromise freedom, unless freedom includes the opportunity to deliberately hurt or kill innocents, and I don't recall that being a part of the Constitution I swore to uphold.

I've mentioned this before, but the basic concept of risk is :

Risk = Severity of Hazard X Likelihood of Hazard

We don't build meteor or aircraft shields over schools, even though we know that the severity of such an impact would be devastating. The likelihood is simply too low to permit the expense and subsequent difficulties of building reinforced concrete structures over the schools (not to forget all the related hazards of making sure the shield doesn't crumble or collapse over time, thus crushing the poor kids who it's designed to protect).

However, when we "just" add administrative burdens to people for putative safety measures, this is taken as "reasonable", because we "wouldn't want to put _anyone_ at risk, would we?" We could make everyone entering a public place "sanitise" themselves with "approved cleansers" and not let them bring _anything_ that could be allergic, sensitive, or even slightly objectionable. We could ban publicly eating any foods that people are allegeric to in order to "protect them", regardless of their personal responsibility to care for themselves.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with undertaking real and true safety measures based on risk and a required _cost-benefit evaluation_ or analysis. If the risk is identified at levels where we'll kill people by the bunch every year, let's look at solutions. If the CBE shows a fair return on life for solution measures, by all means, let's move forward. If the proposed measures would cost a bucket of money without measurably improving the risk level, well, let's not just throw away money without positive effect.

Just to put this into perspective, we have a fatality rate on America's roads of 42,815 dead in 2002 ( That's about 117 dead people a _day_ or 3,500 plus per month on average. That fatality number is not speculative, proposed, predicted, or modeled, but factual - the number reflects fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons who will never return home, never kiss their loved ones, nevermore be a part of the tapestry of America.

There are a stack of measures we could undertake to cut this rate, some of which are quite simple and cost effective. We're not doing these things, or even thinking about many of them. Instead, we're keeping peanuts off of flights, searching school children for "contraband", and in general misallocating scarce precious resources without a proven return.

Maybe we should tend to the real, proven, and substantial issues first in this country.

John P.

Indeed. Thanks.




Dr Pournelle,

Here are before and after pictures from ESA's Envisat satellite of oil clouds in central Iraq towards the end of August. It looks as if this cloud would cover Baghdad. 

ESA says, "The Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on ESA¹s Envisat environmental satellite acquired the image on 30 August, the same day as the media reported a fire affecting a segment of oil pipeline near the town of Hawija."

"But why?" I ask.

Surely blowing up an oil pipeline cannot cause a cloud as big as this. The first thing that happens after a pipeline burst is that the oil supply is cut off-- and that should happen automatically. This should only take minutes, and the oil should stop flowing towards the line break from either direction of the pipe almost instantly after that because the pumping pressure has ceased and emergency cut-off valves will have closed.

Even blowing up a refinery or other oil processing facility should not cause a cloud anything like this size. The only thing that can,in my opinion, would be to blow up a considerable number of well-heads. But we have heard of nothing like that for several months (since the start of the invasion, in fact.)

So, I have to wonder if there is there something going on we're not being told about?

Jim Mangles

I have no data on this but it does seem to be a matter to worry about.

Hi Jerry:

Love your column. I have a cable/dsl router (a Linksys that also supports both my wired and wireless home network). Gibson's programs (Shields Up, Probe my Ports) tell me my PC is invisible to the Internet.

Am I right in thinking that if every PC connected to the Internet - and not just those whose owners need a cable/dsl router for some reason - was behind a simple router that did NAT, none would get infected by worms?

Why not build this hardware protection into every PC? (Cost?)

Why not sell and promote "single port" NAT firewalls for home users who don't have networks, but surely need protection?

Richard Spencer Executive Director, eBusiness ITServices University of British Columbia

Actually it's simpler just to get one of the inexpensive routers, rather than try to build hardware protection into every box. The routers are cheap and relatively available. Do understand that if someone knows where you are and want to have his way with your system, it will take more than a simple router to stop him. But for automated net sniffers this works fine.


From Joanne Dow

Are we witnessing the end of the United States of America?

To be sure I am not asking if the country mostly sandwiched between Canada and Mexico that is North of the Gulf of Mexico is ending. I am asking if it will have to change its name to something more functional and descriptive, say "Usa" pronounced as a word "Oosa". Has the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in effect declared that there are no more real distinctions between States than there is between Counties within a State?

The recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judgement invalidating the California recall election is on its face invalid if states are still individual entities under the Constitution of the United States of America. The Governor and his election and service is a purely California issue. So any decisions made in Florida regarding punch cards do not apply. Nor does its prior decision about punch cards in California elections of national figures such as the President, Senators, and Congressmen. Usa can govern this and still be "The United States of America." These are figures in the national government and that government should have some say in how they are elected. The Governor, by contrast, is a leader for a State government elected only by people who are residents in that State. In what way, then, does the Federal government have a right, other then by force, to preempt a purely State issue and process mandated by the State's Constitution?

Welcome, folks, to the nation of Usa formerly known by its now meaningless name of "The United States of America." This change conveniently gets rid of all the other pesky limitations of the Constitution because the United States of America no longer exists and Usa has taken its place.


The 9th Circus Court has spoken...

Why the movie industry is eating the music industry's lunch:,1413,36~78~1626541,00.html

Ed Hume


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: 9/15/03                                                                      subject: Teller and truth
Dear Jerry:
        It's so much fun to read a story about something you already know, and see if they even attempted to get it right.
        Following are some excerpts from Nature Science Updates obituary of Dr. Teller, with comments.
        "But whereas some of these figures, notably Oppenheimer, subsequently called for international collaboration on nuclear-arms control, Teller strongly supported a policy of unilateral weapons research."
        No, Oppenheimer called for a unilateral moratorium on certain kinds of research by the U.S.  Teller supported international arms control, as long as it was enforceable.  That meant onsite inspection, which the Soviets refused to consider till the just before the USSR disintegrated (OOH! I LOVE typing "the USSR disintegrated"!).
        "The first atomic bombs, such those used against Japan, exploited the energy released by the splitting or fission of the heavy elements uranium and plutonium. Teller realized that even more explosive power would be released by the nuclear fusion of light elements such as hydrogen - the process that powers the Sun."

Wrong four times.  Fusion gives less energy per atom than fission, but the size limits of fusion bombs don't occur with fusion.  Also, fusion fuel is relatively cheap, compared to U235 and Pu239.  And much of most 'fusion' bomb's output is comes from fission of U238, accomplished by neutrons produced by the fusion reaction.
        It was Enrico Fermi who realized that an atomic bomb might be used to heat up deuterium to the point a self-sustaining fusion reaction would go.  Teller and Emil Konopinski did the first serious study of such a weapon.

        "His [Teller's] research and championing of this notion led directly to the creation of the hydrogen bomb, or H-bomb, first tested on the Pacific atoll of Eniwetok in 1952."

        No, the first proposed bomb design, 'Super,'  was never even attempted, because of serious doubts whether it could be made to work (the current guess is yes, but just barely), and whether it would be worth doing.   His second and third proposed designs, 'Alarm Clock' and 'Teller-Ulam' are much different from the original -- part of the reason it took so long to get a design they had confidence in.

        "Teller's experiences of fascism in pre-war Hungary and Germany gave him a lifelong dread of totalitarianism, which motivated his Cold War stance."
        Uh, Teller always mentioned his pre-war experience with Communism in Hungary as equally important in making him an anti-totalitarian.  I wonder why that was left out?
        "In the 1950s he testified against his former colleague and boss Oppenheimer in the McCarthy trials, causing Oppenheimer to lose his security clearance."
        There were no 'McCarthy trials.'  There was an AEC security hearing on Oppenheimer in 1954, ordered by Eisenhower after he became aware of just how much damaging material there was in Oppenheimer's security file.  Teller testified that he thought Oppie was loyal and discreet, but didn't understand or trust Oppenheimer's judgment.
        Why the security board removed Oppie's clearance is not exactly clear, but imao, they probably did it because they believed that he had repeatedly perjured himself, at the hearing, and in every security investigation ever done on him, starting in 1942.
        Not the least aspect of Teller's greatness is that those who criticize him can't bear to even give an accurate statement of his 'controversial' opinions.
        And considering that Nature couldn't even be bothered to check a standard reference to get the facts straight, I'll regard their science journalism much more skeptically in future.



Subject: Accidents and Security

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Many people, some in our government, seem to be confused about guarding against accidents, as opposed to guarding against attacks. Bruce Schneier has a good discussion in  under the heading "Accidents and Security Incidents". Readers can decide for themselves the effectiveness of TSA protection against both of these categories.


