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Mail 279 October 13 - 19, 2003






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Monday  October 13, 2003

I am laid low by the crud. There won't be much in the way of replies, and if they don't make sense I would not be surprised.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: 10/13/03 subject: Identity theft

Dear Jerry:

"Robert Cringely" has been writing about the identity theft lately. His latest column has an interesting suggestion on how to deal with the problem.

Best, Stephen



Jerry, Ed Hume writes:

> It may be that the Patent Office is patenting methods that are not > sufficiently novel, nonobvious or uniquely useful to warrant a > patent

This is *precisely* the problem. Witness:

Microsoft Patents 'Phone-Home' Failure Reporting:


Which is something IBM mainframes have done for years, if not *decades*.

And again, MS Patents IM Feature Used Since At Least 1996


Tales like this are *legion*. I have yet to see ONE software patent that was NOT an obvious extension of something else and completely ordinary. I don't have a problem with patents in general and the concept makes sense (although I think 20 years for a software patent is way out of control), but the USPTO is completely out of control.

The problem is the USPTO is focusing more on issuing patents that making sure the patent is novel and unique. They give bonuses to examiners for issuing patents. And the examiners themselves are often novices in the software world - often right out of college. They don't know what's been done before, especially in the main frame world or other more esoteric specialties that wasn't taught in their Intro to Java class. How would they know that 90% of what's going on in "enterprise" computing today was done by IBM 30 years ago.

It's a mess and the only one who's gaining by any of it is the USPTO, which makes money off of issuing patents, and large companies who can have a whole bag full of obvious patents that can be used to bludgeon everyone else into submission. The myth of the patent protecting the "little guy" is just that - a myth.


for lots more sickening details. The list of patents already withdrawn is often interesting to look at. How some of them ever got past the examiner in the first place is beyond me.

Pete Flugstad





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Tuesday,  October 14, 2003

We knew it all the time:

Evolution Primed Kids to Hate Vegetables

Betterhumans Staff Friday, October 10, 2003, 4:12:44 PM CT

Kids may have a really good reason for not wanting to eat vegetables: Thousands of years of evolution.

After studying 564 mothers with young children, scientists from [27]Cancer Research UK have concluded that kids' pickiness about food is an evolutionary trait.

"Plant toxins can be very dangerous to children, as could the effects of food poisoning from unrefrigerated meat," says Lucy Cooke of Cancer Research UK's Health Behaviour Unit at [28]University College London.

"It makes sense that humans may have evolved to be highly suspicious of certain food types as youngsters and only to trust foods they have eaten before," she says.


The column this week ( ) is largely on Mozilla. We have considerable mail on the subject, but I suggest you read the column first.

As far as Mozilla stealing the association for opening images, you need to menu to to the Mozilla Edit->Preferences and then expand "Advanced" and click on "System". I personally use Mozilla for all except JPEG, GIF, BMP and ICO images. Just click off the check marks and all will be well.

Let me detail a few other options that I use that I don't think are the default (from the top)

Appearance - Themes. I like Orbit 3+1. There is a link to get new themes at the bottom of the themes panel. Navigator - Smart Browsing - I enable internet keywords. This makes any URL without a period a search. - Internet Search - I use Google - Tabbed Browsing - I turn on "load links in background", "Middle Click" and "Control Enter" options. Privacy - Popup Windows - I block them Advanced - Scripts and Plugins - I turn off the ability for a script to "Move or resize" or "Raise" windows. - Keyboard - I turn on "find as you type"

You really need to see the popup blocking and tabbed browsing in action. For example, I'm viewing Byte by middle click on the stories from the main page. Then I navigate the tabs using Ctrl-PgDn. Middle click on a tab closes it.

I haven't seen a popup ad in over a year. If you turn on the "play a sound" option on Mozilla you'd see just how often that works.

Of course you could get add-ons for IE, but why bother? Mozilla is faster with more features, and better supported. It is more secure and more portable (I run versions for Windoze, Linux, OS/2 and AIX). And you don't need to search for a popup blocker, Ad-Aware, the latest critical updates.... (need I go on?)

Tom Link A faithful reader since 1986.

I confess that I tend to tune out when I see "Windoze". But thank you.


Thanks for the column on trying Mozilla. I recommend Mozilla or Netscape 7.x to anyone who will listen because of the security problems with IE and the "size" of the MS IE "target".

There are web sites that will choke on Mozilla, but they are relatively few and far between.

For another issue you may want to know about MS IE, check out this story about MS IE bugs and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

Chris -- G. Chris Boynton  University of Miami, t Department of Physics, 

=New version available, see below.


And on another subject

Hi Jerry, apropos to the recent discussion of climate modeling and simulating the past correctly before we use a model to try and predict the future, this last week the Japanese Earth Simulator project just had the first instance of a spontaneously appearing hurricane happen in their model. It's the first to have the CPU to use small enough cells (10 meters vs. the past best of 100) to have them pop up. All past models haven't had the proper resolution for such weather patters to arise, so I think we can discount them for predicting the future. (A link to the Earth Simulator can be found in the supercomputer rankings at

Raul Gonzalez

Computing power is definitely a limiting factor for models, but unless one puts in solar variability (on which we need more data) the models aren't going to be too useful over the long haul.

Hi Jerry, I think you're definitely right about needed to include solar variability in any accurate climate modeling. But that is just one easy to tweak variable in a simulation.

