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Mail 276 September 29 - October 5, 2003






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Monday  September 22, 2003

There was much mail on the weekend. Do have a look.

From a friend whose views I generally take seriously. :

"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."

Surely it is the best possible outcome. I certainly will do whatever I can to make it happen. Why do you think otherwise?

Here is my reasoning. First, at a billion dollars a week - two billion a week next year, probably - the longer you stay, the more money you blow. So considering that alone, the time to leave is now.

Next I want to consider what we might accomplish by staying longer - is it something that is worth the cost? What might we hope to accomplish, what is the probability of success, and what is the likely cost?

I guess one might want Iraq as a permanent military base in the Middle East. But why? To flog the locals into selling their oil, which they do anyhow? To keep someone from conquering the Gulf? Our bases in Kuwait and Qatar and Oman are more than sufficient for that. I can't see it.

Well, I hate even to talk about something so silly, but the fools at the top talk about political reformation of Iraq and perhaps the Middle East as a whole, suggesting that this would automatically make them friendly to the US and, more importantly I guess, Israel. I give this zero probability, so it cannot be a reason to stay.

As for getting a new President, that is a plus, because Bush and company are unusually dangerous fools. I want to make sure that they never, ever get a chance to do anything like this again - and the only way to make this happen, make it plain to the American political class is to have him lose the election. Look, Jerry, do you want us to invade and occupy Syria and Iran? Because Rumsfeld and Cheney do. Bush might go along again. Personally I would like see them all up on crosses, but since this a government of law, defeat and disgrace will have to do.

You want more oil, we're going to have to leave. Sabotage is too easy. It can only be stopped ( at any reasonable cost) by a local government that has some degree of credibility - who knows, maybe even some legitimacy. We don't have that in Iraq and we never will. As long as we stay there will be no big increase in exports: I suspect we'll never even reach the prewar level. In part, because capital is a coward - there will be no big private investments as long as there is a low-level guerrilla war. Mind you, by adopting some unacceptable policies we _could_ get oil - simply put the native population ( certainly the Sunnis) into concentration camps, as the British did to the Boers. Of course they might dislike us for a few generations if we ever let them out again, but perhaps by then the oil would be gone anyhow. But even then it'd probably be expensive oil.

It's hard for an Empire to pay its way today. Our armies are simply too expensive, extractable resources are a far smaller fraction of the economy than they used to be, foreign labor is hard to exploit and usually of low productivity anyhow. And if it doesn't make any money, what's the point? Legions were cheap.

While we stay, much of the Army is unavailable for any real need that might come up. That has to be bad - exactly how bad is unpredictable, depends on the whims of various assholes in the world. On the other hand, as long as our plate is full in Iraq, we aren't going to gratuitously invade anyone _else_ and that's certainly a good thing. A new cut-and-run Administration would, hopefully, be less susceptible to the temptation to invade. I suppose a truly sane Administration is impossible in this day and age.

While we stay, world opinion solidifies against us. Most people I talk to say that they don't care what other peoples think. Is this smart?

The longer we stay, the more Iraqi opinion is turning against, us, which reduces the chance of political hopes coming true. The State Department is running secret polls - I know you will be shocked, but it turns out that a growing fraction of Iraqis want us out _now_. They just don't enjoy occupation by trigger-happy young foreigners who don't speak the language. How human of them.

What reasons have even a chance? Two. First, you may think that kicking out the Republicans is bad, that the other things Bush might be for might counterbalance this particular mistake. That's a judgment call - but I don't agree. I think that I'm never going to get much I want domestically out of this guy - not fiscal responsibility for sure, not an end to racial favoritism - and I think totally trashing the US position is the world is pretty serious.

France is not the enemy - Bush is.

Second reason - credibility. Obviously we lose credibility if we quit. But then, what kind of credibility do you get from persisting in something stupid, and how much is credibility worth in the first place? There is nobody big and powerful waiting to grab everything when we lose our nerve - the closest might be China and Taiwan - and if you look back at the late 1970s, the last time we lost our nerve, the Soviets took advantage by mucking around in Africa and invading Afghanistan - which did them no good at all. If I have to pick sanity or credibility, I'll take sanity.

I hate imperialism, and I hate money-losing imperialism even more. I didn't start out hating Bush - I am, or was, more of a Republican than anyone you know-. I _despise_ the Democratic party. I've voted straight-ticket for thirty years. But this is unbearable. I hate Bush, I hate his minions, and they have to go. They're worse than bad - they're fools.

[name withheld; call him XX for reference]

The problem is I have trouble answering this, because it gets close to my views at least as held before we got into this mess over there.

If we stay the course and build democracy it will be expensive: worse, it will get us used to the notion of governing people for their own good but without their consent. 

Government without the consent of the governed, no matter its benign purpose, is empire, and contrary to the very founding concepts of these United States of America; and you can see the effects of negating that idea right here at home as the enlightened decide to do what's best for the benighted. On immigration? A vast majority of the population wishes we'd stop for a while and assimilate what we have; and enforce the border laws. That will not happen because our rulers know better. 

On religion? A vast majority wishes we would keep the separation of church and state where the framers put it and stop this endless campaign to remove all traces of piety from our public life. That will not happen because our rulers know better. 

I could go on, but it is clear: we have imperialistic notions in Washington as regards the rest of the nation. Will the Iraq experience make those who rule us more or less inclined to do what they know is best for us?

But perhaps I am just depressed this morning.

A few points: Legions have always been expensive. Praetorians even more so. Think of Legions as those who can occupy countries; think of Praetorians as the elite who can defeat anyone including the Legions. At the moment we are using Praetorians as Legions, and this doesn't work well.

Regarding the gentleman last week who said we are an empire and ought to learn from the Brits: I think the Roman example more appropriate, and that will probably be the thesis of the book on The Coming American Empire I am contemplating.

And the comment that loss of prestige cuts both ways is clearly one we don't like to think about.

And see next letter and then below.


Subject: What Might Be Done About Iraq

Identify the middle-class intelligentsia that forms the core of most terrorist and resistance movements and coopt them. There was an interesting analysis in the G2 section of the Guardian about psychological profiling of terrorists/resistance leaders. They're usually educated members of the middle to upper middle class who have become politically marginalized. They don't seem to be nuts. Rather they do what they do because they feel those are the most effective choices left to them. 

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

Would that we could, but if the Riverbend commentator  is genuine, and there seems to be considerable evidence (see below) that she is, we have lost that class already.

And see below. 


Hello, Jerry,

(I was just adding a last touch to an eloquent reply when I hit the wrong button...I hate Hotmail...and so maybe you saw it, but if not, and with less words...)

Riverbend has nothing whatsoever to do with Christian Fundamentalism. She is trying to warn us against Islamic Fundamentalism. I think someone sent you a link to a Christian fundamentalist school (a creationist science fair?) when you asked if anyone knew if Riverbend was honest. They were teasing you, or being downright malicious.

Her point is that she wants to go forward from Saddam, not back to Saddam or to either a Suni or to a Shiite fundamentalist "Islamic Republic". She is not worried about the Baathists, because they really are beaten. But she sees that the Coalition has had to make compromises with several fundamentalist Islamist factions, such as the "Badr Brigade", an armed gang led by the ayatollah who was blown up last month. The Badrs were founded in Iran, and she sees them as a dangerous bunch trying to take over the CPA. That ayatollah had, essentially, said: include me or my armed group can make trouble. She claims that several of the other groups in the CPA have recruited from the former members of the Iraqi army -- 400,000 men with some guns but no jobs. The factions offer money to the ex-soldiers if the ex-soldiers do "favors", as the mafia used to put it.

She, and the more famous Salam Pax, and Salam's friend G (a Christian who works as photographer and interpreter fro the NY Times) are the sort of people who gave the neocons hope that their "quick strike" strategy might work in Iraq. Wolfowitz and friends talked often about the large number of westernized, well-educated Iraqis, the technical and professional middle class, who might be Muslims, but in a more modern and tolerant way. The neocons hope seems to have been that, once we killed off Saddam and his torturers, the westernized, modernizing Iraqis could quickly lead the country to become the sort of decent, modern, country that we've never seen in the Middle East. Wolfowitz and friends miscalculated we have the awful mess. I think that the necons should have known that this mess was a more likely outcome than their golly-jolly predictions ("everything's comin' up roses!" Was Ethel Merman the official singer at Rumsfeld's meetings last year?). Anyway, we're stuck in the mess, now.

Riverbend points to systematic attacks on liquour store owners, professional women (a woman on the CPA council was shot and badly wounded yesterday), the two women school principals who were assasinated by the Badrs, threats to parents to take their daughters ought of school (quote from a mother: I'd rather have a live daughter than a diploma...let someone else be heroic), and the kidnappings and rapes carried out by the new poltical militias and old-fashioned criminals.

Nothing about Christian fundamentalists.

The story from Najaf about the first woman judge appointed and then dis-appointed is the sort of story that is beginning to appear.


John Welch

You will note that simply handing the country over to the locals will probably not result in restoring her job or appointing women judges.

On George Soros

Dear Jerry:

First of all, I think it is overreaching to say that Soros wants to invade anyone. He expressed a preference for "regime change" but I don't think it rises to the level of armed conflict. His various foundations are looking for ways to promote democracy and this is something he specifically said could not be imposed on a nation by force. Perhaps the gentleman should read the entire article. More than once. And recall that this is a man who has studied the ways things really work. He's one of the richest men in the world and once made two billion dollars in one day by shorting the British Pound. A proto-capitalist. I said his ideas were intriguing, meaning worthy of consideration. It was not a wholesale endorsement. In the current situation anyone with a fresh set of ideas deserves a hearing.

We also need to look at this idea of reporting "good news". As a journalist for over 30 years, I can tell you that no one quantifies news in such terms. It is strictly event driven, and value neutral. The most interesting and dramatic events are the ones that involve loss of life and treasure. In a market economy, you have to realize that a publication, online or off, has to attract eyeballs to pay its way. Newspapers generally depend upon advertising and in a bad economy there's not much of that. It's one of the first things to get cut in a down economy. So the resources (reporters, photographers, broadcasters, etc.) follows the news that is cheap and easy to get (pun intended).