William L. Jones


See today's Post: 

Titled: "Wearing Out and Adding Up: Army Costs Increase as Terrain Takes Toll on Equipment"

This gives a concrete explanation of why it costs so much to keep the Army in Iraq. Notable sections:

"If lawmakers and citizens wonder how much of the Iraq war's eventual cost will be covered by President Bush's $87 billion emergency spending request, they need look no further than a Bradley Fighting Vehicle's track.

Normally, a Bradley gets new treads just once a year, after about 800 miles. But for the U.S. Army, these are anything but normal times, and the 600-odd Bradleys in Iraq are trudging 1,200 miles a month, running security escorts the military never imagined would be needed so long after "major combat operations" had ended.

The result is that Bradleys in Iraq need new tracks every 60 days, at $22,576 per vehicle. As many as a third of the Bradleys patrolling the dangerous "Sunni Triangle" are out of commission. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is ramping up production for new tracks, while the Army is running three shifts a day, seven days a week, rebuilding old tracks at the Red River Army Depot in Texas, but workers are still three months behind the Army's demands. Tracks are being flown to Baghdad as fast as they can be made, then apportioned to the units that need them most.


John Welch





This week:


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We have two views of the Israeli Arafat situation:

Dear Jerry:

You wrote:

Do the Israelis know what they are doing? Are they determined to unite the Palestinian people behind Arafat? If they want to assassinate the old man that's one thing, but talking about it a lot? Why? Does anyone have a clue as to what they think they are doing?

What they are doing is at least three-fold. First, they are putting Arafat himself on notice that he's no longer "out-of-bounds": the next homicide bombing could mean the big dirt nap for Yasser as well (and long overdue). That's something, for all his blowing kisses, he's got to consider with the utmost seriousness.

Same for Hamas. Israel says Hamas is acting on behalf of Arafat; if this is true they will have to think twice about action the reaction to which is his demise.

Third thing, and most important, they are putting the world on notice that they are about to do an awful thing. I think this is very smart - a lot of the outrage, real and feigned, will have lost its potency by the time the actual act occurs. People can sustain a highly energy emotion only so long.

I doubt Israel will act on their threat for some weeks. They would rather give people, the Palestinians as well as others, plenty of time to emote, and to get past the initial reaction. In other words by the time it happens, IF it happens, it's an anti-climax, old news, not the climatic act itself.

The Israeli Cabinet doesn't consult me, but this is what I believe they are trying to achieve: they are prepping the world for his exit, one way or another. And it's about time.

All the best--

Tim Loeb

and from Israel:


You asked: "Do the Israelis know what they are doing? Are they determined to unite the Palestinian people behind Arafat? If they want to assassinate the old man that's one thing, but talking about it a lot? Why? Does anyone have a clue as to what they think they are doing?"

 Unfortunately, this is purely a matter of internal politics. PM Sharon's need to cover his right wing made it absolutely necessary that he pass a resolution calling for the removal of Arafat. He is not willing to pay the price in friction with the Americans consequent on actually executing the resolution. He is therefore left talking very loudly and carrying no stick at all (for the purposes of this particular operation).

 This is a reflection in miniature of the question you have asked several times about the geographic possibility of drawing a line between a Palestinian and an Israeli state. According to polls published here over the last few years, support for a two-state solution is on the order of 70%, and most Israelis view the settlements as a lost investment. Until there is some prospect of a Palestinian government willing to make a real commitment to at least a cold peace, no Israeli government will be interested in paying the political price of dismantling settlements.


Aharon Manne

And the Los Angeles Times Monday morning had an article on how the new security fence will divide the Arab Jerusalem University campus in two, infuriating one of the few moderate Arab institutions interested in making peace.

And the beat goes on.

In Israel and in the United States the whole notion of government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed is being severely tested. Has democracy failed?


NASA TO DESTROY GALILEO PROBE PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA plans to crash its $1.5 billion Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter next weekend to make sure it doesn't accidentally contaminate the planet's ice-covered moon Europa with bacteria from Earth.

After Galileo's orbit carries it behind Jupiter at 3:49 p.m. EDT Sunday, the aging probe will plunge into the planet's stormy atmosphere at a speed of nearly 108,000 mph. Its suicide dive comes at the end of its 35th orbit of the planet -- far longer than the 11 orbits the spacecraft originally was planned to complete. <snip> Full story at

Makes one sad, even if he is just a robot.

Greg A. L. Hemsath

Farewell thou good and faithful servant...

One amazing Robot... Rick

September 16, 2003

Many Miles, Many Moons: A Galileo Album By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

On Sunday, several hundred engineers and scientists will gather at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and await the end of the Galileo spacecraft in a suicide plunge into Jupiter's dense atmosphere.

They are the kind of professionals who try to resist anthropomorphizing their machines, even one like Galileo, which has been a longtime companion in their lives and careers. But they freely concede that they will be there at the end as an act of homage.

"It will be the equivalent of a wake," said Dr. Claudia Alexander, manager of the project.

Richard Doherty 



Subject: airport screener insanity in pittsburgh

I guess they were afraid of a paper cut.

Scott Rupnik

It is now a crime to carry an obscene note in your own luggage. The price of empire.

But we were born free.

Dr Pournelle,

John P, talking about excessive safety measures, tells us quite rightly, that “There are a stack of measures we could undertake to cut this [fatality rate on America's roads of 42,815 dead in 2002], some of which are quite simple and cost effective.”

May I propose one such measure that worked very well in Britain for a time?

Every road vehicle should have a person walking in front waving a red flag. Road deaths were so low that it was not considered worth compiling statistics. And that would be just one of the benefits; think how far it would go to resolve the unemployment problem, and cut oil consumption too.

Unfortunately, this rule was dropped about a century ago and road deaths, unemployment and oil consumption in the UK are all much higher now than they were than,

Jim Mangles

Clearly we need to restudy this simple safety precaution...


On Spam

From: Chris Morton To: Dr. Jerry Pournelle Subj: Strange Characters in Spam?

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Here's something that's been puzzling me for a while. I've been noticing that more and more of the spam I receive has seemingly random characters in both the subject line and in the body:

In case you didn't know yoddooxsxj

Do you or anyone else have any idea what purpose the "yoddooxsxj" in the above subject line has?

Just wondering.

Chris Morton

I have noticed that too and I can only speculate. But it does seem odd to think that people will buy pharmaceuticals from an incompetent sales outfit...

And see below


Hi Jerry, There is a tendency to blame much of government excess on an overactive Judiciary. This may be true for the Supreme Court, but the Federal Court system is a creation of Congress. From Article I, section 8:

"The Congress shall have the power ...To Constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme Court"

From Article II Section 2:

"...In all other cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, WITH SUCH EXCEPTIONS, AND UNDER SUCH REGULATION AS THE CONGRESS SHALL MAKE."(emphasis mine)

Unfortunately due to the partisan environment, I think any rational discussion of limits to the power of the Federal courts would be unlikely. However, I think an obvious course of action, based on both the California and Florida controversies, would be for Congress to remove the appeal of State Supreme Court decisions from the Jurisdiction of the Lower Federal Courts, leaving that exclusively to the Supreme Court.

This would restore some balance to the republican relationship between the states and the Federal government, which is why I don't see it happening.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- One of the least understood things about mad people, in my experience, is that they behave 90 per cent sanely about 90 per cent of the time. If you haven't been around for the other 10 per cent, however, you may underestimate the potential of the problem. --David Warren

Empires do not devolve power because empires do not derive their power from the consent of the governed.

Subject: McNamara Redux 

Mr. McNamara, after getting burned, refused to call up reserve/national guard forces. P'haps they get in the way of Legions.


Journal of Electronic Defense, Sept 03 

"US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines to draft plans for a major restructuring of the 900,000-strong National Guard and Reserve forces. 


 "...Rumsfeld ordered the four service secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to create a system that would reduce the need for calling up large numbers of reservists in a war and to do away with such a need completely during the first 15 days of an emergency."


Dr. Pournelle:

I suspect that the strange/random characters in those emails are part of a tracking device used by spammers. Consider this sequence:

- I send out spam messages, and each email gets the same subject line plus a unique x-character random letters.

- the recipient gets back a reply

- I have a routine that goes through all my returned mail, and use the random characters to look up the email address for that message's unique subject line. The routine then adds that email address to my 'live' database, because the reply has verified it as a good/valid email address.

Related to that process is email messages with HTML code that includes links with unique characters as part of the URL address. When that message is viewed, the link is displayed, and that server uses those parameters to verify the reciept and viewing of the spam. I can use that info to verify 'eyeballs' of my advertising message.