One of my neighbors, who is a very lefty professor of the late 60's variety, just about went through the roof when I told him about the Earth Simulator getting the first spontaneous hurricane in a model. He about lost it on the global warming 'party line', as he realized that all the past 'sky is falling' rhetoric really was built on a base of sand, and not anything you could call science.

So there are possibly major political impacts of that result, but at least now we can start getting useful data from simulations.


Raul Gonzalez






I have several letters on this:

Hi Jerry,

I thought you may fid the following of interest. I know you originally proposed the idea in Mote in God's Eye, its good to see that Nasa is having success is some areas at least.

They have now chalked up a major accomplishment... and a "first." The team has developed and demonstrated a small-scale aircraft that flies solely by means of propulsive power delivered by an invisible, ground-based laser. The laser tracks the aircraft in flight, directing its energy beam at specially designed photovoltaic cells carried onboard to power the plane's propeller. "The craft could keep flying as long as the energy source, in this case the laser beam, is uninterrupted," said Robert Burdine, Marshall's laser project manager for the test. "This is the first time that we know of that a plane has been powered only by the energy of laser light. It really is a groundbreaking development for aviation." 

Kind Regards, David Peters.

PS. I'm glad to hear that Sable is recovering well

It is certainly good news. If we have the KW we can fly without much fuel...

Subject: Seem familiar?

Roland Dobbins



Joel Rosenberg on neocons and the UN

I think the neocons would -- and at least this neocon is -- more than a little irritated with the administration letting the UN back into Iraq, but there are some good points to it. (Then again, despite the pravda, neocons don't run the Bush administration's foreign policy. State is in the hands of Powell -- sort of a UN at Foggy Bottom, if you read Joel Mowbray -- and while Rumsfeld is advised by neocons, he's increasingly being cut out by State apparatchiks.)

1. When things go to hell, it can be blamed on the UN.

2. More dead UN bodies; possibly fewer dead Americans. The "resistance" doesn't distinguish between the two, after all, and UN facilities are likely to continue to be softer targets. The UN doesn't exactly do security well, either.

3. When you don't have a workable policy, it makes sense to punt it to somebody else.

I'm not really pointing fingers at the Bush administration. I always thought -- and said -- that the idea of an Arab democracy was a longshot. It gets longer every day. What was needed was a Clay or a MacArthur -- and I'm not sure either of them could have done what was needed if there was CBS News watching every moment. Bremer impresses me as being a pretty good administrator, despite the limitations of what he can do, but those limitations are dramatic.

The policy should have been to smash Saddam's state, and repeat the smashing if necessary. Rewrapping that as a "liberation" requires that you actually liberate something.


Joel Rosenberg

Well, we have always found substantial areas of agreement. As now.

We went in despite misgivings, with the message that we were carrying freedom and democracy on the points of our bayonets. Napoleon did that sort of thing too. The difference is that Napoleon gave ruthless but efficient government; competent imperialism. (Of course he'd then install one of his dopey relatives to undo most of what he'd done.)

We went in proclaiming Liberty throughout the land and to the inhabitants thereof. That didn't work so well. We also went in thinking we'd get the oil pumping again and that would pay for the war and for rehabilitation of Iraq while cheap world market oil would do wonders for our economy. That didn't work either: we aren't getting the oil pumping. I am assuming that if it could be done we'd be seeing some progress we are not seeing.

So when those things didn't work, as you say: smash Saddam's regime and get out. Let things come apart: but make certain everyone knows we'll go back if any threats to the US develop. We might even keep an enclave in the South, or up by the Turkish border, as an active base. Surely there's some part of Iraq that's reasonably salubrious. God knows central Mesopotamia isn't.

Punt to the UN is hard cheese on Iraq, and may be the equivalent of what we ought to have done in the first place. We'll see.


$87 Billion for Solar Power Satellites is sounding like a REAL bargain See

for an overview of the the difficulties in raising Iraqi oil production levels



It would cost about $20 billion (now; a lot less earlier) to develop and deploy a fleet of reusable heavy lift space ships. Once those are in place, building SSPS is feasible.

But SSPS isn't the only path to energy independence. More standardized 1 GW nuclear power plants at about a billion dollars a plant (it could be a lot less if the legal process is streamlined) would get us going.

I think when it is over our Iraq adventure will have soaked up more than we would have needed for energy independence -- and we won't have energy independence.





I may have posted this before:

Subject: Memory Diagnostic software from Microsoft 

Dr. Pournelle I'm a long time fan and I just noticed this and thought you may be interested. 

ps. Hope the dog is feeling better regards steve mackelprang


All's well that ends well: 

And home-schooling is what CBS is crusading against, in order that there be no escape from the public school Gestapo.

Ed Hume

When a stupid man is doing something he knows is wrong, he always insists that it is his duty.

We have here some really stupid people.

Suppose the girl had died? Would they then charge the nurse with reckless indifference? Or give her a big reward for upholding policy in difficult circumstances, namely, watching the girl die while withholding the medication that might have saved her?

Wonderful people. I recall when Texans were made of sterner stuff.

And see below. 





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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Why College Can Wait The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3.10.17

By ROBERT CABIN Most of our efforts to improve higher education depend on the assumption that students really want to learn and simply need new and improved techniques to help them do so. But many students are disillusioned by and uninterested in academics. They are on our campuses because they think they need a degree to get a good job, because their parents expect them to go to college, or because they just don't know what else to do. Asking professors to find more effective ways to educate those students is like asking chefs to find ways to entice customers who aren't hungry to eat. Wouldn't it be better for those students to do something else with their lives after high school until they are actually interested in exploring higher education?