Yours, Francis Hamit

Well your experience does not always match mine and the lessons learned from journalism and intelligence work don't either. I do have a little experience in both.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: 9/21/2002                                                                    subject: Our current situation
Dear Jerry:
        Yeah, you're right, we've lost the rule of law.  Where I disagree with you is your persistent belief we lost it recently.
        Back when you were a tyke, the Supremes ruled that growing food on your own land, for your own consumption, constitutes interstate commerce.  The reason is, to put it honestly, that Washington is only allowed to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, and the govt. really needed to regulate all agriculture.  Hey, presto, all agriculture is interstate commerce!
        The USAmerican people supported this, because they agreed that the govt. ought to have the power to regulate agriculture.  They didn't hold with the rule of law notion that nothing should be done till the Constitution was amended.  As far as I can see, they still don't.  We've lived with this for nearly seventy years now, and no disaster has occurred.
        Similarly, when you say "I also see a request for 80 billion dollars and I think what I could do for energy independence with that much money," the truth is that you couldn't actually do anything for energy independence, because the only way the money would be voted is with strings attached that would forbid you to do the things you want to do.  The strings would be attached because, ultimately, the voters don't want nuclear power, and don't want space solar satellites.  We think they're wrong, but the majority disagrees with you and me.
        The real "problem" we have is serious political divisions over what needs to be done for the common good.  One day, their will be a majority on one side big enough to get its program implemented.  I think that's how self-govt. is supposed to work.

I feel better already.







Harry Erwin on computer security:

Subject: Computer Security Research to be Classified

See page 228 of the 18 September Nature. DARPA has decided to classify its major research program into building defenses against computer worms. Apparently initial discussions on the program included protection of civilian networks. Then in March, the program was restricted to military networks, but there were to be unclassified elements, so that the academic research community could participate. Now, DARPA has decided to classify all elements, excluding most academics and preventing the remainder from doing the work in campus labs. Additionally, DARPA has apparently zeroed new money for computer security research, and the other possible funding agencies (NSF, DHS, and NIST) have no funds.

Pity--there's a lot of work to be done, particularly in intrusion detection, trust analysis & management, automated sanitization & release, risk analysis, and data integrity analysis. 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst. <>

re: trusted Computing

Go to < > and read. Ross Anderson seems to be a good guy--I use his text in my computer security class, although I wish he was a bit more formal in the way he approaches security analysis. 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst. <>

And we can look forward to the future:


From the sublime to the ridiculous:

"Manufacturers of a seemingly innocuous product -- a garage door opener -- are embroiled in a battle that tests the limits of a controversial copyright law.

Skylink Technologies manufactures a universal garage door opener that can be used to open and shut any type of garage door. Its competitor, the Chamberlain Group, claims that Skylink violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, by selling such a product.",1282,60383,00.html 


Henry Stern Dayton, OH

Joy and rapture. More work for lawyers. Hurrah!

Subject: Secure Computing 

I think it is a hoot that Bob Barr is writing about personal liberty! Part of the reason he was routed from congress can be laid to his actions against personal liberty. He was one of the targets of the Libertarian party in their anti "drug warrior" campaign.

--- Al Lipscomb

I have said for years that we have lost the war on drugs, or perhaps won it: but we get essentially nothing but corruption for the money spent on it, and we keep the prices up a bit; but any high school girl knows someone who can supply drugs. We have not slowed their use.

Whether legalization would help I do not know; but we could at least make it like smoking and drinking. Taxed, forbidden to the young, and otherwise discouraged but taxed and legal.

What we do now is spend money, pay a large bureaucracy and keep the prices high enough that it is worth while corrupting the police; while consuming police resources.

Subject: The Riverbend Blogger

John Welch comments: She, and the more famous Salam Pax, and Salam's friend G (a Christian who works as photographer and interpreter from the NY Times) are the sort of people who gave the neocons hope that their "quick strike" strategy might work in Iraq. Wolfowitz and friends talked often about the large number of westernized, well-educated Iraqis, the technical and professional middle class, who might be Muslims, but in a more modern and tolerant way. The neocons hope seems to have been that, once we killed off Saddam and his torturers, the westernized, modernizing Iraqis could quickly lead the country to become the sort of decent, modern, country that we've never seen in the Middle East. Wolfowitz and friends miscalculated we have the awful mess.

I think the miscalculation was that in any socialist tyranny, someone who is managing to live a middle-class lifestyle is probably tucked quite comfortably into the current regime, and has little to gain and a lot to lose from its defeat. From what I have read, both Salam Pax and Riverbend fall into this category. Not collaborators as such, but just people who worked inside the system and kept their heads down. As far as I can tell, they had good jobs, nice houses, and the rest. With rare exceptions, their class did not fill mass graves.

I notice many media interviews with Iraqis of this type who used to be computer network operators, business managers, and the like under Saddam. Naturally, they have come down in the world now, and most had little to fear from the regime they worked for. So you hear complaints about how much better things used to be.

Few people interview the Marsh Arabs, Kurds, Shiites, and those who lived in places other than the protected and favored streets of Baghdad.

If one had gone over to Germany just prior to WWII and interviewed only blond Aryans, I'm sure most of them would have said things were going quite well, thank you.

Tom Brosz

Subject: orbis.4703.ryn.ideologyamericanempire

Well worth the read on today's Neo-Jacobin American Empire: 




In spite of its great influence, the ideology of empire is unfamiliar to most Americans, except in segments that appear disparate but are in fact closely connected. Drawing these connections is essential to assessing the import and ramifications of the evolving Bush Doctrine. 

Though heavily slanted in the direction of international affairs, the ideology of American empire constitutes an entire world view. It includes perspectives on human nature, society, and politics, and it sets forth distinctive conceptions of its central ideas, notably what it calls ‘‘democracy,’’ ‘‘freedom,’’ ‘‘equality,’’ and ‘‘capitalism.’’ It regards America as founded on universal principles and assigns to the United States the role of supervising the remaking of the world. Its adherents have the intense dogmatic commitment of true believers and are highly prone to moralistic rhetoric. They demand, among other things, ‘‘moral clarity’’ in dealing with regimes that stand in the way of America’s universal purpose. They see themselves as champions of ‘‘virtue.’’ In some form, this ideology has been present for a long time.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall went to see for himself.

"I found myself wondering whether the news media were somehow complicit in his death."

Randy Storms


Dr. Jerry,

The first article here

is an actual interview with Jacques Chirac. I find it quite striking given that Thomas Friedman declared 

that the French plan identified in the article amounted to France declaring themselves our enemies. Close reading of what Chirac actually says suggests that his plan is for the US to declare victory and go home and give it to the UN.

The problem is, is that I can't see how the plan would hurt US - quite the contrary, it would bail us out of the muck and free up our units to do something else, and stick the UN with the blame if the whole thing goes south.

Unless of course, we're WEDDED to the idea of occupying Iraq.

The other other article here

I'll just quote:

"However, this presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is wrongheaded, and it may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies that are likely to worsen America's situation.

I have spent a year compiling a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 to 2001 — 188 in all. It includes any attack in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while attempting to kill others, although I excluded attacks authorized by a national government, such as those by North Korea against the South. The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter. In fact, the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion (they have have committed 75 of the 188 incidents)."

Help for the Win98SE guy:

"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 fix for a small network is to edit the HOSTS and LMHOSTS file in the Windows directory. In this instance, on each machine, disable WINS, specify a 192.168.x.x address for each machine [ and should work], and then add those addresses to the the LMHOSTS and HOSTS files on both machines, along with the machine names. Make sure that both machines are in the same workgroup, and add the individual machine names to both files. They should then be able to see each other with ping at a minimum.

Note that this kind of setup will work with any Windows OS with TCP/IP [back to Win 3.11 and NT 3.1], OS/2, the MS DOS client and just about every Unix box with or without Samba.

The only complication here is how the router works: it may require it's own 192.168.x.x address or it may operate invisibly. I don't know that particular piece fo hardware.

Once that is all setup, and the machines can share files and whatnot, you can then point DNS resolution on both machines to the provider DNS servers.


['Hope That Helps.']

A long space screed by Rick Tumlinson:

This is going out to a private list. The following was published over the last two weeks in Space News in an unusual move for them. For those who only caught one installment I am including both for context. These aren't my complete thoughts ( I am working on a book which is much more extensive in that area) and in fact, especially in part II, many of them aren't my thoughts at all. I have just tried to put together some solutions into a cohesive plan that can clarify the roles of government and the private sector.We can create a mutually beneficial synergy that can lead to great feats of human exploration and set the stage for a real expansion of human civilization into space.

I have been fighting for the frontier for almost 20 years now. Some on this list probably hate me, some tolerate me, and some are going "Who?" But I believe that at last the pieces are there for a catalytic reaction that can throw open the airlocks, and open the space trails. IF a lot of someones act now. (and many are)

It shouldn't be about government vs. the private sector. It needs to be about both lifting each other.

Feel free to forward this to anyone you think should see it, or to your trash bin..whichever works for Any comments or if you wish to be taken off this list, let me know directly. Rick Tumlinson PS - This essay is US centric, for no other reason than that is the government and system I can best influence. It is not mean to be jingoistic in any way. I am for all of us going.

Scuttle the Shuttle: Part One — The Problem

One might have hoped that in the aftermath of the Columbia accident, NASA would take the opportunity to make dramatic and substantive changes in its space transportation activities and plans.

Of course, this hasn’t happened, and just as after the Challenger accident, the agency is already swinging back to its usual course of inaction and self preservation.