The site had a series of articles a while back about how spammers work. . It's a five-part series (links are on the right of that page). The other stuff there is also informative.

Rick Hellewell, Security Dweeb,


Jerry, those random trailing characters in a spam message are an attempt to make the subjects appear to be unique. Some spam catchers, particularly those deployed on the USENET, attempt to combat spam by automatically reacting to large volumes of identically labeled messages.

Whether this really makes sense for point-to-point email I don't know, but it may be/have been a somewhat useful dodge for mail being processed through the large ISP's.

I do know that Spam Assassin will take the presence of such random characters at the end of a mail subject line as an indicator of spam these days, so I expect that the benefit to spammers of the practice is heading towards diminishing returns.

Jonathan Abbey Austin, TX




Now as promised a number of recommended sites from Roland:

Subject: Spinning away.

Subject: Hrm.

Subject: One Wall, One Man, One Vote 

Roland Dobbins

I have been in favor of separation and a defensible wall, but more or less along the Green Line: the present one with its curves and loops to include settlements will cause more problems than it solves.

One man, one vote?

More from Roland:

Subject: It just works. (OS X)

--- Roland Dobbins

On recommendation of many friends including Peter Glaskowsky and Dan Spisak as well as Roland, I am getting one of the new 15" Powerbooks this week. We'll see.

Subject: Ford Motor Company switches to Linux 

Subject: Verisign screws over the world 

Subject: More on the Verisign issue. 

Roland Dobbins

Verisign are good guys compared to the execrable Domain Registration of America

See also 

And see below

Subject: Oops.


The Following may be important:

This finding from a recent issue of Pediatrics (see <A > )

</A> that supplementation with cod liver oil of pregnant women can raise their children's intellectual ability would appear highly cost effective. You might also note the IQ increase was accompanied by a head circumference increase. (some you may remember the great heat I took for publishing that there was a relationship). Incidentally, the subjects for this study were in Oslo, Norway where they probably eat more fish than in the US, suggesting a bigger effect might be found in the US. As the papers notes "Didactic procedures increasing IQ with 4 points among school children, with no harmful side effects, would immediately be implemented in schools. "

Maternal Supplementation With Very-Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy and Lactation Augments Children’s IQ at 4 Years of Age

Ingrid B. Helland, MD*,, Lars Smith, PhD, Kristin Saarem, PhD||, Ola D. Saugstad, MD, PhD and Christian A. Drevon, MD, PhD* * Institute for Nutrition Research Department of Pediatric Research Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway || Peter Möller, avd Orkla, ASA, Oslo, Norway

Objectives. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3) and arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4 n-6) are important for development of the central nervous system in mammals. There is a growth spurt in the human brain during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first postnatal months, with a large increase in the cerebral content of AA and DHA. The fetus and the newborn infant depend on maternal supply of DHA and AA. Our hypothesis was that maternal intake of DHA during pregnancy and lactation is marginal and that high intake of this fatty acid would benefit the child. We examined the effect of supplementing pregnant and lactating women with very-long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs; cod liver oil) on mental development of the children, compared with maternal supplementation with long-chain n-6 PUFAs (corn oil).

Methods. The study was randomized and double-blinded. Pregnant women were recruited in week 18 of pregnancy to take 10 mL of cod liver oil or corn oil until 3 months after delivery. The cod liver oil contained 1183 mg/10 mL DHA, 803 mg/10 mL eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 n-3), and a total of 2494 mg/10 mL n-3 PUFAs. The corn oil contained 4747 mg/10 mL linoleic acid (18:2 n-6) and 92 mg/10 mL -linolenic acid (18:3 n-3). The amount of fat-soluble vitamins was identical in the 2 oils (117 µg/mL vitamin A, 1 µg/mL vitamin D, and 1.4 mg/mL dl- -tocopherol). A total of 590 pregnant women were recruited to the study, and 341 mothers took part in the study until giving birth. All infants of these women were scheduled for assessment of cognitive function at 6 and 9 months of age, and 262 complied with the request. As part of the protocol, 135 subjects from this population were invited for intelligence testing with the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC) at 4 years of age. Of the 135 invited children, 90 came for assessment. Six children did not complete the examination. The K-ABC is a measure of intelligence and achievement designed for children aged 2.5 years through 12.5 years. This multisubtest battery comprises 4 scales: Sequential Processing, Simultaneous Processing, Achievement (not used in the present study), and Nonverbal Abilities. The Sequential Processing and Simultaneous Processing scales are hypothesized to reflect the child’s style of problem solving and information processing. Scores from these 2 scales are combined to form a Mental Processing Composite, which serves as the measure of intelligence in the K-ABC.

Results. We received dietary information from 76 infants (41 in the cod liver oil group and 35 in the corn oil group), documenting that all of them were breastfed at 3 months of age. Children who were born to mothers who had taken cod liver oil (n = 48) during pregnancy and lactation scored higher on the Mental Processing Composite of the K-ABC at 4 years of age as compared with children whose mothers had taken corn oil (n = 36; 106.4 [7.4] vs 102.3 [11.3]). The Mental Processing Composite score correlated significantly with head circumference at birth (r = 0.23), but no relation was found with birth weight or gestational length. The children’s mental processing scores at 4 years of age correlated significantly with maternal intake of DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid during pregnancy. In a multiple regression model, maternal intake of DHA during pregnancy was the only variable of statistical significance for the children’s mental processing scores at 4 years of age.

Conclusion. Maternal intake of very-long-chain n-3 PUFAs during pregnancy and lactation may be favorable for later mental development of children.

Phil Rushton says:

Note though, the cod liver oil increased IQ scores, and IQ scores were related to head circumference, but there was no evidence reported that the cod liver oil had actually increased head (brain) size. Now THAT would have been dramatic. (Nor do we know what happened after these children reached puberty as they were last tested at age four.) Still, this is very much the way forward for biologically intervening IQ researchers.

I have tried several times to set up research in South Africa with vitamin- mineral supplements (in adults) to see if this will increase the very low African IQ scores. It seemed logistically controllable in a university setting where students would be paid to take the pills at a set time and their compliance recorded. But the political bureaucracy rules it out, partly because it is a biological intervention and has to get medical ethics clearance, and partly because educators prefer educational approaches!

Just think how useful this could be in third world countries like Africa....or Iraq!

This is clearly a matter for continuing discussion. I have often wondered if part of the problem in Africa is that people are stunted. See A Step Farther Out for my original speculations, first published in GALAXY SF and The National Catholic Press science columns I used to do.









This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I'm on my math student account, surfing the Web while I wait for the proctor to get the lab printer working again. I just wandered through Slashdot, and found what has to be the wildest thing I have seen in a good long while.

Remember the Princeton physics student who designed a thermonuclear device for his undergrad thesis project?

This kid, now at Utah State, built a desktop fusion reactor, from Philo Farnsworth's plans, and surplus hardware.,1249,510054502,00.html

--John R. Strohm

Good heavens to Murgatroyd!

Subject: Interview with Mays Swicord


One of Roland's links...

"Mays Swicord, a scientific adviser to Motorola told New Scientist magazine that governments and industry should stop wasting money by looking for health damage."

...was to an article in the Independent that included a quote from Mays Swicord. The full New Scientist interview, from which this quote was taken, is at the link below. It's easy to dismiss May's views as biased, because he works for Motorola, but it's worth reading how years of research, since his 1984 paper claiming a "non-thermal effect of low-level RF radiation on DNA", has totally changed his view of the health hazards of mobile phones. 

"Mays Swicord spent 26 years searching for a health effect of radio-frequency radiation. He tried and tried to falsify the notion that this radiation - the kind emitted by mobile phones - has no effect. He failed. He changed sides, and for the past 8 years he has been working for the mobile phone maker Motorola. Now he is trying to convince us that mobile phones are safe, and that enough research is enough. David Cohen caught up with him when he visited London"


"It comes down to having a public conscience. We have a public responsibility because we are spending public funds. Whether the money comes through industry or through the government, we pay - either through the cost of devices or in taxes. So we have a responsibility to say when enough is enough. The public wants to know whether there is a health issue. If there isn't one, then we should stop wasting money looking for it. There are other more pressing health issues in the world. People are still starving out there."

Paul Dove


Greetings I found this on another website, so I cannot claim credit. (I guess I'm simply not that devious or creative enough.)