When I was a shy and naive -- but headstrong -- 18-year-old, in 1984, I left home, but not for college. I still vividly remember my first morning on the road, waking at dawn to the gurgly call of red-winged blackbirds.


If you are currently in college and hate it, read the whole article...


Mozilla 1.5 was released today. You can download the 11.7 MB Windows version from:

or the 13.8 MB Linux version from:

The servers are already very busy and likely to remain so for the next several days.

I downloaded version 1.4.1 when it was released five days ago, and it has most of the 1.5 features. I've not yet had a chance to install 1.5 and play with it, although I am looking forward to doing so. Both 1.4.1 and 1.5 are significant upgrades to version 1.4. The 1.5 version is officially the last monolithic Mozilla version before they split it into the separate Firebird browser and Thunderbird email products.

If you're still using an earlier version of Mozilla or a legacy browser like Internet Explorer, I strongly recommend that you download Mozilla and give it a fair trial. If IE is your main browser now, you may hate Mozilla for the first day or two, but I think you'll find that once you're used to Mozilla you won't be able to go back to IE.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson


Subject: Chinese Space Station 

Dr. Pournelle,

Your recent comment on China building a space station and linking the lack of same by the US to the Iraqi War is quite unfair. It's not like Bush is spending NASA's money! You are quite aware that NASA wasted countless billions without building a space station, and the decision not to build one was made long before any Bush was President. Isn't this the same sort of nonsensical rhetoric Proxmire used against the space program?

Bill Grigg

Since I know you have been reading things here for a while, I am at a loss to understand your meaning.

Certainly NASA wastes money, and certainly I would never ever give NASA any money to try to get energy independence.

I thought my comments were directed to the discrepancy in national goals: the Chinese want to be a space faring nation. The US wants to plant democracy in Iraq.

All's Well That Ends Well

I'm surprised to hear that you consider this a good ending, but I suspect you're being sarcastic. A 15 year old has had his freshman (I think) school year severely interrupted for doing nothing more than trying to help someone in distress, possibly saving her life. Instead of teaching children to make intelligent rational decisions allowing them to take care of themselves in an emergency, we have now taught them to fear reprisal for right action, Unbelievable. Frankly, I'm surprised the parent's would stand for their children being expelled, but I don't know them, so I'm just being judgmental.

Anyway, thanks for a good read as always..

Steve Steve Lastoe figurehead Quick Byte PC Solutions Inc. 

First, the "All's well that ends well" title in Ed Hume's letter was, like yours, supplied by him. 

His view seems to be that getting the kids out of that school and into home schooling may be the best thing that could happen to them.

As I say, Texans used to be made of sterner stuff.

And perhaps they are?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Regarding the Texas Inhaler Incident I heard a radio interview with the principal of the school these students attended.

For the record the principal stated that the girl's life was never in danger. He further stated that the two students use different prescriptions (entirely different drugs) and that the one prescribed to the male student is indeed listed as a dangerous drug and could potentially have caused more harm than good. He also stated that the male student had been warned on a previous occasion not to offer his inhaler to the girl so he knew the rules.

The principal also explained that, much as he may wish it were otherwise, there is no room for a judgment call and that the policy he must operate under is very specific. It was only at the expulsion hearing that any discretion could be exercised. At the time of the radio interview the hearing had not taken place so there was only a little discussion regarding possible outcomes but it could have been as little as "time served" (the time from the incident when the expulsion order was first issued until the time of the hearing). The final sentence does appear to be a bit harsh and I would be interested in hearing another radio interview with the principal to hear the rationale behind the final decision.

I may be naive but I'm more inclined to believe the spoken words of someone directly connected with a story than a reporter who is interpreting what he hears (or thinks he hears) with the intent to make a good story so I'm more inclined to believe the explaination of the principal than the story referenced on your web site when it comes to the facts of the story.


Eric Buchanan

Interesting. The reports we had, and on which I formed my view, were that they used precisely the same inhalers.

On the other hand, the public statements by the Principal were all of the "I was only doing my duty" variety and said nothing whatever about either prior incidents or different meds involved.

And finally, the fact that the parents of both children are incensed but at the school, not at the boy, says a great deal to me.



Subject: Want a lift?

Next stop, 37,700,000th floor. 



Why we ought to let teacher's unions run our schools

Now *this* is amazing! --snip-- "But when Esquith asked a school district supervisor for official approval, he received this note: 'Mr. Esquith, it is not appropriate that you stay after school to teach Shakespeare. It would be better if you did something with the children that is academic'."

<Pursuing Happiness, Through Hard Work (>>

Rod McFadden

I fear I am not at all astonished. 





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Thursday, October 16, 2003

I got this yesterday but I was in poor spirits and didn't get it posted. Perhaps it is as well since one of the patches seems to break some systems. More as I know more.

Microsoft today announced five (!) new security flaws, which are described in Security Bulletins MS03-041, MS03-042, MS03-043, MS03-044, and MS03-045.

The good news is that only one of the five Security Bulletins describes an important security flaw. The bad news is that the other four describe critical security flaws.