Unfortunately, the agency’s actions are completely predictable and completely useless in advancing the cause of opening the space frontier. In essence, the exercise underway consists of:

A. Get the media to focus on a single technological smoking gun such as foam insulation (or "O" rings);

B. Move a few folks around;

C. Retire a few more;

D. Bravely proclaim it will get back to business as soon as possible.

E. Weather any scathing reports tossed its way by pointing to A, B, C; and .

F. Get more congressional funding to add some cosmetic safety measures for the same contractors and centers that blew it all in the first place.

This exercise in media management is of course being followed by the real game, the trotting out of an already existing plan for the "next logical step" in space transportation — which by the way means even more billions for guess who? Come on, this isn’t hard. I will give you a few hints: X-33, X-34, National Space Plane, the international space station. Got it yet?

Of course, once again, it is those same contractors who have spent billions of taxpayer dollars not getting us into space. Hiding behind high sounding words and emotionally laden images of lost heroes and our future in space — and by invoking science and education — those running and profiting from our human space program have nearly killed off hope of an open frontier in space for Americans. Erecting a facade of excellent sounding rationales, the current shuttle-space station program delivers on none of them at all. The space shuttle fleet as constituted and operated serves no real purpose other than to feed corporate, political and internal NASA constituencies.

I have dedicated my life to the human settlement of space, and publicly debated those who would end human space activities, but even I recognize there is no reason to endanger human lives to do most of the missions given to the shuttles.

Take Columbia for example. If the international space station (ISS) were a $50 billion dollar science building here on Earth, then Columbia was a van driving around its parking lot doing high school science. Its mission was not critical to construction of the ISS, carried no important shuttle specific payloads and was redundant with the mission of ISS as repeatedly stated for over a decade.

As brave and great as those folks were, they were on a showcase flight that contributed almost nothing to the opening of the space frontier. That is the real tragedy of Columbia, beyond the terrible loss of those lives, as they and all who enter space know they risk all. But risking our entire human space enterprise again when we do not need to — and for all the wrong reasons is — almost criminal.

I do think the American public could be educated to understand even significant numbers of people putting their lives on the line to open space as a frontier, if that were what we were doing, but the current program has little or nothing to do with that goal.

It is simply not worth betting the entire future of humans in space on make work, constituency feeding stunts. In fact, most space shuttle missions do little that could not be done "better, cheaper and faster" some other way.

One very eloquent speaker, with whom I often and loudly disagreed in years past, seems to have shared my views in this regard.

His perspective is interesting, and very disturbing given his position at the time. But this is one of the best quotes I have ever heard with regard to this debate. To wit: "Now I don’t want to be demeaning to the people that worked on the shuttle, but the shuttle has suppressed a lot of science we could be doing. We haven’t landed on a planet in 20 years because we’ve been so excited about the service support contract on the shuttle that we haven’t been doing science. We spent $10 billion on the space station and didn’t produce a piece of hardware, but boy did the contractors have fun. It’s shameful. It’s stealing from the American public." This came from the mouth of Dan Goldin, who was NASA Administrator at the time he gave this speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996.

It is refreshing that for once, a government official while moving his lips did indeed speak the truth.

But now, people have died, the rest of us are not happy and it is time for this cynical game to end.

It is time for real change in our space transportation system. It is time to move from our government owning a capability to do its own specific and self-defined (with contractor help of course) tasks in space, to a system that, at its core, is designed to encourage ever-widening participation and access to space by the taxpaying public that pays for it all.

It is time for a new system that increases reliability, frequency of access, and lowers risk and cost dramatically. In other words, it is time to begin planning the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. And it is time to make way for the improvement in safety, innovation, and competitive pricing that can occur if the private sector is given the chance to do for space travel what commercial aviation has done for air travel.

Thanks largely to decades of pioneering work by many in the space agency over the years, the technologies and elements are there right now. The people who want to build the new fleets are there right now. The people who want to take the risks and put up their own money to build and fly in the new ships are there right now. The potential for commercial markets based on human space travel and other innovative ideas is there right now.

And in a few months, when the Chinese announce their plans in space, the national competitive will might be there too. Unfortunately, if the current incestuous and self perpetuating space establishment continues as it has for so long, if nothing dramatic is done to leverage this potential, we may witness the end of American leadership in space in the next few years. NASA and the U.S. government need to get out of the trucking and passenger carrying business, and back to supporting real exploration and scientific progress. It has been said that sometimes leadership is defined by turning around and going back to get on the right course.

In this case it means we must scuttle the shuttles to save the dream.

Next Week, Part 2: What can be done to create a true revolution in access to space.

Rick N. Tumlinson is the founder of the Space Frontier Foundation

Scuttle the Shuttle Part Two: The Solution NASA is trapped in the past. It costs about the same today to put a human in space on the government shuttle as it did 30 years ago, thanks to the incestuous, self-preserving and self-feeding institution that our shuttle program has become. And according to NASA its new replacement program will not help that situation and may make it worse, while costing us billions of dollars we need not spend.

It is time for change. NASA and the U.S. government need to get out of the trucking and passenger-carrying business as represented by the shuttle and current follow-on programs, and back to supporting exploration and scientific progress. NASA and its parasitic contractors must no longer be allowed to manage the designing, building and operation of what are essentially glorified government space trucks and vans. Can you imagine if the government had done the same thing with an airline? It would be as if the Federal Aviation Administration owned our single national air carrier. With no real competition it would never get cheaper, better or more efficient — and no one would be able to afford to fly on it.

That is the socialist monopoly we have in spaceflight. It has not improved safety or access to space, but it has wasted billions of tax dollars. And with the announced plans for the Orbital Space Plane (or what some call the Orbital Stupid Plane) our nation will be pouring even more billions into a giant step backwards when it comes to access to space.

A new lean, mean set of alternative space (alt/space) firms are out there building truly innovative systems for carrying paying passengers and payloads on sub-orbital flights for what may turn out to be less than $100,000 a flight. Often self-funded and working close to the economic edge, they have waited and watched as our government has not done the job and are now going to open space their way — if they survive. These little mammals are doing their best to dodge the smothering feet of government regulations and paranoia and hold out hope for a whole new path into space, but they need help to survive. In order to truly contribute to our national space efforts they need the current system changed dramatically, to acknowledge them, to support rather than hinder them, and to let them in to where some of the big money is.

According to some experts, $1 in market potential offered to the private sector would produce $10 in the type of technological and operational breakthroughs we might get from the current government-centric approach we have today.

Some put the ratio even higher. If Burt Rutan can build a reusable sub-orbital space ship system for under $40 million, what can he and the other alternative firms out there do for let’s say the $10 billion we are about to waste on the Orbital Space Plane? Rather than waste that money on yet another specific-use dead-end program, let’s offer that money to the private sector to demonstrate it can carry humans and cargo to and from space and get $100 billion to $200 billion of innovation and common sense. An ongoing $2-3 billion-a-year market for separate payload and passenger flights to and from the international space station and to fulfill other NASA and Department of Defense needs would produce a huge change in our nation’s space access capabilities.

Imagine, rather than one or two inside firms working on cost-plus contracts to fulfill single use needs they helped develop in the first place, we could have a dozen space delivery and transportation firms. NASA and the Defense Department would no longer fund multi-million dollar studies, multi-billion dollar development programs or prop up aging technologies, but would simply pay on delivery when their payloads were delivered — just like the rest of America and most of the world does on Earth.

These new commercially oriented space trains, trucks, buses and taxis would carry not only government payloads, but also compete to carry commercial passengers and payloads to a rapidly expanding human frontier in space – as NASA moves out beyond LEO to push the edge even farther out.

To get there we must make radical changes, not just operationally, but most importantly, mentally, and in the structure and management of our current space activities. To that end I offer a 10-point plan to turn our space agenda around. This plan will assure the maximum science and commercial activity in space, while creating an expanding wedge of human activities that will lead to a prosperous and growing human frontier in space. It will also save the taxpayers a huge chunk of change.

* NASA should immediately be ordered to begin planning the retirement of the shuttles, and all human oriented shuttle and future Earth to low Earth orbit vehicle development offices, programs and studies should be canceled as soon as possible.

* Congress should kill the Orbital Space Plane immediately and transfer the $10 billion it was about to waste on this program to a set of new activities to open LEO to the people and new industries that should by right follow our 30 years of federal exploration of this area. To do this, while also seeding the agency’s return to real exploration beyond the Near Frontier, the following things should be implemented ASAP:

* A set of National Space Prizes (NSP) – To assure multiple players and real competition down the road, 1/2 the OSP money would be used to fund four/five prizes for the first teams to fly four people (or relative mass) safely to and from LEO at the lowest demonstrated cost, with the shortest turn around period.

* $1 billion of former OSP related funds should be transferred to the Alternative Access to Space program to begin the re-education of agency managers away from exclusionary cost-plus contracting methods and start implementation of commercial LEO freight delivery.

* To provide an ongoing market for the NSP winners, all federal entities needing access to LEO should be mandated to use their current multi-billion dollar budgets (such as that about to be wasted on shuttle flights) to buy their rides using roughly the same criteria as the NSP. They must begin creating new procedures that will allow them to sign multiple payload and passenger delivery contracts at some date certain in the future, just as they do when using Fed-Ex, UPS or American Airlines to move valuable cargo and employees around on Earth.

* To further assist their new partners in the national space effort, all federal space transportation regulations should be streamlined to allow the maximum freedom of development for the alternative space firms. This includes giving them the same regulatory over-rides now given to government systems such as government space launches, the space shuttles and the airline industry.

* NASA and the Department of Defense should implement a series of X-vehicle programs in cooperation with the private sector based on the old NACA model of enhancing commercial and military capabilities. And this effort must not be allowed to morph into development programs for government vehicles.

* As this space revolution is implemented, near term access to ISS should be purchased from the Russians, using Soyuz, Progress and other very capable vehicles.

* We should mothball or give our very capable Russian friends managerial leadership of the current high inclination space station and use the remaining elements still on the ground to build a lower inclination, more commercially accessible station. In either case, the international space station management structure should be changed to an Airport Authority model, designed to not just allow, but encourage access to the station and its airlocks by the widest range of commercial space transporters.