"If the election is postponed until March 2004, this would violate the state constitution that requires a recall election to be held within 60 days of the petitions being certified. On Oct 8, the ACLU and G. Davis will try to have the recall halted because it wasn't held in the time period required by the state constitution. Theoretically, they could force recall suporters to start the whole process over from the beginning."

Your thoughts?

KC Deines

My thought is that nothing surprises me when the courts get in the act now.


Um, I get my fair share of spam (too much by any standard), and have found that a program that uses Bayesian filtering (a statistical technique for 'scoring' a message for spammy-ness) is the easiest and most effective solution.

I know that SpamBayes ( provides a plug-in for Outlook that's free, and I believe that Spam Killer Pro does, too. I can't find a reference to the latter in a quick search on Google.

It works initially by comparing a set of messages you've received and WANTED to a set of messaged you feel are spam. The inital scoring is improved by adjusting the thresholds each time you decide to block this or unblock that message.

The results are remarkably different, enough so that I'm sending this little missive to remark <grin>


Doug Hayden

p.s. For more on the topic, plug 'bayesian filtering' into Google. The first few hits I got gave remarkably thorough explanations.


I may try that. Spam Assassin and I Hate Spam work all right on the account but the Earthlink account seems to send me mostly Spam. I still have to look at it because sometimes I have to send mail on that account.

Greetings Jerry,

Disturbing trends have been developing (apparently over decades) regarding the economic state of affairs of our beloved homeland. It appears that our very monetary system may be imperiled. The first time I learned about Keynesian Economic Theory (in macroeconomics 101 way back in 1984) I couldn't grasp how the system could be sustained indefinitely. Paraphrasing wildly it was explained to me like this "continuous debt expansion isn't a bad thing the economy grows and compensates for the expanded debt by outgrowing it". Voila what a concept, economic utopia for all players, this is great! We come to find you see there is only one little problem with the system (very minor). Since our currency is fiat (non convertible to precious metal or based on nothing but good feelings and trust) it will only work as long as another entities and or internal participants are willing to lend to the system i.e. finance the debt. So far our Asian friends have generously been doing so to the tune of about 45% of our debt. I assure you they have very good reasons for doing this (they like to sell us lots of stuff).

Correspondents to your site have commented on the subject of the exportation of manufacturing capacity and even service jobs. Intelligent postings to that end have answered the question by stating that the economy of the US will make better things than the stuff that our businesses exported. It will be of higher intrinsic value and of a more sophisticated nature for example high speed communications switchgear vs. say um... a lawn sprinkler. I hope this is true, do you believe it? As far as I know there is no looming breakthrough technology or "killer app" that is on the horizon to truly phenomenally stimulate further economic expansion within our economy thus mitigating our debt issue. Nor can we fight our way out of it via war, it's the same as taking a bunch of valuable manufactured goods into a field then just blowing it all up. Strictly speaking it's parasitic consumption of our economic capacity. That is unless we are going to entertain pirating oil and any other precious resources from our vanquished foes. I submit that we as a nation morally will not. Perhaps our nation is entering a mature phase (empire?) where economic expansion isn't sustainable or possible (since the government consumes that capacity, probably more) and a new economic theory will need to be postulated, maybe a different old one will fit. Anyway some food for thought. Here is a fairly good link that references my rambling rant only in a much better way. 

Best Regards,

Steve Roy

P.S. I'm a big fan and I think you and Niven are the best Sci-Fi Authors on the planet, and sending a note is a privilege.

I don't claim to know that much about economics, but I ask questions economists don't seem to answer. That makes me wonder if they know as much as they think they do.

We will see. Thanks for the kind words.









This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dr Pournelle

I always hesitate to bother you as I know the volume of correspondence you receive. However, I found this link while surfing and found it very interesting reading. Recommendations from the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board on U.S. Space programs and U.S. National Security. 

Warmest regards as always

Skip Neumayer

Thank you. As you say, very interesting reading indeed.


Missing Monuments:

I thought that you might be interested in this editorial. I have no idea who Claremont is, but their conclusion seems to regret not going with your plan. The heart of the stagnation in the War on Terror is the lack of "monuments". I'm not sure whether I want to associate with a "monumental" great power, but the arguments are persuasive.

 Their conclusion:

"The war in Iraq was a war of sufficiency when what was needed was a war of surplus, for the proper objective should have been not merely to drive to Baghdad but to engage and impress the imagination of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the scale of the thousand-year war that is to them, if not to us, still ongoing. Had the United States delivered a coup de main soon after September 11 and, on an appropriate scale, had the president asked Congress on the 12th for a declaration of war and all he needed to wage war, and had this country risen to the occasion as it has done so often, the war on terrorism would now be largely over.

But the country did not rise to the occasion, and our enemies know that we fought them on the cheap. They know that we did not, would not, and will not tolerate the disruption of our normal way of life. They know that they did not seize our full attention. They know that we have hardly stirred. And as long as they have these things to know, they will neither stand down nor shrink back, and, for us, the sorrows that will come will be greater than the sorrows that have been."

Greg Goss

Indeed. My point when I wrote that, way back when, was precisely that: to convince everyone that we were serious without being imperial.

No one took that advice and many accused me of fascism and worse for suggesting it. I truly believe we would be better off today had we done that.


Afternoon Jerry,

I won't disagree with you Verisign is one of the good guys in regards to domain registrations (I get about 50 of those Domain Registration of America notices a year), yet I must challenge the implication that the recent domain redirect is appropriate. What they've done is tantamount to hijacking.

Essentially, in the past, an e-mail sent to a mistyped domain name, or a URL mistyped, would return an error message to the user, who could correct the problem and move on. This preserved the privacy of the e-mail, and allowed anti-spam filters to validate return addresses against real domains. Now, Verisign redirects both e-mail and URL's to it's own pay-for-play search engine.

Verisign bought Network Solutions, who had been contracted by ICANN to provide top level domain (TLD) name services for the .com and .net domains. This is a specific service with specific requirements. It's only because of this chartered monopoly that they are able to accomplish what they did. Now, they are effectively cyber-squatting on every mistyped domain name out there. There's actually a bill in Congress to prohibit cybersquatting, so it's possible that what they're doing will shortly become illegal - as it should. One company should not be able to profit from a trademark belonging to another, just because of a typo. I note in passing, that Internet Explorer's auto-redirect to MSN search may fall into the same category (and probably should).

While I'm all for low-regulation capitalism (witness the Rand quote below), this isn't kosher. Besides, I'm sick of spam (20,000 spam e-mails since April 3rd), and this type of thing doesn't help. The best news is that the consortium that writes BIND (the software that executes DNS lookups), has released a new version that blocks Verisign's hijacking.

Best regards,


Doug Lhotka PGP Sig: C2F9 EB96 127A D4DD 02C7 ABE0 13A0 4C30 9C93 9D6F

"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide." ~ Jim Burnham

"I swear, by my Life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." ~ John Galt, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Hey I never said they were good guys nor defended their actions; just that they are benign compared to some like Domain Registry of America!

And See below

From Dr. Mark Huth

The HIPPA regulations are beyond inane, they are criminal stupidity.


I'll add to the article posted on your web site regarding HIPPA from the New York Times. In our hospital, we've taken the names off the outside of the chart. Your chart would be labled Jerry P. If you are admitted and you don't give permission for the hospital to release information, we are not permitted to tell your wife that you are in the hospital. I can't give your sons information about your condition. If your family arrives in the lobby, I'm not allowed to tell them where you are. The nurses HATE it. What sensible person wouldn't? We've got an ill patient, a worried family, and we can't tell the family about the patient!

Is my practice HIPPA compliant? If not, "they" can fine me $10,000 per incident. If I should walk out into my waiting area and greet Mr. Smith by name and another patient can hear me...I'm in violation. Can you read my computer screen from the hallway? Violation! Don't leave that piece of paper with the patients name out where someone could see it! Violation!!

Who the hell decided that this was the way the world should be run? From what are we protecting us? Is there a big black market out there which makes use of patient information? Groups of criminals buying and selling information about gall bladder surgery? Clandestine meetings in the dark of night...psst "Got a hot one for you, Mr. Smith has angina!!" Thousands/millions of dollars changing hands...nightly?

Of course, I follow the letter of the law, every single time. Because it is the law. Yep. There is a tidbit of good news....there are no HIPPA police. I expect that they will be along however.

My father is 83 this year. He is a decorated WWII veteran, paratrooper, 4 combat jumps, he has long been my hero. He told me on the phone last week that he prays, every night, for our country. Pretty good idea, no?

----------- No animal should ever jump up on the dining-room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the conversation." Fran Lebowitz

Pray indeed. Bismark said God looks after fools, drunks, and the United States. He didn't say how long the Almighty's patience might endure.