You can read the sorry details at:

I've already submitted to Microsoft my suggestion for a new corporate slogan: "What do you want to patch today?"

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Let me caution you again: check before you apply these. There seems to be some problem. More when I know more: watch this space.







Feds Find He Wasn't a Hacker  

He didn't really need those 16 months of his life.

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint 

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

This was in the morning newspapers as well. The implications are very large, bigger than I have the mental ability to deal with until I recover from whatever has me in its grip.

He has an enormous law suit of course, including not only against his former employers (who appear to be out of business) but possibly against the United States itself; although that latter is not likely to fly. The empire will consider it maiestas and deal appropriately. 


On Education

Dear Jerry:

Once, in one of my security columns I wrote, "In California we have an interesting idea. Not only do we spend more on prisons than we on schools, but we are now intent on turning our schools into prisons." I am sure that a lot of high school students do feel that way about their circumstances. Up here in the mountains where I live the local school board , faced with budget cutbacks, wants to concentrate on 'academics", which means that music, drama, and other life-style enhancing "extracurricular activities" will be abolished unless concerned citizens chip in and raise the money to fund them. This is a periodic passion of those who are convinced that the only road to success is through a four year degree program and ignore the evidence that music courses have a favorable impact on mathematics learning and that drama is a sneaky way to teach literature and a wide range of skills you need to succeed in the adult world of work.

The hard truth is that most kids are automatically deprived of their civil rights by mandatory attendance and child labor laws, on the dubious premise that all real learning stops when you graduate from high school. The atmosphere inside most high schools can be very much like those in a prison, down to the gangs and the oppression of the weak by the strong. Home schooling alternatives sound good but their very existence represents a systematic failure of the educational system to provide what tax dollars are paying for. Perhaps if we spent a little more, we would have more people interested in getting a good education. Right now being a teacher is a low wage , low status, high stress job that simply does not attract enough quality people. Going up the scale, community colleges here are now stuffing fifty people into a class, which means that any pretense of quality instruction is a joke. There are not enough hours in a day for one instructor to service that many students. (Most instructors have three to five different classes to teach in a semester).

A lot of high school students, even before they graduate, sign up for community college classes, and so do some who are already at four year schools in fields where the instruction is more important than the degree.

And what does a degree represent these days anyway? The ability to pass a certain number of pre-determined courses in a given field does not magically confer competence in that field. There are some things that can only be learned through direct experience, which is why an MD is the start, not the finish, of a medical education.

In other instances, the degree has become the entry level for the field. For instance, a Masters degree in almost any topic no longer qualifies you for a college teaching job in that field. The bar has been raised to PhD in a wide variety of fields, even when teaching at community colleges. I assume that this change has come about to fulfill the promises made to PhD candidates that they would get a college teaching job.

What we have at all levels of this society is creeping credentialism. The possession of a particular ticket is more important than experience or innate ability. This is one of the phenomena that makes us less competitive in the world economy.

There was a proposal a couple of years ago to eliminate the last two years of high school for most students. Even now, four out of five students do not go on to higher education and that last two years is all "college prep". Nothing happened with this idea of course. If they weren't in school those kids would be in the job market competing with older adults. And the police like and enforce the truancy laws. Doing so has a statistical impact on the burglary rate.

My own experience tells me that no one can be forced to learn. There has to be some kind of incentive beyond simply making a living to inspire someone to undertake a course of higher education. If we have too many unemployed PhD's and not enough people, not just qualified but willing to teach K-12 school, then our priorities need to be re-examined.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

One needs some reality checking here. First, there is no correlation between money spent on education and any measurable result. Certainly there is some minimum spending required, but it is unlikely that any school district in the country spends below it; while some of the highest bucks/pupil schools such as the District of Columbia schools, are not arguably but demonstrably among the absolute worst school systems in the world.

Until you allow local control of finances coupled with real control over not only spending but the whole system, you will not get results. Yes. That can result in arbitrary and capricious governance of the schools, and injustices to teachers. Those things happen in private schools now: but they are not wide spread, and the private schools get better results than the public. The public schools are in the hands of unions determined to protect incompetent, even willfully incompetent, teachers. 

Yes: local control will lead to some horrible situations, very bad schools, money stolen, money squandered while children don't learn -- sound familiar? The present system was supposed to stop all this. Has it?

Yes: there are many good teachers in the system. But the system doesn't exist to help them much: its main job is to prevent any sane adult supervision over the school system. I could list tons of examples, incompetent fools given administrative positions to get them out of the classrooms because there is no chance of firing them being one of the most heinous. And of course our "Civil Rights" movements have made discipline in the classrooms nearly impossible, meaning that the students who want to learn find themselves deprived of the opportunity, and the teachers who love teaching find themselves in the role of jailors.

My remedies are simple. Get State and Federal money out of the school business. Make local districts raise the money and give local boards the control of that money. Abolish all forms of tenure and union "protection" of teachers. Yes: that will bring us back to the "Our Miss Brooks" days of teachers being worried about what the school board thinks of them. So be it. It's not a good or fair result, it's not desirable, but it's preferable to the madness we have now.

In the District of Columbia, make Congress take over the system. It can spend anything it likes: but it is to be responsible for results, and until it is getting better results than the rest of the country, Washington and its "experts" can keep their silly mouths shut about how to teach kids in public schools, since clearly they can't teach their own -- of course most Congresscritters and Department of Education officials don't send their children to public schools. Which ought to tell you a lot.

