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Mail 280 October 20 - 26, 2003






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This week:


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Monday  October 20, 2003

Subject: It was true

Roland Dobbins

But they are fixing it. This looks like SNAFU not intention. It's still serious.


Here is an article from BBSpot on how to be a competent empire in Iraq. 

Mike Plaster

Begun the oil wars have...


Save your children! Learn what they are doing! 

Thanks to David Klaus (Warning: it's huge)


And now back to your regularly scheduled mail....

Dr Pournelle,

Microsoft monopoly objects to Apple Monopoly 

My heart bleeds for Microsoft. Not.

Jim Mangles

Gosh. Poor babies.


The Florida State Legislature is expected to take up a bill today called Terri's Bill. (see  ) The bill needs a 2/3 majority vote. The ultimate result would be to put Terry Schiavo back on her feeding tube.

In case you haven't been following this, at the age of 26, Terri Schiavo had a massive stroke. Doctors chose then to save her live. While she is in a vegetative state, her parents maintain that she does respond to people. She clearly has feelings.

Her husband has gone to court and successfully got permission to remove her feeding tube!!!!

I can't tell you how disturbed I am by this situation.

If her husband had gone in with a gun and shot her, and then claimed a mercy killing, he'd be arrested. However, because he has two judges that say he can have her feeding tube removed, it's okay to kill this woman?!

And, as a parent, I have a real problem with this too. If her own parents were dead that would be one thing, but they are alive, well and fighting for their daughter and their opinion means nothing. How is it that people who were responsible for this woman for 21 years have less authority and right than some guy who was married to her for five years before she had a stroke???

Can you see I am just a bit exercised over this?!


One either values human life or one does not. The "ethicist" position seems to be that we can and should pass judgment on the "quality" of other people's lives and decide for them whether they have a life worth living. One need not use imagination to see the end of that rather short road: we have seen it in the last century. The Communists killed people because they were class enemies; the Nazis because they weren't volk and thus not really people.

Once you decide whose life is worth living you have stepped on a slippery slope indeed.

And see below.


The King of Stonehenge

Roland sent this some time ago; I missed it at the time.

It's worth looking at.


Terry Schiavo is costing Hospice a fortune in armed security to prevent those so intent on "saving" her from doing everyone harm. They currently are paying local police overtime to watch her and the protestors. Those that have seen her recently comment on how deceptive her parents were by releasing an old video tape, she does not look the same today. The doctors have seen the evidence and her brain will never be able to recover. She cannot be given food or water by anything other than a tube down her throat. Nobody but her parents have been able to find any form of intelligent response from her. Helen Keller was born bind, deaf and mute but was able to find a way (with help) to communicate. Terry, who should know there is someone out here, has been unable to find a way to reach us. How long should this go on? When her kidneys fail should we begin dialysis? If she stops breathing a respirator? I watched a friend who's wife suffered a broken blood vessel in the brain die over a period of months. We hoped and we prayed and sometimes there seemed to be progress but she eventfully passed away. Maybe they could have kept her heart beating and the lower brain functioning for a few years if they tried but the results would have been the same.

Anybody like this situation? Nobody likes the idea of a judge telling someone to remove a feeding tube but anybody have a better way to do it? This is not even a quality of life issue. Maybe God will step in and she will make a full recovery. I could ask for nothing better to happen. But if that is not to be, why not let her pass on to whatever awaits. It has to be better than this.

--- Al Lipscomb AA4YU


It is not my decision to make, nor yet that of the state. Nor that of Kevorkian, and yes, he is relevant; the whole issue is relevant.

I agree, no heroic measures are required, by anyone. Beyond that I don't even know the circumstances, and I don't intend to argue the matter. It is not my decision, nor yet that of the state.

Some things must be left to those closest to them. I do not envy people who have to make such decisions; but sometimes they must be made. If it turns out there are multiple views among those with some rights in the matter, and it comes to a full disagreement as to what is right, I still don't see it as appropriate for the state to get in the act.

In some countries a board of physicians can determine that a person should no longer be supported; in fact they can actively kill them. It is this we must avoid.

In the particular case we have two sets of relatives with two different views. Both, I am sure, are convinced they know what is right. Perhaps so. I do not myself think the state should choose between them. Perhaps there is no other way. Sometimes the choices are simple and clear, and one does what one must. Sometimes they are not. I don't know who should make the decisions then. I do know it isn't me.

And see below


From the NY Times, 10/20/03:
According to an FBI affidavit, Heatwole's signed e-mail ``stated that he was aware his actions were against the law and that he was aware of the potential consequences for his actions, and that his actions were an `act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public.'''

However, DiBiagio said Heatwole's conduct ``was not a prank. This was not poor judgment. ... It was not a test. It was not a civil action. It was a very serious and foolish action.''

Deputy TSA Administrator Stephen McHale said Monday's court action ``makes clear that renegade acts to probe airport security for whatever reason will not be tolerated, pure and simple.''

``Amateur testing of our systems do not show us in any way our flaws,'' McHale said. ``We know where the vulnerabilities are and we are testing them. ... This does not help.'

We had this a while back from Microsoft, when it took the position that anyone who reported a security flaw to the general public before MS had gotten around to fixing it in its own good time was some kind of pariah. But MS doesn't have the power to send someone to prison for a decade for pointing out the company's obvious security failures, and the misplaced comments it made at the time don't even come close to TSA's monumental self-righteousness.