And see below

Dear Jerry,

This is additional food for thought on the job loss issue: 


`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·-> Steve Erbach








This week:


read book now


Friday, September 19, 2003


This is National Talk Like a Pirate Day...

Subject: Goya

Roland Dobbins

And we thought terror birds were far out...


I suspect the overall effect of HIPPA will be the same as most restrictive legislation: people will find a way to behave reasonably. Of course, that will make most medical personnel criminals since behaving reasonably will not be the same as behaving legally. Thus, the authorities will have another lever to use when needed to get whatever they want from the medicos.

John Carmody

Precisely. We have lost the rule of law; and I think we will never again live in a lawful republic. All things change, nothing endures. The republic had a good long run, but with all the good intentions in the world we have done it in...

And from Dr. Huth independent of above:

Last comment on the HIPPA stuff.

I think this the kind of stuff that happens in a police state.

----------- No animal should ever jump up on the dining-room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the conversation." Fran Lebowitz



Subject: network printer


We have been using the configerable routers for a while now, and as in your columns they have been great. We had REAL trouble with a printer with a network card and the dhcp.. the printer would have its ip and the dhcp server would change it. It took us about a day to figure that one out. Still not sure how we did it, but it may be worth researching as I think a lot of people must have problems like this with the nat router. Your columns have been a major help to us.


Bob Folk Maui

Interesting. I'd need to know some details.

And See Below



While I agree that Verisign has overstepped the bounds of acceptable behavior with their wildcard redirection, and I wish they hadn't done it, the side effects don't seem to be as serious as some would claim.

I actually fed my web browser a deliberately misspelled URL, to see what would happen. The resulting page is not particularly odious, and even includes a section of guesses as to what page I had intended to type (one of which was indeed the correct one). From a user's standpoint, this might be considered an improvement.

I also sent an email with a deliberately misspelled domain name, and it bounced back within seconds, just as it should. I see no indication that emails are being lost this way, or that Verisign is collecting them somehow.... The process may take a second or two longer than the old way, but nothing noticeable to the end user.

There are certainly other problems (ping, for example, doesn't work as expected with a mis-typed hostname), but I would say that reports of the Internet's demise seem to be somewhat exaggerated.

--- Robert Brown Mr. Bad Example

That tends to my view as well. Still they oughtn't have done it. Domain Registry of America must die.

But see below for the rest of the Verisign Story; it's worse than I thought.


Subject: Helprin vs Lewis (and maybe Pournelle?) on Iraq


Note that the Claremont Institute piece is the opinion of its sole author, Mark Helprin, not the institutional opinion of the Claremont Institute.

Helprin has his axe to grind, and he states his case well.

But I have trouble with his exclusive focus on _militant_ Islam. Whether he regards non-jihadist Muslims as non-existent, or merely as irrelevant to the West's current predicament, I cannot tell.

Helprin's analysis is, fundamentally, devoid of hope.

No hope for Muslims: he would, I gather, keep them in a state of resignation more or less forever.

And no hope for the West, of ever escaping from the burden of periodically reapplying whatever dose of violence might be necessary, to throw the Muslims back into a state of resignation, should they ever escape from it again.

Personally, I find the analysis of Professor Bernard Lewis more convincing, for example in his most recent book, _The Crisis of Islam_.

Lewis distinguishes between three kinds of Muslims. One type is overtly engaged in violent jihad against the West. A second type would engage in overt, violent jihad, if he thought it would succeed; but he is realistic enough to see that it cannot succeed right now, so he is willing to bide his time, perhaps even cooperating with the West to some extent for the time being, while he waits for the correlation of forces to shift in favor of Islam, and works quietly to promote that shift.

The third type of Muslim is willing to join the West in the work of building a common civilization. Think "Ataturk".

Lewis thinks the third type are the majority. He argues that they hold the key to suppressing the first type and restraining the second type, since only Muslims of the third type can dig the violently inclined out of the body of Islam.

And Lewis points out the importance of distinguishing carefully between Muslims of the third type, and those of the second.

I see no way, in Helprin's framework of analysis, to make that distinction, much less make use of it. He would apparently throw all Middle Eastern Muslims into the same pot, to be kept submissive drawers of oil, by periodic applications of large-scale violence, presumably until the oil runs out.

Rather reminds me of the old Morgenthau Plan for Germany, after WW2, actually. Morgenthau proposed to solve the German problem by completely de-industrializing Germany.

And I see a key distinction between Helprin's prescription and Dr. Pournelle's. Helprin prescribes continued engagement in the Middle East, for the purpose of extracting oil. He seems to envision continuing to pay Middle Eastern rulers for oil. He would handle the consequences -- irritation by continued contact, plus wealth to finance mischief-making -- by periodic reapplication of large-scale violence.

This seems to me quite different from Dr. Pournelle's prescription, of disengagement and hemispheric self-sufficiency in energy. That prescription seeks rather to avoid the necessity for applying violence, by stopping the irritating contact and devaluing the basis of the wealth.



I get a lot of mail that says things are not bad in Iraq. This courtesy of Tracy Walters:

-----Original Message----- From: PA List Manager [mailto:statelists@STATE.GOV] Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 12:01 PM To: DOSIRAQ@LISTS.STATE.GOV Subject: Iraqi Reconstruction - Rebuilding Iraq Iraqi Reconstruction - Rebuilding Iraq Bureau of Public Affairs Washington, DC September 17, 2003

"We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people."

--President George W. Bush

The U.S. has contributed $1.48 billion to Iraq since February 2003: --$506.7 million in humanitarian assistance --$980.5 million for reconstruction More than 30 other nations are contributing financially to the reconstruction effort. The World Food Program brought in 1.7 million metric tons of food, more than a three months' supply, to Iraq. 22.3 million doses of measles, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio vaccines have been provided, enough to vaccinate 4.2 million children Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis suffered not only terrible human rights abuses but also tremendous economic hardships. Saddam siphoned off billions of dollars in revenue for personal use, depriving Iraqis of decent jobs, schools, and hospitals. Growing out of President Bush's commitment to the Iraqi people, the United States and numerous other nations are providing material support for Iraq's political, economic and human reconstruction.


* The streets in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Tikrit, Kirkuk, An Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, Al Kut, Al Ramadi and Al Fallujah, are bustling with traffic and commerce. Northern Iraq and the Shi'a heartland, running from just south of Baghdad to the Kuwaiti border, are secure.

* More than 40 of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi officials have been apprehended by Coalition Forces. * Recruitment for the first battalion of the new Iraqi army is underway: 1,200 Iraqis being trained this year; 40,000 over two years.

* 46,000 Iraqi police are patrolling Iraqi streets, most alongside coalition forces. A new police academy is being established. Essential Services

* Over 90 percent of Iraq's public schools and all of Baghdad's universities have reopened. For the start of the school year, it is anticipated that nearly 1,000 schools will be rehabilitated.

* All of Iraq's hospitals and 95 percent of its health clinics are open and providing services.

* Dilapidated and looted power, water and sewage treatment facilities are being rehabilitated. Electric generation now averages 75 percent of pre-war levels.

* Phone service is being restored to hundreds of thousands of customers. Economy

* Iraqi marketplaces have many goods previously unavailable including television satellite dishes.

* The economic situation is being stabilized by continued payment of public-sector salaries and through a range of construction and infrastructure projects that will create jobs.

* Long-term growth is being promoted through regional integration and increased trade.

* Banking Reforms:

--Unified currency with new bank notes to be in circulation between October and January --New monetary policies developed based on transparency and discipline Governance

* Iraq's Governing Council was formed on July 13, including 25 members representing Iraq's diversity.

* All major Iraqi cities have city councils. Over 85 percent of Iraqi towns have town councils.

* All Baghdad neighborhoods have advisory councils. Massive cleanups of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods have been completed.

* Eleven government ministry buildings have been rehabilitated and/or equipped.

* Dozens of NGOs are being funded to deliver local services and build a civil society.

See for

State Department information on Iraq


I also see a request for 80 billion dollars and I think what I could do for energy independence with that much money.

I see more troopers fed into the meat grinder.

And the Iraqi councils are asking us not to patrol the streets any more. Which in fact may be good advice: combat soldiers are not very good policemen.



I noticed several related topics in this week's mail section. One writer said they were not aware of any new high tech advances on the horizon to replace the old low tech industries and occupations that we are exporting. Another writer sent a link to where an article about self-service kiosks and robot predicted a high level of unemployment in the semi-near future, as robots replace humans in service jobs.