(Ok NASA, I admit I have been beating on you a bit, so now comes the fun part!)

* It is time to set our national Vision high! It is time for the President to announce our return to the Moon and the beginning of the human exploration of Mars! Freed from mundane LEO activities such as trucking and real estate management, our explorers can get back to exploring. Taking advantage of our huge shuttle infrastructure investment in people, hardware and facilities, we can allocate the remaining $4-5 billion OSP dollars to replace the orbiters now on the shuttle stack with an automated massive lift cargo carrier to support the exploration of the Far Frontier.

Note to nervous contractors - Although you have helped create the current space as a corporate earmark culture, the traditional contractors have a lot to gain in the long run from this pro-commercial market-making approach to our space. After all, you aren’t doing too brilliantly well in the current climate, so you might want to look a little into the future too. You can pull away from your current lobbyist-driven approach and cost-plus space contracts, and adapt and innovate, as GM did when it created its Saturn division. Or reach back into your collective roots and encourage the modern equivalent of the brilliant Kelly Johnson and his Skunkworks. You can even take the lazy way, let the new alt/space firms go for the NSP, do the innovating and then buy them!

This American Space Agenda is the difference between opening space as a Frontier, and continuing a specific government program that is failing to deliver on any of its promises, and by its very inertia might, in the end, kill our entire human space effort. It is the difference between leveraging off of the incredible work that has been done so far in our national space program, by at last partnering the massive power of free enterprise to innovate and operate, with the government’s ability to fund exploration, or letting our dreams of space die the slow death of bad central planning and command economics.

It is time for America to fly again. But this time, not in circles.

Rick Tumlinson is a founder of the Space Frontier Foundation.

My own view remains: take what you think it will cost and put it up as a prize for the first one to do it. A few billion in prizes and we will have new space ships.

Guarantee a market for using them and we will have a fleet of new space ships.




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  September 23, 2003

Another observation by my radical centrist pacifist friend Dan Duncan:


Three large factors are contributing to the radical decline of the American economy, and thus of our ability or intent to venture into space:

1) Agreements with WTO and NAFTA, which send American jobs overseas, with ZERO reciprocity. 

2) Service on the ballooning national debt, which is even greater than our defense OR social service expenditures. I recall that you feel that pumping tax dollars into an inflated economy will somehow increase tax revenues and thus buoy up the economy. Myself, I tend to support the model that Joseph used to save Pharaoh's tail, where you create a surplus in good times to support you in lean times. Does that ring a bell? 

The proof of the pudding is in the American family where my dad could support a wife and three kids on machinist wages, but where now, because of a "higher standard of living" (WHOSE standard, pray?) both parents must work and leave the kids to be raised by television or street gangs or both. Ditto for single parents, only without the "higher standard of living."

3) But the DMCA is the real show-stopper:

The DMCA, threatens any innovation or improvement on publicly protected intellectual property with crippling lawsuits and jail time. Dimitry Sklaroff was only the tip of the iceberg. What if someone DID come up with a foolproof shuttle? Or a significant innovation in airlocks.... How fast would some corporate law critters at Boeing or McDonnell-Douglas be seeking injunctions and/or a piece of the pie for their corporate keepers? Not to mention real-estate speculators.... 

The solution to the former is clear: return to the clear intent of the original copyright statute in our Constitution whose purpose was "To promote the Progress of Science and useful arts...." (NOT to establish ownership, but to protect PUBLICLY PROCLAIMED ownership of otherwise private trade secrets). Seventeen years of public protection is plenty, these days. Beyond that, if the public really values the ability of inventors to invent or artists to create, let them be supported by subscription, a la Medici or Sforza or...PayPal?. Isn't that how capitalism is s'posed to work?

If the DMCA had been on the books in the 60s and 70s, we would still be wondering how to get to the moon, instead of to Mars and Alpha Centauri....

It's time to wholly revoke the DMCA, and let the Constitution AND the market prevail.

best always,


P.S. It was Simone Weil who originally said:

"In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!"

[P.P.S. The surgery was successful, but I had to pay out-of-pocket for my take-home pain meds and antibiotics. Didn't need all the pain meds, thankfully, but Medicare doesn't cover ANY meds, even antibiotics, y'know? Funny, I do believe that I paid for it in advance over the years.... But man, for all that, I am ALIVE!]

Weil said that? I recall Harry Lyme saying it in The Third Man. 

Stay well, my friend. The world is a better place with you in it.

Subject: Major cutback to high tech Visas

It's about time....

Tracy Walters



 I've recently moved from one city in Orange County to another, and gone from Time Warner Cable to Adelphia. Like you I'm extremely disappointed in their service. I was shocked to find that they do not offer HDTV programming yet and I'm on a waiting list for that to "become available in my area sometime soon". Of all my experiences here in Socal with cable and high speed internet acces, I'd have to rank Cox Communications as first, Time Warner a close second, and Adelphia at the absolute bottom. Why should you have to invest in an amplifier at all! Don't they have an obligation to provide you with a reliable quality signal? One suggestion that I've heard is to keep accurate records of the periods of time that you are without service, calculate the per-minute cost, and deduct that amount from your monthly payment. It may not be much, but maybe if we all started doing it, it would be something that these companies would understand. 

Secondly, are there any plans in the works to de-monopolize the availability of cable service in areas? Can't we get a little healthy competition into the mix to encourage better service? Or are we stuck because one company owes the cable itself? Let this be a lesson to future planners, pay for your own cable wiring and let the companies fight over the city for access, that way the community gets the best deal.

Marvin Shelton

I put in my own amplifier because it would take time to get someone here to do it. It didn't cost much and it is something to write about.

So far as I know, contributions from cable monopolies are important to politicians, so the monopolies will always be with us.








This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Subject: I suppose this is upholding the right to commercial freedom of speech 


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


Subject: Port Insecurity

As you have been saying here, the terrorists have created more havoc from the fallout than they did in the instant of crashing planes into the Pentagon and Twin Towers.:,4149,1273309,00.asp

Tracy Walters


Subject: SCO again... 


I've been following the SCO - IBM - Linux news with considerable interest. I have to admit SCO spins a pretty nifty yarn, including their theory that IBM will not indemnify clients using Linux because IBM is aware that SCO is right. Not that I see any substance to it, but they are very good at turning any action into supposed support. HP has just announced they will indemnify their clients using Linux on HP systems if they obtained it from HP. There are a couple of other caveats, but the intent was clear. SCO immediately announced it supports their argument, because it means HP sees SCO's point as legitimate.

So SCO is now saying that vendors who won't indemnify their clients will not because SCO is right, and there is infringing code in the Linux kernel, and that vendors who do indemnify their clients do so because SCO is right, and there is infringing code in the Linux kernel. I have to wonder if the legal or the PR department thought that response up.

All the best,

Gavin Downie



While I'm a bit hesitant at this point to send anything forward after the problems of the weekend, I though this would be of genuine interest to you personally if not the column.
  (cross-posted on  for today)

<snip> The board of directors for the South Texas Independent School District is expected to decide tonight whether to ban two books — Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land — from the high school’s 10th grade English Advanced Placement curriculum.

Jim Woosley

Fascinating. Don't stop sending stuff. Come home, all is forgiven..

AMD’s new Athalon64 – a 940 pin package and 105 million transistors…whew

The Athlon64 FX series is the first of a family of FX-series processors. The FX can be thought of as a cut-down Opteron. It sports many of the features of the Opteron, including a 128-bit wide memory controller on-die, a 940-pin package and the requirement to use registered (buffered) memory. The key differences from the Opteron is that the 128-bit memory controller supports two channels of DDR400 memory and only a single, non-coherent HyperTransport link, instead of the three links used by the Opteron line. The initial model 51 clocks in at 2.2GHz. The FX CPU die consists of 105.9 million transistors, for an overall die size of 197 square millimeters.,3973,1276873,00.asp 

Tracy Walters

With luck I'll have one for the November column.

Morning Jerry,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note of encouragement on your proposed book - both from personal interest, and out of hope that it might change a few other minds, please do strongly consider it.

I know some folks who are serving in Iraq at the moment, and while they report are that things aren't nearly as bad as the press would make out, they all want to come home - nation building is NOT what they signed up to do.

The letter from XX echoes my own sentiments almost perfectly. I'm a straight-ticket Republican (out of practicality - I'm Libertarian/Objectivist by philosophy), and am struggling as to how to vote in the next election. The problem is that as bad as Bush Jr, & Co. are, the Dem's are still worse. Any thoughts on if we'll see a primary challenge to Bush?

Best regards as always,


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


He talks the talk

Hi Jerry 

Do you think he could turn things around?

- Paul

As you say, he says the right things. He doesn't need the job. He is personally a nice man, unpretentious in private conversations, and he once spent half an hour helping my wife pick a Christmas present for me. I am not much in favor of recall, but it is in the state constitution, and heaven knows Arnold would be better than Gumby.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: 9/23/2003  

  subject: Something you may not have seen

Dear Jerry:
        At,11116,128486,00.html, Joss Whedon describes the new season of Angel.  I wouldn't make this up, but just possibly he did.


Subject: Make Mucho Dinero With Worms 

Do you have reprint rights to your BYTE columns?

Seems to me that the content of your two most recent columns on security, along with a little more detail, would make a dandy item to sell by the truckload to Federal agencies... and, use it or lose it time is upon us.

A buck or two a user would be a _very_ good deal for the People (bless their flabby black hearts) if it prevented a spendy incursion upon federal nets. Print them on 8 1/2" by 11" (or A4, later, for our cousins across the pond) on glossy heavy stock, tri-fold, sell by the truckload.

Roberta's already got her vest-pocket business, tax # & everything, right? Just add it to her web order page with hefty discount for Feds. As long as the order's placed by 30 Sept 2003, it's in this fiscal so remaining use-it-or-lose-it $$ get used for something useful. Delivery can follow once they are actually printed.