One way we can tell if they have done a good job in DC is when the children of the mighty go to the public schools in the District. Don't hold your breath.

And yes: if you try to tailor education to what the kids can learn, you will have far more vocational schools and far fewer of children will go to college. The instant that happens, you will find that a disproportionate number of those who are in manual trades or non-academic paths are racial minorities, and many of them will be from poor families. That will end that particular experiment. Better to level things into a pit than to have inequalities whatever the real cause of the inequality.

The US school system isn't designed to educate children. It is designed to look fair by leveling the playing field into a deep pit into which money can be thrown. Those who can escape it, including the children of the teachers in the system, do escape. And yes, I know there are exceptions. I lived in one at one time: a gated community with a public school in its midst. It was wonderful, the state paid for our little enclave school. And of course that school was featured every time the district wanted to show results.

There are other exceptions. Most, you will find, have small districts with considerable local control.

And there are inner city school exceptions, where an exceptional principal manages to get community support and enthusiasm for discipline and learning. They seldom last. There will be law suits over disciplinary measures, the principal will be transferred, or the principal will finally give up in despair. It happens far too often.

Charlie Sheffield and I wrote most of it in HIGHER EDUCATION. I have become less optimistic since we wrote that book.

More below


On Iraq

Dear Jerry,
I have my doubts about the whole Iraq thing (and yes, I was largely in favor of it six months ago), and many of them have come from reading your cogent comments.
I'm curious what you make of this:
An unscientific poll, as noted in the article.  ON the other hand, the article itself is VERY "scientific" in the artful way it portrays a non-random "bitch session" poll (the "pollsters" grabbed anybody in a unit who was sitting around not doing anything...does that "sampling method" seem to you likely to pick up a rather high proportion of "shit-birds" and "sad-sacks's", eager to "piss and moan" at the drop of a har (or questionaire, in this case)?)
I spent three years enlisted in the Regular Army, and I know just what sort of "soldier" they got their answers from.  I spent way too much time picking up slack from the type of whiner these people from "Stars and Stripes" got their data from.  Any organization has it's dead weight, and it's never hard to find and portray as the "norm".  It's dishonest, but that never stopped anyone from pursuing their ideological agenda, now, did it?
As for re-enlistment, in my own unscientific experience the Army never got more than about 25% of first-term enlisted troops to "re-up".  The real potential manpower "hit" the military might take from the Iraq situation is in new enlistments.  An article I read a week or two back pointed out these were still at sufficient levels, though somewhat down.  An improving economy was seen as playing a significant role in that lower rate for first-time enlistees, however.
Also note how the article refers to "Experts in public opinion and the military concurred that the poll was not necessarily representative", but the only "expert" quoted is a university professor (and of course he is impartial! LMAO!) whose only quote is to buttress the poll as a useful indicator:
"The numbers are consistent with what I suspect is going on there". or in other words you could imagine the professor saying: "Why yes, the numbers from my unscientific data exactly match my preconceived opinion as to what is going on here!" (Where is Professor Irwin Corey when you -REALLY- need him?!)
Extracts from the article:
Many Troops Dissatisfied, Iraq Poll Finds
Though not obtained through scientific methods, the survey results suggest that a combination of difficult conditions, complex missions and prolonged tours in Iraq is wearing down a significant portion of the U.S. force and threatening to provoke a sizable exodus from military service.
Experts in public opinion and the military concurred that the poll was not necessarily representative, but they characterized it as a useful gauge of troop sentiment. "The numbers are consistent with what I suspect is going on there," said David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park. "I am getting a sense that there is a high and increasing level of demoralization and a growing sense of being in something they don't understand and aren't sure the American people understand."


I am not sure I am sane enough to comment here, but your analysis seems reasonable. Most troops will grouse, and warriors hate the kind of duty Iraq imposes.

I don't see the danger to the republic as coming from within the army, in the sense of mass disaffection and mutiny. Those things have happened in the past, but they don't happen often. The path from republic to empire is a bit more complicated than that.

You can think of scenarios. A unit is besieged by tens of thousands of chanting civilians. Those behind cry forward! Those in front cry back! The situation is stalemated and someone in the crowd begins firing. Troopers go down. A junior officer panics and orders his men to fire. The crowd goes mad. The colonel sees his men in danger. The terrible firepower of a US battalion in unleashed. Thousands are killed. A mosque is destroyed. Clergy are killed.

And the reaction starts over here, and the colonel is to be thrown to the wolves. A general states his support for the colonel. The general is threatened. He appeals to his comrades...

 That's what I can think up off the top of my stopped up head. It's probably not plausible.

Another way is thousands of incidents, each causing a certain degree of callousness, and alienating soldiers from citizens little by tiny little...

Anyway thanks for sending that, and I'll try to make better sense in a couple of days when I am recovered. And I am still looking for an acceptable way out of Iraq. If they have told us what the exit strategy is, I have not heard it. But:

I've returned from duty in Iraq.  I'd like to be reinstated to you mailing list.  I'm sure my "subscription fee" has lapsed, I'll take care of that directly.  Visited your website today...  I must say that we disagree.  The paradigm WILL change in the middle east (though we can still lose there).  Here are some links on articles done on my Marines while we were in Iraq:

I eagerly await good news from that area. Thanks. And I think everyone understands this much: if we send troops into harm's way we are responsible for supporting them. Empire or republic, that never changes. And we sent the troops to Iraq. It's the nation's problem now, and I for one will be glad of any good outcome.