I would like to add a piece to the puzzle. The aging baby boomer generation is nearing retirement age, and it is frequently speculated that the ratio of workers to retirees will be as low as 2 to 1. I have read speculations that the demand for goods and services will far outstrip the ability of the working age population to supply that demand. This will lead either to inflation, or large numbers of employed senior citizens. I am personally familiar with two fortune 500 companies where half of their employees are expected to retire in the next five years.

I think that the increased use of robotic technology will provide a needed increase in productivity, as well as an increase in high value exports. As a happy coincidence, I think that a sufficiently improved level of robotic technology will make the development of space commercially viable.

I think that people on the left side of the IQ bell curve will be employable in this environment, as live human service becomes a desired luxury.

Rick Stilson


On Empire:


I found this while searching the web, thought you would find it interesting:

Regards, Mark

Dear Jerry:

I happened to tune into George Soros presentation on C-SPAN today and was so intrigued by his viewpoint that I looked up his web site and found an article "America's Global Role:Why The Fight for a Worldwide Global Society Begins at Home" which was originally published in the June issue of American Prospect. The url is 

 It's rather long -- prints out to seven pages --but well worth reading. I'd be very interested in your opinion on it. (Yes, he has an agenda, but who doesn't?).

Sincerely, Francis Hamit


But see below









This week:


read book now



Subject: Help me Obi-wan Kenobe, You're my only hope

As much as I despise those whiney e-mails begging for what should be basic help, I find myself in that situation now.

After reading advice from you about installing a router to help forestall Internet Evil-Doer problems, and then having it verified by The Screen Savers show on TechTV [well worth the hour each night], I went to CompUSA and was going to get the D-Link router you use. Of course they were out. However, I did see Belkin's Wireless Cable/DSL Gateway Router for $80, a price point I found acceptable. I also picked up a Linksys Wireless Compact USB Adapter for my tiny Gateway laptop, thinking I'd finally network my desktop PC and laptop so I could share files, printers, and my DSL modem.

The Belkin router installed without a hitch on the desktop after I installed a D-Link Ethernet card I had on-hand. The router is now between my desktop and the DSL modem and is configured to keep the Black Hats out - or at least at bay. The desktop connects via Cat 5 cable to the router and the router connects via Cat 5 to the DSL modem. Everything works fine there.

I daisychained the Wireless Compact USB Adapter to my laptop and after fiddling with the settings, I got green lights saying the adapter was in wireless communication with the router. The router WLAN light is on showing it "hears" the USB adapter. So far, so good, but this is where I become an ignoramus.

I am confounded when trying to set up the Microsoft network so the laptop and desktop can talk with each other and share files, printers, and the DSL modem. I'm running Win98 SE on both PCs and have flailed around with the Network and Network Neighborhood settings until I'm stumped.

The Belkin and Linksys tech help folks aren't much help. Since their equipment works OK, they just point to Microsoft. The equipment makers' documentation takes you through their equipment setups, but stops short of instructions about setting up a home network

The instructions for setting up a network on seemed like they would solve my problems, but alas, they did not. I've tried Windows Help and the Microsoft site for help, but without success.

Can you, or any of your vast array of readers suggest any sites and/or resources that could help me get things up and running? My "Hey, Joe" network - that's where you stand up in your cube and call "Hey, Joe, how do I . . . " - suggests getting WinXP, but since I'll be replacing my desktop in 12-18 months, I'd rather not invest anymore in it. Any help within my current situation would be vastly appreciated.

Pete Nofel []

I haven't done anything with Windows 98 workgroups in years. Perhaps a reader has more recent experience.


Regarding Bob Folk's letter in Friday mail, I was having a similar problem with my printer not playing well with DHCP addressing on the home network. I discovered the nice folks at D-Link (makers on my D614+) included a setup option to assign static IPs to devices (on a by device basis) on the LAN side of the router. Perhaps this option is available on other routers as well?

Regards Ron Morse


Subject: The Verisign issue is in fact a very serious one for ISPs and enterprises.

The email issue alone is huge - see  (read through it all, it's very understated, yet well-writen) for a good exposition.

Here's the ICANN statement: 

ISC have already issues patches for BIND (the most popular DNS server software in use) in order to block Verisign's spurious responses to requests for nonexistent domain records. 

Those of us who operate large networks take this very seriously, indeed. Your correspondent's flip comments - 'There are certainly other problems (ping, for example, doesn't work as expected with a mis-typed hostname), but I would say that reports of the Internet's demise seem to be somewhat exaggerated.', and so forth - are, one suspects, a product of ignorance rather than actual operational experience.

Roland Dobbins

Subject: why what Verisign did was wrong

Below is a link to the Internet Architecture Board's response to Verisign's uncoordinated implementation of wildcards in DNS records it maintains. It's understandable by what I would call an "educated layman" -- someone reasonably knowledgeable about networking, and/or who understands the basic principles of DNS -- authority for a root zone (.com, .net., .edu, etc.) is centralized, but that authority is delegated to the implementer of a child domain, such as To the world, the technical or administrative contact are the responsible parties -- they are responsible for behaving appropriately in the shared system of the Internet.

The appropriate party will be contacted if other folks are having a problem with a given network, at least the folks who know enough to look up a contact, and there are tools to simplify that (it took me no more than 10 seconds to find yours, for instance). If the contact does not respond, or indicates incompetence, network operators who do not have the time or bandwidth to fight the problem will simply drop the packets to/from the offending network: If you won't play by the rules, they won't let you in the game. 

The middle part of this document lays out the problems caused. I'd say it's worth at least a skim.


Subject: Fwd: [Full-Disclosure] How VeriSign's SiteFinder service breaks Outlook Express

 Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Richard M. Smith" <>
> Date: Sat Sep 20, 2003  8:41:00 AM US/Pacific
> To: <>
> Subject: [Full-Disclosure] How VeriSign's SiteFinder service breaks
> Outlook Express
> Hello,
> I discovered that VeriSign's SiteFinder service breaks Microsoft's
> Outlook Express email reader.  If a user misspells a domain name in
> their POP3 or SMTP server name, Outlook Express no longer provides
> meaningful error messages to a user to help them to fix the problem.
> Here are the expected error messages in Outlook Express for a
> misspelled
> domain name:
>    The host '' could not be
>    found. Please verify that you have entered the
>    server name correctly. Account: '',
>    Server: '', Protocol: SMTP,
>    Port: 25, Secure(SSL): No, Socket Error: 11004,
>    Error Number: 0x800CCC0D
>    The host '' could not be found.
>    Please verify that you have entered the server name
>    correctly. Account: '', Server:
>    '', Protocol: POP3, Port: 110,
>    Secure(SSL): No, Socket Error: 11004, Error Number:
>    0x800CCC0D
> With SiteFinder, here are the error messages that are now produced:
>    The message could not be sent because one of the
>    recipients was rejected by the server. The rejected
>    e-mail address was ''.
>    Subject 'Testing 1 2 3', Account: '',
>    Server: '', Protocol: SMTP,
>    Server Response: '550 <unknown[]>:
>    Client host rejected: The domain you are trying
>    to send mail to does not exist.', Port: 25,
>    Secure(SSL): No, Server Error: 550, Error
>    Number: 0x800CCC79
>    The connection to the server has failed. Account:
>    '', Server: '',
>    Protocol: POP3, Port: 110, Secure(SSL): No, Socket
>    Error: 10061, Error Number: 0x800CCC0E
> Similar problems may exist in other email readers and other
> Internet-enabled software.  This Outlook Express problem raises
> questions about what kind of testing VeriSign did to understand the
> collateral damage to application software from the SiteFinder service
> before the service was turned on.
> Richard M. Smith
> _______________________________________________
> Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
> Charter:

The reason the email sent to a (deliberately) mistyped address bounced "properly" is that the network operators all over scrambled to create patches against what Verisign did. There's an extremely long series of threads in the archives of the NANOG mailing list (North American Network Operators Group, though it really is global). The information in the threads will be technical gibberish to most (workarounds for different server software, e.g.), though an occasional email does stand out for stepping back from the code and examining the issues. One example is here: 

As to how Verisign could abuse the email improper bounce, here is an extract from a formal complaint filed with ICANN, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the body to which the US government passed control over the Internet:

quote (full text:  )--

(b) Verisign have installed software which answers on SMTP port 25 on the IP address returned as the A record. This software, which purports to be an email server, is not even remotely compliant with rfc2821, the current standard for SMTP email. It is clearly designed to receive email connections and reject the messages, although it remains unclear what difficulties its gross non-compliance will cause. As an aside, its ability to capture sender addresses (and should it wish in the future whole email messages) which is most likely to cause significant concern to those of a privacy protection persuasion.

end quote

Among the philosophical comments was the reminder that Verisign's actions had their least technical impact on web surfing (inconvenience, though there is a possibility of business legal issues with search engine organizations such as Google and Yahoo!). Often unnoticed by many, however, is that the Internet is more--much, much more--than websurfing. Email delivery, file transfer, all forms of data communication are transported over the Internet. Verisign's unilateral action bid fair to disrupt many working mechanisms to handle human error in entering addresses.