Just a thought. That and three-fifty will get you a latte up here.

John Bartley

Well, I would love to make mucho dinero...

I'll have to think on it, but it's not likely this would be in as much demand as you think. But thanks for the kind words.


Here is a link to an interesting article from John Bloom (AKA Joe Bob Briggs) on the American empire. 

He argues that empire can be a good thing provided it is a competent empire, in his view the problem is that America is an incompetent empire.

Here is an excerpt:

The reason this book is important is that, whereas the English had a plan -- spread their views and their culture worldwide -- we don't. Today we have troops in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Georgia, the Philippines, South Korea -- and in each case we're there for a different reason. Sometimes we're trying to prevent something. Sometimes we're trying to make a situation better. Sometimes we're punishing a perceived aggressor. But there's little sense that what we're doing has a shape and a form and a PURPOSE

Well, we certainly don't have a comprehensive plan or strategy; at least none visible to me.

And something from my favorite shrink:

Mob Socialization


This --  -- is a lovely piece on why there is a home schooling movement.



Hi Jerry, 

just read in View for Monday about your premium channels on Adelphia being out on Monday with a "this service will be right bacK" message for around an hour.

I'm not sure what time of day it was, but we experienced the same thing Monday here in Tucson on Cox Cable. I wonder if someone's satellite or groundstation was out on Monday? Probably no way to know, but it's another data point.

Also, even when unplugging the router's inside lan connection here, the cable modem traffic light is on non-stop, the portscans and attempted virus transmissions are that bad. It's been that way for months now. Last summer it was just 'sometimes', the last few months it's gone to non-stop scanning. Some of my associates here in town on the same broadband provider (Cox) don't have scans hitting them as continuously, but they are (luckily!) on different IP blocks, purely out of kismet (which part of town, and hence physical network segment, they are on).

Here's hoping that Adelphia makes it out of bankruptcy with its cable service ok (and that your uptime gets better!)




And here is Joanne Dow being sensible as usual:

> Close reading of what Chirac actually says suggests that his plan is > for the US to declare victory and go home and give it to the UN.

I'm NOT about to be happy spending the US lives, time, money, weapons, effort, and all the rest so that the UN can piss it all away. I am not willing to subject the Iraqis to the UN tyranny. I'd rather it were our own. Then if they must hate us it will be for our actual deeds. If they must love is then it must not be love abandoned. If the UN wants in, or the French want in, then they can BUY in, and not with OUR money.

The UN was recently observed to be morally, ethically, and intellectually bankrupt for passing resolutions they had no intention of ever enforcing. They are a fancy debating society. They are not fit to govern.

Let them participate as subcontractors or not at all. Jacques is a Crock.


Certainly the UN's record is not very good...

In reference to the Observer article about rampaging U.S. troops (Farah tried to plead...). Nada Doumani, a Red Cross official, was quoted in the article, lending it some credence. I did a web search on "Nada Doumani Red Cross" and came up with about two hundred citations. She is a much-quoted woman, but she seems to be given to sound bites critical of the U.S. At least those are the remarks that get quoted.

She is quoted largely (though not exclusively) by what I would consider leftist leaning or otherwise anti-U.S. websites. I found ONE reference to her planning to visit an Iraqi mass grave site, but there was no reportage of her reaction to it. Every other quote I read decried the actions, or lack of actions, of the U.S., and/or hand wringing over the mess the U.S. was making of Iraq.

She may be a very honest, balanced and earnest person, but that's not the impression I get from reading many of her quotes and seeing who is quoting her (Lawyers Against the War, Pacifica Radio, Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community, Al-Jazeerah, High Country Citizens for Peace and Justice, et al).

Guilt by association is bad law, but good common sense. I question the factual reporting of the rest of the article. The writer is axe grinding.

Greg A. L. Hemsath

I am hardly astonished.  Thanks.





This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Subject: The WMD story as it is being told in the UK

<,2763,1049228,00.html >

 -- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

At least by the Guardian...

Subject: Trusted! Yeah!


Subject: Imagine that.


Subject: CyberInsecurity

The authors of this paper are world-renowned security experts; their findings can't be merely brushed aside: 

(and see below)

Roland Dobbins

Thanks. I still don't see how you get time to read all that.

On Building Your Own with RAID:

Dear Dr Jerry;


I built a system around an Epox EP8k3A+ motherboard and an Athlon XP processor. I chose this because I thought my dollars would go farther avoiding an Intel system. I chose the Epox because of its RAID chip, which is at the root of the problem described herein.


After more than a year of excellent service, the Epox motherboard burned out. To add insult to injury, New Egg no longer stocked the EP 8K3A+, so after consulting with both Epox, and Highpoint Tech, the manufacturer of the RAID chip, I bought another Epox board from New Egg, the 8KRA2+. It has newer and better features, and it had the same RAID chip as its predecessor. Both outsourced tech support entities told me it would boot my array.


So I installed the Epox 8KRA2+, and exchanged the hard drive array, (two Maxtor 120s), as well as the processor, memory, and sound card and turned it on.


At onset, the board booted up through the POST process, and the Highpoint Tech driver recognized the drives as the “0” array that they always were, and the process proceeded. But when I got to the first W2K startup screen, the system hung when the status bar got half way across.


I disabled the SATA driver through the BIOS, thinking that might be it, seeing how there are no SATA drives on the system, but although the system quit looking for the SATA drives, the end result was the same: The system still hung at the exact same point.


Then, with the guidance of the above mentioned tech support entities, tried to do a repair installation of W2K, booting from the CD and pressing F6 to re-install the Highpoint Tech drivers from the supplied floppy, but all that came to a halt when W2K could not find a hard drive. So for this to work, I suppose I must break the array, re-format, and re-build it before my new motherboard will recognize it as RAID. Unacceptable!


All these things I did after taking the “expert” advice of Highpoint and Epox Technical Support. But after they realized that the hole I was in was getting deeper and deeper every time they e-mailed me back, they started blaming each other, and telling me that my array “must be damaged.” Epox told me my only remedy was to test the drives individually, and if they survived, to scrub them both down to bare metal and start over. Unacceptable!


Now most of what was on that array was backed up, but this became a moral imperative for me to find a better answer. I did what my instincts told me I should have done in the first place. I found another Epox 8K3A+ from an obscure vendor on the internet, and threw my credit card numbers to the wind. When it arrived, (whew) I hooked it all up as originally set up, set the BIOS to boot from the RAID array, and Bob was my Uncle!


I learned some valuable lessons;

Motherboards with RAID chips from secondary sources are to be suspect. Especially if their tech support is on a different continent.

Do not set up any RAID array as a boot drive.

Tech support sucks dead bunnies. Trust your instincts.

I spent more on three Epox boards than I would have if I had started with Intel in the first place.

New Egg is not the only hardware vendor out there.


Alan Larson

Coral Springs, FL

Thanks. I tend to use Intel because of compatibility. Next month's column will tell what happens if you do boot from RAID and update the BIOS on an Intel board. You can recover easily enough: you have to go into the BIOS and enable RAID again. BIOS updates turn it off by default! Otherwise I have had no problems with RAID and Intel systems using the Intel on-board RAID.

Dr. Pournelle:

The problems that Alan Larson had with were not the result of raid problems. The problem was that W2K had drivers for a motherboard that was not there and needed drivers for a motherboard that was there. I had this problem (not a raid system) when I swapped boards in a system. I was required to scrub to bare metal and reinstall. And when the boot drive is your RAID drives, you indeed have a problem.

A better solution for Mr. Larson would be to install a single IDE drive as the boot drive. Then install the OS on that drive. Leave the RAID drive for data. If the motherboard has to be swapped, and the same brand RAID BIOS is used, simply reinstall the OS and the array will appear.

It is also interesting to note that W2K and WXP do not contain the proper HiPoint drivers. Windows Server 2003 does contain the HiPoint drivers. You must have flashed the BIOS to the latest version to get it all to work, but it does work. I have reinstalled the OS several times and the RAID drive does appear and the OS is installed.

If one must use RAID on a boot drive, do not place data fails on that array. This is fairly standard logic for most machines. Install two drives. One drive is the OS and software drive, the other contains data. You can backup from drive to another to provide some form of redundancy. RAID is no different. Using one RAID array where the OS and data reside is going to cause problems if the OS needs to be installed.

Of course I expect that you knew all of this.

Ray Thompson Systems Administrator Tau Beta Pi Association The Engineering Honor Society Integrity and Excellence in Engineering






Subject: Gander sauce?

I know you have mixed feelings on file sharing and copyright issues, but I do love the turn here. Alas, the lawyers . . .

Jay Butler


Dr. Pournelle, Well, it is my first day in Salt Lake City and I have to say I love it. The only issue I have is that it seemed more likely to meet you in Las Vegas.

Anyway, the reason for this missive is the following story on The Register: 

I think nanotube technology is going to blow Moore's Law away.

Thank you, Douglas Knapp

We had a big AAAS session on nanotubes and computers a couple of years ago, I believe while BYTE was still a paper magazine but perhaps not: I did a big report on it. At the time it was all theoretical although NEC was looking at ways to turn it from a technology into a technique.


Subject: Insanity

How can we charge soldiers for meals????

From Drudge:

Wounded US Soldiers Charged For Food During Hospitalization Thu Sep 25 2003 10:05:59 ET

Imagine this. You're one of the many brave Americans who puts your life on the line to fight the war on terror. You're wounded in action. Your medical care is free. But much to your surprise, when you get your hospital discharge, you also get a bill for your hospital meals!

NBC's NIGHTLY NEWS reports: Daily dangers in Iraq, GI's being sniped at, wounded and killed, persisting, the casualties mounting. Marine Reserve Staff Sergeant Bill Murwin, a victim, knows as well as anyone the suddenness and pain of earning a purple heart." Murwin: "We were getting stoned, and a young man threw a hand grenade into my vehicle."