Subject: Bluetooth is dead?

I found an article on slashdot about Bluetooth being "dead." Save time and go right to  to see the actual column about this.

Joe Zeff


I have heard of this document for years, but I never before read a detailed account of its history:

I think Orwell once said that, in discussing the Jews in relation to modern life, it is impossible to put a foot right. The history of this document seems to bear this out.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Redirected from Protocols of the Elders of Zion) 

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a document supposedly produced by an international Jewish conspiracy, describing their plans to achieve Jewish world domination. The overwhelming majority of historians in the United States and Europe strongly believe the Protocols to be a forgery (see false document), produced by the Tsarist Russian secret police, the Okhrana.

It is widely considered to mark the beginning of the tradition of conspiracy theory literature, such as "None Dare Call it Conspiracy" and "Conspirators Hierarchy: the Committee of 300". The Protocols, which draw on popular anti-Semitic notions which have their roots in medieval Europe from the time of the Crusades, are simultaneously the most notorious and most successful work of modern anti-Semitism.

The conceptual inspiration for the Protocols can be traced back to the time of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.


While few people currently believe the Protocols to be genuine, many people now have the opportunity to assuage their curiosity about the Protocols due to the Internet. This raises issues of whether the Internet as it stands is an unalloyed good. Previously, few people were willing to risk getting on government lists by loaning the book from the library, or ordering it through a book-shop through fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.

That last paragraph is odd. But then the Internet is a conspiracy..


Dr. Pournelle:

I applied the "October" patches last night to my laptop system, desktop at home, and workstation at work. Other than the time required to do the install, and the restart, I have noticed no problems with the updates. My use is mainstream (MS-Office, Novell network, GroupWise mail client, Internet Explorer, and Dreamweaver MX for web pages, Fireworks MX for graphic images). I have also not had problems applying previous patches.

I think that it is worth noticing (and usually absent from news and other reports, such as Mr. Thompson) that this update 'batch' is the new "monthly release" from Microsoft. They are scheduling them for release on the third Wednesday of each month, even though several of them are 'critical'.

At the office here, we have the MS "Software Update Server" (SUS) installed, which is basically a local version of Windows Update. We have about 2500 computers, I think about a third of them are using the SUS to get their updates. Most should have gotten them this morning, and I haven't heard about any problems with this latest batch of updates. I recommend the SUS for corporate users, small business/home users should be using the Windows Update. (My home desktop is set for automatic download and install of updates.)

Also, Wednesday is the usual release day for Network Assoc/VirusScan updates. Those are also automatically installed here and at home. At the office, workstations do an virus update check on login, servers check hourly; at home, I do a nightly check.

Hope you feel better soon.

Rick Hellewell Network Security Dweeb

Thanks. And see below.

More on education

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I've been fortunate enough to send all my kids to private school through 8th grade. Private high schools in my area are few and not much better than public. We picked a private Christian school in Texas that uses the ABEKA system. They start teaching reading/phonics in pre-K four-year-olds. Texas is just getting it's finger out of it's butt and beginning to teach phonics in kindergarten as a test program.

I'd recommend to all your readers to find similar private schools even if they have to cut back some where else. It costs us about $2,500 per kid per year. They let you pay in 10 installments. Classrooms are about 10-13 students. Most of the teachers are kindly old ladies with teaching degrees that are just fed up with the public school system in Texas. I know my kids will be able to read, write and do math before they hit high school, while many kids can barely pass the stupid state high school qualification exam to graduate. Even when they get to take it five times. Even when they "teach the test."

David A. Kickbusch

= And see later







This week:


read book now


Friday, October 17, 2003

Still recovering from flu.

Jerry, one of the factors I haven't seen discussed much in the US press in relation to Bush's recent blessing by the UNSC for multi-national forces in Iraq is how Asia plays into all this.

SK is set to provide a short division for occupation duty, and those troops have experience in a culture making a transition from authoritarianism (albeit a capitalistic one) to a freer society (the SK press can be quite rough and tumble!)

And now that the PM in Japan has finally managed to shed old elements of the LDP that were holding back reform, in both economic and foreign policy, there are noises about Japan amending it's constitution to allow participation in foreign peacekeeping operations. Desire to be able to participate in Iraq more fully has fed the fires on this one. They are second in defense spending after the US, but (like most European nations) lack logistical support for force projection.

So, any scattered Liberty Tree seedlings aside, using client state troops from historically disinterested nations to occupy nations under reconstruction is starting to enter the scene. There's the Legions showing up finally, after our Praetorians have done the big stomp. Haven't checked up lately on who else (India?) is on the bandwagon.

Looks to be a bit of Competent Empire happening, whether by design or accident.

Raul Gonzalez

It may be. Thanks for the observation.

I too look for 'good news' from Iraq and am discouraged by the coverage by the media of only atrocious events. But consider this as good news... We are but the latest in a long line of conquering powers that have moved through this area. Have we destroyed their mosques? Forcibly established a religion? Burned their cities? Raped their women? Enslaved the peoples? Salted the fields? Posioned the water? Confiscated the treasury? Usurped their gold (oil)? Summarily executed the soldiers and leaders? Established a puppet government? (okay, we can argue that one - but do Germany, Japan, the Phillipines, Kuwait have puppet governments?). Even in recent times in this area you can see that these incidents have occured.