=All right, all right...

I am ending this, since all sides have said their piece. I will ask that remarks be kept less personal in future.


Subject: StarOffice 7 review.

This guy doesn't know how to fix his fonts under XFree86 - other than that, a very solid review.

--- Roland Dobbins

Subject: StarOffice 7 eval (Windows, Linux, Solaris)

---- Roland Dobbins

We'll have another look at StarOffice. I have to say I have no quarrel with Word, and I use that a lot.


Dr Pournelle,

There is good news coming from Iraq, as the following link on the status of the search for missing antiquities makes clear: 

The problem is real, but nothing like as bad as the impression given by the media at the end of the war. I wonder why the media never seem to want to report the sort of news we read here?

Jim Mangles

I think there are people who opposed the war and who want things to go badly to prove they were right. I am not one of those. I didn't want to be there, and I don't want to be there, but I certainly do not hope for bad things to come of this. 

There is a character in Atlas Shrugged who egotistically says that his book could save the world, but he isn't going to publish it because these people don't deserve saving. that kind of arrogance is easy to come by, but it is not one of my defects. I would love t0 save the world, and if I can help devise a winning strategy in Iraq I will do that.

I am not sure we HAVE a strategy and given the nature of those who pushed us into this war that is hardly surprising.

And see below.

This from the weblog of a 24 year old computer programmer, who lost her job after the occupation. The new CPA-appointed boss of her company happened to be a Fundamentalist. He thought it "improper" have a woman programmer.

Note that her site links to slashdot, dilbert, and the onion. She could be my daughter, if my daughter would just get serious and study computers.


John Welch 

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Girl Power and Post-War Iraq

She's a good writer. I have no data on the authenticity of the site. Does anyone have data?

I would be astonished if this site is no more than it appears to be, and that the writer lost her job because of a "Fundamentalist". Stranger things have happened, but I doubt that story. 

Others tell me it's true enough; but again I have difficulty believing that someone with that attitude would be a supervisor in a government funded operation. The US has many laws that tend to PC rather than the reverse, and liberation of Muslim women was an explicit goal: I cannot think there are any US general officers who would not be outraged at the notion that a programmer was fired for her sex by any official under US control.

And see below






This week:


read book now


Sunday, September 21, 2003

Subject: The Iraqi "meat grinder"?

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

You express dismay at the casualties we have incurred in post-war Iraq and question whether they are being lost in a worthwhile cause. Fair enough: but I note that you seems to accept the Big Media narrative of how things are going over there, that there is chaos, that most Iraqis hate (or are at best sullen toward) the US, that we are not making progress. This view, it seems to me, is belied by the numerous testimonies one hears from both soldiers and civilians returning from Iraq: why do you not take the view that it is really too early to tell?

As far as the casualties themselves go, my reflex as a political scientist whenever I am presented with some facts and told they are good or bad, is to ask "Compared to what?" For the casualty figures reported in Iraq, I did some comparisons, and--based on numbers that are reasonably trustworthy--here are the facts (I have attached an Excel spreadsheet that contains all the underlying data):

Official losses, 1 May through 10 September, all causes: 151 Annualized death rate, assuming an average of 150,000 troops: 264 per 100,000

2000 death rate, U.S., all males 20-39: 95 per 100,000 2000 death rate, District of Columbia, all males 20-39: 176 per 100,000

2000 death rate, U.S., black males 20-39: 151 per 100,000 2000 death rate, District of Columbia, black males 20-39: 313 per 100,000

The statistics used for comparison purposes come from the Center for Disease Control's WISQARS tool, available at <>. You may wish to make your own comparisons.

Based on the above, your risk of dying in Iraq is only about three times what it is if you live in the US and correspond to the demographic profile of the large majority of the troops in Iraq (male between the ages of 20 and 39). If you are a black man between the ages of 20 and 39 living in the District of Columbia, you are actually at greater risk than if you were in Iraq.

These numbers, it seems to me, put the "meat grinder" in its proper perspective: it would also be interesting to compare the death rate in Iraq to that among soldiers in garrison, either here or abroad, but alas, the statistics to which I have access do not support this level of granularity.

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht


 I have never "accepted" those accounts.

I do "accept" that we have asked for 87 billion dollars. I do "accept" the casualty numbers. Do you not "accept" those numbers?

I have never expressed "dismay" which is a very strong word. I certainly do not enjoy our expenditure of blood and treasure for results which even given the most optimistic reports seem to be fairly expensive for what is accomplished. I could be wrong about that: but I have seen little from our government to persuade me that they see where they are going, and the latest efforts to involve the UN's swollen bureaucracy makes me less confident still. The UN in Yugoslavia absorbs money like a sponge and does almost nothing for anyone except the UN bureaucrats who live high and lord it over their subjects. I do not think that imposing a UN Colonial Administration on Iraq will make many friends for the US.

I do not give a rap about Iraqi  tranquility or whether or not they like us. Those are matters for stories and are difficult to quantify. Iraq has never been tranquil except under dictatorships harsher than anything we will impose. If we want them tranquil bring in the Turks. If we don't want that we will have to settle for something less.

And I have said, often, that a young Marine is probably safer in Baghdad than on the freeway near Pendleton, and a young black male is certainly safer in Iraq than in Compton. I do not mind being informed of things I don't know but it is annoying to be told things I have said repeatedly.

I have never said we are not making progress. Progress to what, at what cost, and to what benefit to the United States of America?

And if you read this site you will find many reports from Iraq in contradiction to the accounts given by mainstream journalists.

The fact remains that we are losing troops, and spending money. That is blood and treasure. And if there is an explicit goal or exit strategy I do not know it.

I am not one of those people who wishes for failure for the United States. I wish our people well, and I very much wish to be shown I am wrong about the probable course of events over there. Moreover, I think I see ways we can improve our chances of getting out with honor.

But if the present trend continues we will probably end up with a new President who will cut and run. This is one of the worst possible outcomes.

The way out of that is to get oil pumping in Iraq. Fast.



September 21, 2003: The U.S. armed forces have always used a certain number of civilian specialists in the combat zone. But the number of civilian contractors being used has been rising rapidly over the last two decades, to the point there nearly ten percent of the "troops" under army control in Iraq and Kuwait are actually civilians. Moreover, the army commanders realized that no one person in the army was responsible for knowing how many contractors were operating in a particular area, what they were doing and who they were reporting to. This was because there were hundreds of different contracts involved, involving many different civilian firms, jobs and conditions of employment. So the army is doing what army's are good at, setting up a chain of command for contractors. A ten million dollar contract has been issued so a contractor can figure out how to do this.

John Monahan (emphasis added)

I think Francis Hamit had something to say on this also.

And see next week.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read both the article by Niall Ferguson and George Soros with interest.

I believe that Mr. Ferguson is right in that the U.S. is in denial about being at least an incipient empire. I believe his analysis as to our problems with that is also correct but where England started out as a kingdom, with a ruler and subjects and then moved to empire with a ruler and subjects, thing worked differently in the U.S.

We started out as a colonies with greater or lesser degrees of self rule. After the revolution we were a confederation of more or less independent states who only united out of desperation and with great fear and trepidation. As a rule, we have avoided ruling others and only allow those in who ask With the exception of only a few influential individuals, we are not used to thinking in terms of empire, and in fact, the thought is anathema to the American psyche. If we are to continue on and become an empire, the American people need to buy into this and as a people, we need to study the British Empire's example.

Mr. Soros appalls me. He wants to invade everyone just about (six nations named that require major changes and more alluded to). Is there no country he likes? If so, why doesn't he go there? It seems like he wants to work with the international community to force much of it to do things the way he wants them done, in spite of wanting to let them have their own agendas also. How much does their interests have to clash with American interests before he sics the world community on them or decides they are rouge states? He seems to want to work through the UN but as was pointed out in an article I saw on your site, most of the UN membership has the democratic process only in the UN. Already the U.S. pays most of the UN's bills but when Bush tried to go through the UN to deal with Iraq, he was vetoed. He seems to want his cake and eat it too.