"Murwin foot had to be amputated at an Army hospital in Germany. Then came weeks of therapy at a Navy hospital in Washington. Here he was shocked he would lose his food allowance. And once home in Nevada, stunned again by a notice to pay the Army for the meals in Germany. That's right. Sergeant Murwin, about to be released from the Bethesda Navy Hospital, like many of the 1,300 wounded in Iraq, received a food bill, $8.10 a day."

All GIs "sent to war get a meal allowance of $8.10 a day, even though they're being fed free, if not well, in a war zone. But once hospitalized, the GI has to eat institutional food and reimburse the $8.10. That's the law."

"I've given my life to the marines corps for the last 13 years. And you guys are going to ask me to pay for a month's worth of food? There's something wrong with that." Francis: "Florida's Bill Young, who learned of Murwin's $210 food bill and paid it, moved in Congress today to change the law." Rep. Young: "I paid his bill because I wanted to make a statement. I wanted the leadership of the military hospitals to know that I am serious about this."


Sue Ferrara

Well, these things happen as you build an empire. The Invisible Foot always gets into the best intentions when you have government projects. Clausewitz called it friction...

And see below


Subject: European Union Action on Software Patents

< >

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


Subject: The National Security Risks of Microsoft Monoply

I can't believe this is only now coming to light.

MS is a major Nat'l Security weakness. If I were running a terrorist organization, I wouldn't be looking for suicide bombers, I'd find sharp programmers and virus/worm our economy to death. It would be cheaper, have a major economic impact and could be done from afar. People's eyes usually glaze over when I tell them this, but I guess folks lately have begun to notice the economic costs of these worms and viruses.




Subject: Microsoft Insecurity

Dr. Pournelle:

About the researchers that claimed Microsoft is a threat to security because it has such as high market share.

Well, duh!

Did you also know that cars (vehicles) are the major cause of deaths on highways? That most drowning deaths occur on or very near water? That too much exposure to the sun will cause sunburn?

It is just obvious to me that Windows will be attacked more than other OS's. It is just as obvious that one must be careful with all things. Wear your seatbelt, drive carefully. Use flotation devices on the water. Use sunblock when out in the sun.

And keep your computer patched.

Rick Hellewell, Security Dweeb,

And see Above

=Good advice...

Subject: Microsoft Insecurity: Not just "well, duh"

Rick Hellewell is only partly right, in my opinion. Truly, Microsoft is attacked more often than other systems because it is the market leader, because tools for developing Windows programs are dirt cheap and easy to use, and because self-styled "rebels" see Microsoft as embodying "the Man" who must be defied.

I believe it is equally true that of the attacks launched, a greater proportion of those targeting Microsoft systems will succeed because of inherent architectural defects and design choices.

Any operating system where upgrading the Web browser changes the characteristics of the TCP/IP stack (per Jon Udell's experience, is badly designed. Windows 2000 and XP (including 2003 Server) are still built on the NT 4 codebase and design that gave Jon such fits five years ago.

So, Microsoft's dominance IS a security threat. If 95% of Internet computers ran Mac OS X, or 95% ran Linux, then we would be more secure than we are today despite the fact that the dominant system always attracts more attention.

It is the combination of "market leader" + "not designed for security" that is at the heart of our Internet security problem today.

I can wear my seatbelt. But I can also drive a safer car. Wearing a seatbelt in a Volvo makes me safer than wearing a seatbelt in a Pinto.

Steve Setzer




Subject: House votes to reinstate ‘do not call’

I’m sure the fact that politicians soliciting contributions were excluded, but nonetheless, it’s interesting what happens when 51 million voters have spoken… 

Tracy Walters

Sort of makes you wonder how we might organize that kind of energy on other matters. Immigration, for example.

It also makes you wonder what the Direct Mail Association thought it was doing? Did they expect to win? To get a few more days to make junk calls? Or did their lawyers convince them they might actually win?

Subject: Do not call list blocked again

It’s going to be interesting watching this one play out…

Tracy Walters


Dr. Pournelle,

The telemarketing coalition did not think they could "win" this one, but they did have an objective in mind. They most likely wanted to force congress to pass a law which will almost automatically result in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. If the law was too hastily drawn up, the supreme court will declare it unconstitutional and that would then set precedent to block even a more carefully drafted law in the future.

They are quite crafty, these telemarketers. They have had decades to polish their sneaky ways and their legal fight against the citizenry is simply a continuation of the subterfuge required to persist in their annoying practices. The lawsuit is no different than the software used to recognize a disconnected phone number or an answering machine, it's just another way to ensure they can maximize their contact with people eating dinner or enjoying family time.

Sean Long

Jury nullification. "I swear by all I hold holy that I will never vote to convict anyone accused of assaulting a telemarketer or DMA member."

Unlikely, but could we make them believe there is such a movement?



You know I love you, but your website layout is the pits. Hire an artsy-fartsy type to make it nice. They do have their place.

Warmest Regards, Bill Dooley Reno, NV

And what, precisely, would make it better?

Also, by the way, it's hard to tell the difference between email and The View. Make it crashingly obvious. A graphic designer could do that.

Bill Reno, NV

I hadn't realized this was a problem. Perhaps so. And everyone says web pages ought to be redesigned at intervals But it's a lot of work, and I am not sure the result is worth the effort. And see view.


Dr. Pournelle,

Your column and readers inspire me from time to time. I have collected the most inspirational (to me) quotes from your site. I send them to you now as my way of saying thanks.

Rod Wittler

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

"I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution." -- U.S. Grant

"That is something up with which I will not put." -- W. Churchill

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.

"There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't." -- Unknown

"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." -- James Thurber

"… there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new." -- Machiavelli, The Prince?

"In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all, and it often comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now believe that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it, will make you less miserable now. I have had enough experience to make this statement." -- Abraham Lincoln

"That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers." -- Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in "Oath of Fealty"

"From the Far East I send you one single thought, one sole idea -- written in red on every beachhead from Australia to Tokyo - "There is no substitute for victory!" -- Douglas MacArthur

"Great Spirits often encounter violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence." -- Albert Einstein

"No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy." -- Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

"Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return." -- Colin Powell

Oscar Wilde: "I wish I had said that." Friend: "Don't worry, Oscar, within an hour you will have."

"Forgive everybody everything everyday." -- Dulles

"When we have strong values, decision making is easy." -- Roy Disney

"The will to succeed is important, but the will to prepare is more important." -- Bobby Knight

"We often need reminding even if we do not often need educating." -- Samuel Johnson

"When a stupid man is doing something he knows is wrong, he always insists that it is his duty." -- Appolodorus the Sicilian in Caesar and Cleopatra

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

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

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

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury." -- Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813), Scottish jurist and historian, professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University

"Nothing good ever happens after midnight." -- Bo Schembechler

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." -- Catherine Aird

I found this interesting enough that I have given it a page in reports.

Subject: Military allowances

 In a recent message, the following statement was made:


"I've given my life to the marines corps for the last 13 years. And you guys are going to ask me to pay for a month's worth of food? There's something wrong with that." Francis: " Florida 's Bill Young, who learned of Murwin's $210 food bill and paid it, moved in Congress today to change the law." Rep. Young: "I paid his bill because I wanted to make a statement. I wanted the leadership of the military hospitals to know that I am serious about this."

 Rep Young was grandstanding.  His statement that he wants the leadership of military hospitals know he is serious is ludicrous.  Congress determines military pay.

 Every soldier receives base pay depending on rank and years in service.

 If they live in military housing, either barracks or in family housing, they do not receive a housing allowance, and typically, except for some shift works, do not receive a meal allowance.

 If they are authorized to live “off base” in the civilian economy, they typically will receive a housing allowance based on rank, and a meal allowance.

 If they are deployed, such as a sailor on a ship or a soldier on maneuvers, and they have dependents, they will continue to receive the housing allowance for their dependents, but will forfeit the meal allowance, as they are being fed by the military.

 There is no leeway on this, if they are receiving a meal allowance, and then it is later discovered they were eating in government facilities, it must be paid back.  The pay regulations are pretty clear, and dictated to the military by Congress, not some guy in charge of the hospital.

Tracy Walters


But of course he was grandstanding. And probably pretty effective grandstanding, too. Tiberius would have punished him for interfering with the army, but we haven't got to that point yet.

Safe from US law 




Robert Heinlein replies to question of is Stranger in a Strange Land good or bad for teenagers.

>From Robert A. Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame, February 3, 1967

"I myself am not the least afraid of corrupting the teenagers of this country; it can't be done. They are far more sophisticated, as a group, than are their parents. They take up in junior high school smoking, drinking, fellatio, cunnilingus, and soixante-neuf, and move on to coition, marijuana, and goof balls during senior high school, then get the Pill and join the New Left when they enter college-or at the very least are exposed to these things at these ages and sometimes earlier. Plus LSD and other drugs if they wish. Shock them or corrupt them-impossible! If they refrain, it is voluntary, not because they haven't been exposed." >From "Grumbles From The Grave" HB page 239

Check out that date 1967, he was talking about me...



Texas University Shuts Down Bake Sale

By Associated Press

September 24, 2003, 11:17 PM EDT

DALLAS -- Southern Methodist University shut down a bake sale Wednesday in which cookies were offered for sale at different prices, depending on the buyer's race or gender.

The sale was organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, who said it was intended as a protest of affirmative action.

A sign said white males had to pay $1 for a cookie. The price was 75 cents for white women, 50 cents for Hispanics and 25 cents for blacks.

Members of the conservative group said they meant no offense and were only trying to protest the use of race or gender as a factor in college admissions.

Similar sales have been held by College Republican chapters at colleges in at least five other states since February.

A black student filed a complaint with SMU, saying the sale was offensive. SMU officials said they halted the event after 45 minutes because it created a potentially unsafe situation.

"This was not an issue about free speech," Tim Moore, director of the SMU student center, said in a story for Thursday's edition of The Dallas Morning News. "It was really an issue where we had a hostile environment being created."