So what's the good news? We are rebuilding the infrastructure, bringing electricity back to most of the country (they were lucky to get 3 hours electricity a day before the war); rebuilding destroyed buildings, water purification plants, sanitation facilities; revitalizing the drained swamplands; reopened irrigation/drinking water canals. We've reestablished government services; are training new police and military forces; reopened the schools; allowed non-violent demonstrations; retooled the judicial system; provided for redress of grievances against our own servicemen; established Iraqi government councils; established independant television, radio and newspaper services.

Maybe you don't hear it, but the good news is there. The people I know in Iraq LOVED the Americans. I turned over my area to the international forces, but the people did not WANT us to leave! No matter what happens in the area, the overwhelming majority of the people in Iraq are FOREVER greatful that the US rid them of the Saddam Hussien regime and the Baathists. While there, I had two questions asked of me repeatedly: 1) Can I have an American flag? 2) Can you get me a picture of George Bush?


On another issue of schools - one of things I was responsible for in my province was to reopen the schools. I did this, but not without wailing and complaints from administrators and teachers for us (the rich US) to provide them with air conditioners, computers, etc. We worked hard to remove all of the munitions stored in the schools. I used SeeBees, Marines and hired local contractors to paint, repair, replace windows, repair electrical wiring, build desks, and a myriad other things to allow schools to function. Still I had complaints that they needed more. My father and grandfather were teachers and educators, in fact, my grandfather was superintendant of schools in my Parish - I had some knowledge of education. I held a meeting with the leaders and educators of the Province (who didn't want to reopen the schools because there wasn't enough done...). In this meeting I exclaimed my disappointment with their expectations and priorities. Education of the children should be the first priority - and education requires on two things to be successful: A teacher and a student! (look up the definitions of 'teach' and 'student'). Admonished, these people went back to their communities and opened the schools. Within 1 month of my arrival in the province, the schools were reopened and classes being held. Albeit in some cases the students sat on the floor. Insha'allah!


Tell us more!





This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 18, 2003

Follow-up on patch issues

Morning Jerry,

If you've got the same crud I had, my sympathies. It's a *nasty* one.

I've been unable to replicate the basesrv.dll issue on Win2K and WinXP. It appears that the corruption occurs only Win NT 4, and even then only intermittently - only 3 reports of the issue.

The recommendation I'm passing along to my folks on XP and 2K is that they patch, but boot, run the updates, and reboot (i.e. don't do anything else in that session). NT folks, I'm still recommending that they hold off until there's more information.

Get well soon,


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



So, someone buys what must have been a hot watch for $175 and it turns out to be Buzz Aldrin's. The watch was apparently stolen after Aldrin shipped it to the Smithsonian for display.

So now the current owner who has had the watch for ten years wants to make a win-win situation.

I guess win, as in the lottery. He's going to want millions from the feds.

Ya gotta love Americans. Ethics be damned.


But think of it this way, the lawyers will all be well paid.


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Sad to say that I have heard some antidotal evidence that supports the story. Worse, I have also heard indications that the friction between active duty and reserve forces is growing. Our minister has twin sons serving in Iraq. One was slightly wounded and rotated back for minor surgery. He was to head back in 30 days. As you might know, the troops in the combat zone are getting their pay and allotments tax free. He had been there almost since the start. Thanks to some computer glitch, his pay was docked for taxes back to Jan 2003. He tried to get it sorted out but as he put it "some Reserve bozos that could care less". He had to borrow money from his family in order to buy stuff for his kit that he knew he would need back in Iraq.

I know that there has always been a certain amount of chaff between the RA and the "weekend warriors", but this seems worse. In addition, you have people that enlisted thinking that its a job you can quit when its not fun anymore (i.e. when you get shot at) Finally. most of the enlisted ranks thought they were going to the Middle East, kick some raghead a**, and be back by suppertime. It really troubles me that warfighters have been put into the nation building business. I am curious however as to the experience that US occupation troops had in Japan and Germany with the locals. What I have been able to find would indicate that they did not face what our troops are facing, but I am fully aware that history tends to gloss over such details. If it turns out that this kind of thing occurred then, then there may be hope for the future long term.

Rick Cartwright

There were very few incidents in Japan or Germany. They had surrendered, and it seems to have stuck. Did anyone surrender in Iraq, or did the country just turn to looting itself?


I'm certain you must have already received hundreds of messages about this, but I'm going to weigh in anyhow. Isn't it wonderful that the after years of inconvenience, delays, harassment, intimidation, and unjustified detentions of millions of air travelers, it remains trivially difficult to get items like these aboard a commercial airliner? And that the immediate solution is a "perfunctory" search of 7,000 planes? Want to bet that the lesson taken from this by the TSA/DOJ is that the problem lies with an insufficiency of the kind of security currently employed, not with the approach itself? I wonder how much more tax money we will throw at the airlines as a result? 


The purpose of TSA is to expand and employ more TSA people. It has nothing to do with providing security, which is best done by locking the cockpit doors and arming the pilots.

It's worth the inconvenience, to be that much safer

Hi Jerry,

Commenting on the TSA is like grenading fish in a barrel. 

- Paul

I expect you and I will now be on a list of people they will investigate if anything else ridiculous turns up. As it will. It's call anarcho-tyranny.



Subject: A worthwhile reminder of how it was back then...