I have no problem with his open society idea, and I think it needs to start (or be reasserted) here in America. But instead of the way he wants to do it, let us just mind our own business and our own interests. If we do not have interests there, lets bring the troops home and keep them home. If our interests are threatened, lets go in, kick butt, take names, and then come back home. If the people in that country want better government, let them build it themselves, we did. Mr Furguson is correct. we are not in our possessions long enough to build a stable empire, generally because Americans as a whole are not interested in empire. Let us keep it that way.

Patrick A. Hoage

"We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own."  If we attempt to guard liberty everywhere we shall have none here: almost by definition.

I am about to go to a conference with my editors to discuss a book on Republic and Empire.





Subject: girl writer  


Girl Power and Post-War Iraq

She's a good writer. I have no data on the authenticity of the site. Does anyone have data?

I would be astonished if this site is no more than it appears to be, and that the writer lost her job because of a "Fundamentalist". Stranger things have happened, but I doubt that story. 

Note this "Christian Science Science Fair" link:

The second place middle school prize went for the following topic; with this sort of thing going on in Christian education, I can believe that a woman lost her job because the boss thought women shouldn't be in the workplace.  (Note:  "I can believe" does NOT constitute proof in this case, only credibility.)

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

James Woosley

I fear I do not see any relevance here. I can show you odd to foolish actions by congregations of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindoos, but they would not be relevant to the lady's report. That some people believe silly things is obvious to anyone. The question is not whether such people exist but whether they are in positions of power over others: power derived from the United States of America, authority protected by our military; in short are such people in place because we put them there?

I would myself be astonished to discover a single general officer in the United States military who would publicly admit to dismissing someone from a professional position on the grounds of her sex. 

I await enlightenment. [There is considerably more in later Mail and View sections. The concensus is that she's real, a secularized Sunni who had a decent middle class existence under Saddam, and while not a Baathist, was spared many of the horrors of the Saddam regime.]

Read on. The following tells of a hoax site:


You had mail from a James Woolsey who cast doubt on your doubts about the authenticity of that Iraqi blog at 

He cited the *fact* that "Women Were Designed For Homemaking" won a science fair prize as proof of extreme beliefs among Christian fundamentalists, apparently intending this as evidence to show that an Islamic fundamentalist could perform a bigoted act. It is probably fairly safe to say that extreme adherents to any religion can behave badly; however, Mr. Woolsey is basing his example of Christian foolishness on a website -- 

I'm afraid he has been a bit too credulous -- That site is a hoax -- There was no such "Christian" science fair nor any such school science project. It is an amusing bit of satire but it is not real. If he is not convinced by a close reading of the site, he should click on the link to their Objective Ministries Online Store (which is really a link to and features such items as thong panties "This uncomfortable undergarment will be a daily reminder to unmarried women to find a husband and a emergency moral reminder to her would-be-suitor."


Jim Lawrence 


My apologies. Open mouth, insert foot. (OK, open notebook, insert brainlessness, or whatever)

I had skimmed the commentary and responded without even opening the web site and noting that this event was in IRAQ. I responded based on the misapprehension that this happened in the US and involved a Christian fundamentalist, rather than a Muslim. My error, and my apologies again.

Jim Woosley

That wasn't the worst: the site you sent people to is a hoax, as one would suspect, given the content. It's interesting how many people are willing to believe that those they don't care for are fools, and dislike them the more for believing nonsense about them.

And we still have no real evidence on the authenticity of that web site. We have:

Subject: Riverbend, the female Iraqi weblogger.

Salam Pax ( ) knows her; that's good enough for me.

Roland Dobbins

But also

Re: Is Baghdad Burning?

Dear Jerry,

I share your suspicion regarding this supposed blog. I also share your dislike of the word "blog", as well.

If this really is an Iraqi woman, why does she link to al-Jazeera in English? I mean, that's pretty thoughtful that she thought whomever might read her work is an English speaker, but hard to believe she wouldn't just link to the main site and let her viewers pick the language of choice, n'est pas? Let's see, her news sources are the Onion, the NY Times and al-Jazeera, you would think she could better than that!

Write much like an American would too. Perhaps I'm just being a nasty ol'bastard cynic...



But see next week.


On Trusted Computing

Subject: have you heard about this anywhere else? 

We have written about this here and in the column, but so far I don't know enough to be certain how much is real, how much is wild speculation, how much is technically feasible. Anything that makes obsolete the entire computer inventory of the US is not going to go far since people will simply not "upgrade" if it's as bad as these accounts make it.

It's easy to become hysterical. Sometimes real fear is justified. Not being omniscient I don't know which is which here, but the shrill nature of some of the articles on this subject doesn't induce me to confidence.

We wrote about the Hollings bill here some time ago. I haven't seen much about it lately. 

So far I wait and see and go to developer conferences...

And I invite informed opinion. Please don't bother with speculations based on fears without facts: as a science fiction writer I can make a living writing those myself....

Reading the TCG Backgrounder, I can understand why the columnist -- who asserts his ignorance in the beginning -- is dismayed. However, he does not understand the context. The context is one of computing technology, and the relationship between a pair of computing devices which need to exchange information. "Trust," in this context, is about whether Device A will accept data from Device B as a valid input.


A trust relationship must exist between the two devices -- and it need not be bilaterally symmetrical -- in order for one to accept data from the other. You have, let us say, an SQL Server in your AD domain. The SQL Server must trust that the security credentials it receives from the AD server are valid, else it cannot know from whom it can legitimately accept client requests. Your mail server trusts mail clients with the right username and password in their requests, or you wouldn't get any email from it. That trust is narrowly defined from the server's perspective: Accept requests to receive mail and/or send mail belonging to this account. It allows no other activity, such as configuration modifications or manipulation of any other account. The client, on the other hand, trusts the mail server essentially completely.

A major headache in system and network security is defining clearly what the trust relationships both are and should be. Stricter trust relationships make it much less likely that an attack which compromises one device can lead to a compromise of another which trusted it unnecessarily. Many PDAs or laptops leave the network security cocoon and are used in the wild outside, only to be brought back inside and connected, where a harmful payload could infect the network. They cannot be trusted very much. But the database server must trust the web server, at least to a limited extent, in order to conduct e-commerce.

The TCG is using working groups to develop and define a vendor-neutral, platform-independent system which will enable the trust relationships among devices to be more clearly defined and thus carefully controlled. They will be working to incorporate this into the Common Criteria, which is a set of secured computing specifications used by military, civilian, government, and private organizations to decide what to buy (hardware and software) and how to configure it. The TCG will require that users opt in, not have to opt out. If you want to build your own system, fine! There is no penalty for that, or reason you can't connect with anyone who is willing to trust you. But don't expect networks and systems which *must* be security conscious (if for no other reason than for legal liability concerns) to want to trust you.

It can be used to protect intellectual property. Since theft remains theft, even on the Internet, I don't see that as a necessarily bad thing. It will, if well done, facilitate secured and reasonably private data exchange. It can be misused. So can an ax, a spade, or a soothing voice on the telephone.

It's a tool, not a conspiracy. The composition of the TCG reflects those who will have to implement it in existing and evolving technologies.



There is a certain amount of hysteria among the anti-DRM crowd. People want us to get really excited about every new DRM idea.

But on the other hand, we shouldn't be too complacent. I never thought a law like the DMCA could be passed, with printer companies using it to try to force consumers to buy only official ink cartridges.

People like their computers as they are. The RIAA would like much more restrictive DRM on all the computers. I'm afraid that the RIAA might convince Congress to pass a law making some DRM scheme mandatory. It seems like an outrageous idea, but the DMCA seemed outrageous and it's law.

I do take comfort in the thought that the average person just ignores the DMCA, but would be unable to ignore a law requiring the purchase of all new DRM-enabled computers; the public outcry would be huge. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


From the Office of Homeland Security, I-feel-so-much-safer department, we have this:

CLEVELAND -- Two Cleveland nuns pray day and night, but it may not be enough to keep them from being deported. . The women live as cloistered nuns with the order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Inside, the nuns pray for the entire world 24 hours a day. They never leave the church except for when they need medical care, and they have almost no contact with the outside world. . Sister Mary Cecilia and Sister Mary Catherinia, of Korea, must now deal with the outside world. The Department of Homeland Security said the sisters are security risks. Both Korean sisters may be deported because the U.S. Immigration Service said they don't qualify for religious worker visas.

Officials Say Cloistered Nuns Are Security Risks: 

Lovely. And how many folks believing in a creed which says "kill the unbeliever" did we let into our country last week?


Jim Riticher

Por la Raza, todos...








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