The sale drew a crowd outside the student center and several students engaged in a shouting match, Moore said.

David C. Rushing, 23, a law student and chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at SMU and for the state, said the event didn't get out of hand. At most, a dozen students gathered around the table of cookies and Rice Krispies treats, he said.

"We copied what's been done at multiple campuses around the country to illustrate our opinion of affirmative action and how we think it's unfair," he said.

Matt Houston, a 19-year-old sophomore, called the group's price list offensive.

"My reaction was disgust because of the ignorance of some SMU students," said Houston, who is black. "They were arguing that affirmative action was solely based on race. It's not based on race. It's based on bringing a diverse community to a certain organization."

The group sold three cookies during its protest, raising $1.50.



Hmmm. Free Speech?



Another knock on climate change hysteria 



Subject: Foreign Legion

You're clairvoyant. 

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA 

For forms of government, let fools contest; That which is best administered is best. -- Alexander Pope

No, but I do read history.




This week:


read book now




This week:


read book now


Friday, September 26, 2003

Subject: Microsoft Critic Forced Out (

Write a report critical of M$ and get fired:


Pete Flugstad

This is more complicated than it first appears to be.

There isn't any question that monocultures are more vulnerable to predation than diverse cultures; on the other hand, they can respond quickly. All this is theoretical, of course.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops.


  MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS: a continued thread; see below

Subject: Are we sure Republicans are in charge?

Because it sure doesn't seem like it. So much for a tax cut.

Internet Sales Tax May Get's Support



Subject: Fuel shortages in Iraq

If diesel and kerosene are difficult to obtain in Iraq, they probably aren’t going to be shipping any out of country soon… 

Tracy Walters

Precisely. I hear things are going better than the media report, and I am certainly willing to believe that and rejoice; but we do not seem to be pumping as much oil as before our expedition there, and we are asking for $87 billion which is, to be blunt, a lot of money for no visible return.

Minding our own business looks better all the time. But see below. 


Subject:  Some modern warfare articles

Good reading. 

Braxton Cook



I feel so much safer knowing our government is on the lookout for dangerous criminals.

(For the full story, )

(KRT) Who is Jose Luis Alvarez?

Jose Luis Alvarez would love to know, because that other Jose has been making his life miserable since 1996.

If that sounds confusing, imagine what it's like to be a regular Joe - which everyone calls him - who gets hauled off to a Miami International Airport detention room after each international business trip because he and a fugitive share the same name and birthday. ....

It began in 1996 when Alvarez got off a plane in Miami from Brazil, was handcuffed by federal agents and taken past hundreds of onlookers to a detention room. ....

After the handcuffing incident, he complained to U.S. Customs. K. Brian London, then the director of the administrative services division in the office of investigations, wrote on Oct. 17, 1996, to Alvarez that he was "not on record as a criminal suspect."

He advised Alvarez to carry the letter stating as much, which "will differentiate you from the records with the same or similar name as yours."

The letter didn't help. Alvarez has been stopped once in Atlanta and always at Miami where, he says, "the treatment is horrendous." He knows little about his namesake because, he says, authorities won't give him any information. ....

"Please allow me to express our empathy for Mr. Alvarez," Nicole Nason, assistant commissioner/Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote to Graham last July. "We certainly understand how discouraged and dissatisfied he has been … . We only ask that he try to understand that the TECS (Treasury Enforcement Communications System) and NCIC (National Crime Information Center) … produce `near' matches to ensure that all possibilities are viewed … . The importance of this crucial assessment process has been magnified by the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 … .

"We hope Mr. Alvarez will agree and continue to graciously cooperate with our inspectors as he has always done."

Alvarez feels anything but gracious.

Three weeks ago, Alvarez wrote to Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge that he has been detained "about 50 times, even after showing the enclosed (Customs) letter to the officer at the passport inspection booth. The inspector at U.S. Passport Control refuses to read the letter or even consider letting me go home. This is just not right.

[It is his duty not to read it. When a stupid man is doing something he knows is wrong, he always insists that it is his duty. JEP]

"Often times, customers of my company … may travel with me … and it is very embarrassing to have them see me experience these detentions and explain the reason for them."

Once, he said, he went so far as to bellow, "This is wrong!" in the detention room.

The response? "Siddown!"

Alvarez says the children returning from Argentina, Gianina, 11, and Alejandro, 8, know of his plight and know not to panic if he's detained.

One potential, if drastic, solution: Alvarez is considering changing his name to Palanza, his mother's maiden name.

"I don't want to," he sighed. "It complicates everything."

..........................Karl Lembke

We can all feel safer now.

And Joanne has decided to expand the pledge list:,2933,98180,00.html 

It is a PETA member landlord that is imposing this ridiculous condition in Austin Texas.

I will never vote to convict a person charged with any offense towards a telemarketer, a member of DMA, a member of PETA, or a member of ELF. Membership in those groups should be tantamount to a death sentence.


I think I won't go quite that far. 

On the other hand

Subject: Is it war?

See: < > -- 

"The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) 

Harry Erwin

Maybe I will. Spammers have been trying to destroy the various spam control sites; it is clearly war; and perhaps a pledge never to convict anyone of any crime in which a known spammer is the victim would work wonders.

A very public pledge.

And from Ed Hume

Car Crash Physics:

Practical physics for the driver: 

Ed Hume









This week:


read book now



This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 27, 2003

Subject: Boxcutters still pose aviation threat


   Just great.  All the hassles we go through traveling, and it means nothing.  It probably will not prevent a recurrence of a 9/11 type attack.


 Tracy Walters

Except that it hardly matters. We could pass out box cutters at the gates along with the "Bistro" boxes of delicious food. No one is going to be able to hijack an airplane with a box cutter. Not now that the rules of engagement have been changed, and the passengers are poised to pound the hijackers into the ground and stamp on their faces. 

If all you want to do is kill someone in the seat in front of you, a garrote will do. If you want to frighten people there are things you can carry that will do that. Cutting someone's throat with a box cutter is pretty dramatic, but the things are not that good a weapon compared to bludgeons and briefcases and cameras used as flails and so fort.

The purpose of TSA is to hire and employ TSA employees. You will not get much increase in security from its existence. If I want to destroy an airplane and I don't mind being killed in the process, I know how to do that, and nearly anyone on this web site can figure out how. TSA can't stop that. If I want to take over an airplane I need to get into the cockpit, and that we can prevent: and TSA won't be particularly relevant to preventing me.

I agree that guns can change the equation, but not a lot: even with guns the hijackers have to get into the cockpit. If the pilots are armed and the doors are strong -- both measures that cost somewhat less than TSA -- then once again the hijackers can harm passengers, but they can do that on city busses or on trains, or in the airport lobbies; what they can't do is get into the cockpit and fly the airplane into a target. Without access to the controls the worst they can do is cause a crash and even that isn't assured.

So what, precisely, is TSA good for other than to make it painful to travel? I invite replies from TSA employees or supervisors or apologists.

And see below


This deserves a longer answer than I have time to give, but I'll try:

Regarding Minding Our Own Business

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

We *are* minding our own business. We are cleaning up a nest of vipers that posed an unacceptable threat to this country. If we leave now, we will leave the place in a mess, and will wind up with a regime that will look upon us with disfavor. I consider this to be unsatisfactory, and I would think you would too: I don't seem to recall your being a proponent of half-finished work in the past.

In our last exchange, you suggested that the current administration's policies, if unsuccessful, would likely lead to the election of a Democrat next year. My question is: given your preference for a quick exit from Iraq, how would that be bad? As you, your correspondents, and others have argued, it's not the drunken-sailor domestic budget that distinguishes GWB from the Dems. So, if you are looking for a quick exit from Iraq--which all the Dem candidates are falling over themselves promising--and you want less domestic spending--which presumably, as with Clinton, would be the result of a Dem prez and a GOP Congress--why do you care who wins in 2004?

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

To which I can only say: invading Iraq was not minding our own business. The connection between Iraq and al Qaeda is tenuous at best. Cleaning out nests of vipers can be done a very great deal cheaper than $87 billion plus the costs already sunk there.

If the goal is to protect ourselves, we simply don't allow people from certain countries to come here. At all, or only with restrictions including surveillance; that will cost a LOT less than overseas adventures.

Prior to the end of the Seventy Years War a case could be made for US presence in the Middle East and other parts of the world. There were 26,000 nuclear weapons atop Intercontinental Ballistic Mssiles and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles aimed at our cities; communism was on the march as close as Nicaragua and of course Cuba and making inroads into Guatemala and from there to Mexico. Europe was threatened, and if everyone else has forgotten Prague and Budapest I have not. Viet Nam wasn't a bad place to fight: it was easier for us to get to than for the USSR, and the USSR could ill afford the materiel poured into what was for them a complete rat hole; and if they "won" in Viet Nam they didn't win very much. The prize was Indonesia, and that didn't fall when the dominoes teetered.

But with the end of the Seventy Years War our strategic goals should have changed. We don't need to "fight any fight, bear any burden" and we can revert to Adams: "We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own." In particular we don't have to go help the good guys when there's a lot of doubt about just who the good guys are. Israel is a lot closer to our notion of a civilized peaceful nation than are the other areas in the Middle East, but it's a long way from Herzl's dream of just another country; and while if we must choose sides in that fight it's pretty clear which side the US will and should choose, the real question is, what business is it of ours, and what good can we do to begin with? There are are no democracies in the Middle East other than Israel is self-evident; that Israel cannot remain both "The Jewish State" and a democracy without ethnic cleansing is also pretty self-evident; and is it not at all clear that the United States can remain a republic while actively helping in that endeavor. 

Our strategic dependence on the Middle East is economic only, and we have the means to break most of those ties, with both technology and domestic production. It wouldn't be cheap, but neither is imperialism.