David G.D. Hecht








This week:


read book now


Sunday, October 19, 2003

Dr. Pournelle,

Whether or not there is really a lot of dissaffection among the troops in Iraq, I can report that there are at least a few related problems here at home.

A friend of mine commands a National Guard company that has been called up twice for extended periods since 9/11/01, first to take over security at the local airport (I wish he were still there instead of the damn TSA) and since the Iraq adventure to handle gate security at the local Air Force base--the Air Force MPs having been deployed to the Middle East.

My friend is having to work extra time (a lot of extra time) due to disciplinary problems with his men. These are guys who signed up (or so they thought) for their one weekend a month and two weeks each summer, maybe some disaster relief, and in case of dire national emergency, combat. They're an Infantry unit, and never expected to be put to work as security guards--especially not for the Air Force. There has apparently been a lot of trouble with sleeping on duty, UA, and so forth. The officers and senior non-coms are taking it well, but the kids are apparently having serious problems, and large numbers have already told my friend that they won't be extending their enlistments.

If this pattern is repeated much, it will really cause problems for the Pentagon policy of having a lot of the specialist units (though my friend's isn't one) in the Reserves and National Guard.

Joseph Edwards


Subject: The Imperium, 

Constabulary units for Imperial Occupation:

Ed Hume 

Well, I agree with every word of that, and so what? That is, where are these troops to come from? What will they be paid relative to the combat troops? What glory will they have relative to the "real" warriors?

It's a glorious dream, but in reality it's a formula for colonization.


Subject: ZZzzap!

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: From Demotic Europe -- Mnemosyne, was that you?

The U.S. may indeed be the last, sagging outpost of the Occident, dazed and confused as we are about our true cultural heritage and future purpose.

But at the ecumenical core in Europe? The West limply lives on Mnemosyne's whispers. A demotic era where nothing is revered, irreverance is both meaningless and lacks critical thought. And the vast animating conceptions that drove Western ascendancy for the past 1/2 millenia there are exhausted.

While the U.S. gropes with modernizing Islam, other civilizations watch and position to be successors. To them, we have given material ephemera and jewelry of progressivism, positivism and technology.

"Donors" now are actually irrelevant. If the U.S. is stand for more than value-less "status quo" materialism (which can benefit any of the emerging successor civilizations) our efforts must have some connection to Occidental civilizational values -- even if only hazily recalled.

For the Occident as a whole, however, it may be too late to remember. In which case, Mnemosyne will have to speak a little louder.

And even then, we will still look up to see the Chinese on the moon . . .



Dear Jerry:

Please do not take "Threat Matrix" too much to heart. It is a television series and these seldom have any relationship to reality. "NYPD Blue" is the exception, because Steven Bochco and David Milch recruited a retired NYPD detective, Bill Clark, to give them story ideas for the show and to keep it as real as one hour television can be. Clark is still on the show as a producer and writer. I took Milch's seminar on how to write this kind of drama back in 1998 and learned many interesting things about the structure of such shows and the theory behind successful television dramas. Briefly all of the really good ones are about groups of people who interact much like a family does and who are way more screwed up than the rest of us. One of the functions of such shows is to make us feel better about our own miserable circumstances.

In this respect "Threat Matrix" is a miserable failure. The principle characters are pretty shallow and the action is constant and ongoing in a way that really doesn't give the audience a chance to catch its breath and comprehend the story. Moreover, it is, as you observed, way over the top when it comes to what can and can't be done legally (or technologically, for that matter). "MI-5" has a similar ruthless tone, but that's the UK and it is accurate in tone, plus the characters are well developed and very human with very human flaws. There one does suspect some sort of government hand involved. It is a different legal system without our Constitutional guarantees. The scary thing about "Threat Matrix" is that it goes even further and that there are people here who think that it does or should represent reality. Some of them seems to work at the DOJ.

But it's just Hollywood where script writers and television producers are more likely to work along the lines of pure fantasy. My first time out here from Chicago in 1978, I interviewed Stephen Cannell, the producer. He'd just rolled out a series, set in Chicago, where a retired boxer, played by Robert Conrad, became a private detective. He did this by going to city hall and buying a license. When I pointed out to Mr. Cannell that this was at severe odds with the facts of the matter (such licenses come from the State and take three years working for someone else to get), he just smiled and said, "Hey, Kid, we're not making a documentary." Words to live by. In television this is called "dramatic economy".

Hollywood distorts and misstates reality all of the time. "Threat Matrix" is scary because so many people will take it as real, because they saw it on television and for many of them that is the highest reality they know. "Jake 2.0" is another case in point. Here the hero works for the NSA and has an accident which gives him superhuman abilities. The problem is that the scripts are filled with the same kinds of errors and misstatements of fact. It's fiction, pure fiction, and they are allowed to make it up as they go along. I just wish they wouldn't do it so badly. "Jake 2.0" will probably last , because the characters are interesting and appealing and the scripts will pass muster with the uninformed. "Threat Matrix" ,on the other hand, likely won't last long, simply because the characters are not very interesting and the plots are already testing the limits of the possible. These are not people you want to spend time with.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

It isn't the show that concerns me, it's the message.

But then Cicero kept warning of the dangers during the transition to Empire. He ended with his head hung in the Forum where he had spoken, and Mark Anthony's wife pierced his tongue with a hatpin. Of course such things can never happen here.





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