So: what is our business? If it is righting all the wrongs of the world, to protect the weak and make humble the proud, then we are set to become the new Rome, and we need to restructure ourselves accordingly. If it is to protect our shores, and become as independent as we can: if it is to curry liberty; if it is to make business the business of the United States while remaining strong enough to defend ourselves; if it is to put resources into countering threats that can actually come harm us (hint: think Far East rather than Middle East); then perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing in Mesopotamia.

We won a splendid victory, one that military historians will note for a long time. A nation never before easily conquered fell in short order. 

But now what? Defeating arabs is one thing. Governing them is another. Why do we want to do that? To what end? For what reward?

I will agree that we are there, and to just cut and run might be a bad thing. My friend XX does not agree: run now rather than later.

The argument that what we leave behind will not like us is irrelevant: we don't need to be liked. The question is, can they HARM us; and our answer should be a new Doctrine:

"Any nation that harbors those who actually harm the United States will be pulled down and its governing class removed from power if not utterly destroyed. We will not be concerned about who replaces those rulers, for the same doctrine applies to them."

If we conceived it as our mission to protect the civilized against the uncivilized, we threw that to the winds in Liberia under Carter, and we haven't recovered from that. If Carter was right to ignore Liberia where a handful of Marines could have put down a revolt of barbarism against civilization, then there is no place on Earth that we are obligated to protect the weak and make humble the proud.

Enough. If I thought it would be a simple and short term thing to build some kind of stable middle class government in Iraq -- democracy, republic, or aristocracy, a rule with some order and law and civility -- I would be for it. If it can be shown that it is possible with reasonable commitment of resources, I am willing to be convinced that, having got in there, we ought to finish that job.

So far I am utterly convinced that it will not be easy or short term; and I have yet to be convinced that it is possible with reasonable resources without converting ourselves into an imperial power.


And for fun


Thought you would enjoy this addition.

An important addition to Cow Economics.

One farmer (Amish Old Order) had two cows.

His neighbor was a farmer but English(not Amish) and had no cows. The cowless farmer made his money from Amish neighbors by hauling their bulls around with his truck to small herds that had no bulls. Did not even have to load the bull, just drove the truck.

Comments about hauling bull aside, economics and religion can make for some very strange bedfellows.

Doug Troup

-- Troup & Associates, LLC - email







This week:


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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Dr Pournelle,

Planned Empires

One of your other correspondents recently quoted... “...whereas the English had a plan -- spread their views and their culture worldwide -- we don't.”

Uh… no. The British Empire was once famously described as having been being created ”in a fit of absentmindedness”. (And as a Scot I am obliged to point out that it was not the English alone who created that empire; without the vigorous and enthusiastic participation of the Scots as co-rulers it would never have happened.)

The British Empire grew, like Topsy, because at each individual stage, the alternative— not to grow— was clearly worse; it would have meant leaving frontiers unsecured, exposing British traders to risk of foreign competition, leaving benighted savages without the benefit of Christian civilisation or (worst of all) letting in the French. It even grew because native rulers in India, Africa and Malaya, actually applied of their own free will to join, to be taken under the protection of the Great Mother Empress (Queen Victoria to you and me)...

... and then one fine day you wake up to find you rule over one quarter of the human race.

It can be said that this random jumble of conquests and acquisitions and treaties bears a certain resemblance to the way the Roman Empire grew in its day. Rome’s principle concern was defensive; to have defensible frontiers rather than to spread the glories and benefits of Roman civilisation across the entire planet. But that was the effect all the same. Augustus warned his successors not to extend the empire beyond the frontiers he had establish, and by and large, his advice was followed. Claudius added most of Britain to the Empire and Titus added what is now Rumania (the clue is in the name!) but apart from occasional excursions that conquered but did not hold territory, his advice was taken.

So too with Britain although it was a sea power and the Romans a land power, which is why the Roman Empire was contiguous and the British Empire spread across the globe. So too were the empires’ metropolitan territories and populations remarkably small in the context of the whole empires: Great Britain itself in the case of the British and Latina in the case of the Roman; yet both did remarkable similar things to attempt to rebalance this condition. Rome extended to benefits of Roman citizenship to the whole of Italy; Britain settled Canada, Australia and New Zealand to create the so-called ‘White Dominions’ where the people (at least the immigrants) had the full benefit of British citizenship.

Both empires established firmer and fairer systems of justice than had existed before, with relatively impartial courts and police to administer them. The abolition of slavery was never on the Roman agenda, but slavery was abolished in the British Empire some 30 years before the United States. In Rome, the Empire kept the form of direct democracy that had preceded it, but no-one could pretend the Roman Empire was democratic in any reasonable modern meaning of the term.

In Britain, on the other hand, the UK itself actually became more democratic in the modern sense as the empire grew, until by the time the British Empire had reached its maximum extent in the 1920’s, the UK was a fully modern democracy with universal suffrage. By the time the empire was being dismantled after World War II, every colony was given independence with a democratic form of government based on the British model. Not all have lasted, but surprisingly many have, not least India which can now rightly claim to be the largest functioning democracy in the world.

As for planned empires? I don’t think I know of many that lasted, or that one would want to be associated with too closely: Nazi Germany? Napoleonic France? Fascist Italy? Pre-war Imperial Japan? Soviet Russia?

I think that empires that grow organically may have a better prospect of lasting, or of leaving a worthy heirloom to their successor states that those planned as deliberate acts of aggressive conquest. Yet even good things come to an end one day.

Today the United States, if it is to become an empire, will do so by accident. I do not believe there is any plan in the White House or the Pentagon for world conquest. “Today we are taking over the whole Middle East; next year it’s the turn of central and south America, then Africa ...” No. If an American Empire happens, it’ll be slowly, by accident, by particular problems and crisis in different parts of the world. And it’ll be a mess. And eventually it will drain even the United States. But at least it will be a ‘good’ empire, like the Roman or British, rather than an evil, planned one like the Soviets or Napoleon.

Jim Mangles

Actually, Virgil has much to say about Empire and glory, and while much of the Empire Augustus inherited was acquired by accident, or as a residual from war, there were also explicit imperialists who wanted expansion. Senators wanted provinces to govern: it was a sure way to wealth for a class forbidden to engage in commerce.

If you consider Empire to be rule over people regardless of their consent, Rome acquired its first imperial provinces at the end of the Punic Wars, when much of Sicily and Sardinia fell under Roman rule; but were not considered candidates for inclusion as Campagnia and Apulia and even the Samnite territories had been. During the Hannibal phase of the Punic Wars, many provincial cities closed their gates to Hannibal and remained loyal to Rome -- even places that had fairly recently fallen under Roman rule. But Sardinia in particular was no to be ruled by its consent.

And Egypt was willed to Rome by one of the Ptolemy dynasty and there was never any question that Egyptians (including the Greeks and rather secularized Jews of Alexandria) would be included into the Republic; by then imperial rule was inevitable, given that the Senators and others really wanted the posts as imperial governors, and had the political clout to get such.

That will happen here, of course, as it is discovered how lucrative being a pro-consul can be. The Saudi's have a habit of hiring as consultants at very good pay the "retired" government workers who have held posts influencing US policy toward the Middle East. It has proven to be a very astute thing to do: clearly they hire those they see as friends, not those who have been their enemies. And for the moment we watch our pro-consuls and send auditors to insure their honest, as Sulla was sent as Quaestor to Marius; we all know how that turned out.

Herman Kahn once said that it was possible that the natural state of mankind was to live under Empire, and the natural trend of Empire was to expand until it came next to another Empire of substantial power. I have seen little to refute that notion. The Framers were well aware of that and hoped to introduce a New World Order and a new kind of nation that ruled only by consent of the governed. We had a great run of that, too.

But China is an Empire. Russia was and will become one. "Europe" is rapidly becoming imperial although the full consolidation into a European Empire ruled from Brussels hasn't come about. It may be that we will have no choice.

Subject: Intrigues of Empire.

Roland Dobbins


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: 9/29/2003                                                           

 subject: manufacturing in the U.S.

Dear Jerry:
        I doubt you'll agree with him, but these two columns by Alan Reynolds at least have some interesting statistics on this subject.


It may be that I should rethink my position, but so far I continue to be concerned: we should make what we consume, and we should make use of our citizens skilled in the non-intellectual trades; lest we be entirely dependent on others for our livelihood. Liberty has a price; paying more for underwear and blue jeans may be part of it.


As an airline pilot I agree with you 100%. It is all theatre. The dollars are being grossly misdirected. Every time I go to work I am amazed at the stupidity of some of these folks.

Not too long ago a fellow ahead of me at the screening area was being given a hard time. He was trying to explain, in vain, that a few years ago he had surgery that required a small metal plate to be applied to the side of his skull. And that was why the damn hand held wand was going off when they passed it over his head. BTW, he had very short hair - marine type cut. As I left him I noticed that even the yo-yo supervisor could not come to grips with this. Don't know if he was eventually "allowed" to proceed.

You are so correct in stating that the purpose of the TSA is to employ TSA personnel.


Peter D


You may be sure nothing will be done: the TSA will be a powerful lobby and campaign contributor from now on. They may fix minor problems like having certifiable imbeciles as supervisors, but the system will remain.

And see below


Dr Pournelle,

PowerPoint, NASA & Columbia 

We had heard earlier that PowerPoint was in some way 'to blame' for the Columbia tragedy, but here we— or at least I— learn how for the first time, at least to some degree.

I have always been profoundly suspicious of PowerPoint but was never quite sure exactly why. Now I think I see why: it enables those of us afflicted with cloudy or poor thinking (which is most of us) to present our cloudy or un-thought-out thoughts in such a way as to make them look clear and well-thought-out notwithstanding. At the same time it leads those of us with clearer thinking foolish enough to use this tool, to present our thoughts in such a way as to make them look no better than average, pace the PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address endemic on the Internet: 

PowerPoint, the Great Leveller. Of exactly the wrong sort.

In such a way, improvement means deterioration,

Jim Mangles

Well said. So what do we DO about it? I recall at one time I was very happy to have something like PowerPoint, and writing enthusiastically about it; but that was long ago in a galaxy far away...







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