Shooting the messenger is poor government policy anywhere, and TSA's "Daddy Cop knows best, hang the bastid" position should be insufferable to anyone who values freedom. Yes, I know, Heatwole didn't make McHale's and TSA's job easier. Yes, I know, the terrorist who sleeps under the bed is now told about a flaw in the system-- as if he didn't know it already or couldn't figure it out from simple observation. (Every spy/terrorist thriller I ever read had the bad guy actually doing his homework to find flaws, but I guess that's obsolete now; gotta have a local fat sidekick.) Sorry, McHale, this *is* a classic case of civil disobedience, where the law is broken to show the flagrant defects in the law and those who administer it. If you're lucky,  and the Republic isn't, putting Heatwole away for a long time will prevent others from putting a spotlight on TSA's failures. If you're unlucky, maybe we can start figuring out what what's necessary to deal with security issues in a free society without your sanctimony.

Jay Luther

I think it's important to keep in mind here: IT DOES NOT MATTER if box cutters  egt smuggled onto airplanes. You can do no more harm in an airplane with such an instrument than you can in the line outside the security inspection. No: I don't want face a madman with a box cutter. But I don't consider it very likely any more.

TSA is a needless "service" to begin with.







This week:


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Tuesday,  October 21, 2003

This is one of many letters I have on this subject, all saying about the same thing:

My mother and I allowed my father to die. He was a victim of chronic heart trouble after his heart attack and triple bypass surgery. Finally, his heart went into a fatal rhythm and he would have died except the paramedics showed up in 'time' to start his heart again. His brain was without oxygen for more than 10 minutes. He 'responded' to people. The doctor would pinch his toe and dad would stiffen up and open his eyes wide. This is the only 'response' we would get. The machines would monitor his blood oxygen level and induce a deep breath when it got too low. When this happened it looked as if he was taking a deep breath like one does in the morning as part of the waking process, but he stayed in the bed because it was a machine induced action. After a few days the doctor said his medical opinion was dad would never get any better. So we pulled the plug.

In this case things are a bit different since my father made it clear many years before his heart attack how he felt about being some sort of 'freak'. His case was pretty clear also, in that there was almost no awareness of the outside world.

I know I would not want to live the way Terri is, with no hope of recovery.


Nor would I. I suspect I have not been clear.

Yours is not the only case. Dear friends have written to remind me that they have had to make similar decisions, sometimes having sought my advice before doing it. These are not decisions one wants to make, but sometimes there is no help for it.

First, I accept the principle that "Thou can'st not kill, but need'st not strive, officiously to keep alive." Nor do I think anyone is required to pay for needless pr0longing of life. Many years ago I wrote a small article on a case in which the parents wanted to pull the plug on an 18 year old girl rather than face financial ruin for themselves and three of the girl's siblings. The State in that instance wanted to prevent them for disconnecting the extraordinary means of sustaining life. My brief favored the parents: it should be their decision, not that of a judge.

I have no quarrel with either party in the present situation under discussion: I know only the facts as stated by journalists, but more importantly, it is not my business. Nor, I think, is it indirectly my business through the intervention of the state. I find it painful even to discuss this since it must be stressful for the parties involved as well as all those who have had to face these matters.

I have no stake in the matter and I want none. If you ask my personal opinion, I'd say pull the plug; were she my relative I would have done so long ago. But this is not a decision I want to make, ever; if it's my next of kin, I may have to make such a decision, and if I find I must, I will do so. But I will not involve the state in this because the state does not stop at the edges of matters. Let the state's nose into this tent and the final outcome will be boards of ethicists determining quality of life in cases of Alzheimer's and other such matters. Depend on it. The state does not stop at the edges of such matters.

Whatever side one takes on abortion issues, there are, usually, two lives involved; there is an innocent to be killed or protected. The state has a stake in that outcome: protection of innocent life is a major purpose of society, and the right to take life is a matter within the very essence of government.

The case in Florida is different in every way, and as I began this, I see the intervention of the state even at the edge of the matter in a case as clear cut as this a dangerous first step.

"Slippery sl0pe" arguments are always tricky, and it's easy enough to be wrong in making them. I could easily be wrong here. I don't think so, but I am not under the illusion of infallibility. How close to the edge of the broken ice dare one go in attempting a rescue? Reasonable people may differ on that.

But I continue to insist: this is a matter for the woman's relatives to settle among themselves. It is not a matter for the state.


Is a person their husk, their body, the heart that pumps their blood through their arteries and veins to the various other parts like the lungs that oxygenate the blood the heart pumps and so forth? Or is the person an intelligence inhabiting a body? When the body balks and nearly dies the human is still alive. Steven Hawking's body is certainly close to death. His brain is still vital and alive and we have a man making tremendous contributions to knowledge. Nobody would make any bones about him being quite alive in spite of his physical infirmities.

On the other hand consider the person who has lost all consciousness and merely has reflexive actions to indicate something still feels pain when someone else sticks pins in the body, which is little more than an animated empty husk with its mind gone. Can we really say that person is still "alive"?

While my brain lives I live. When my brain ceases to function I die. The body is merely a support structure for my brain and for species propagation. When my brain dies I sincerely hope nobody goes to any excesses trying to keep the rest of my body animated like a ragged zombie of what I used to be. The thought is disgusting. I've never seen a body exhibit a soul without its mind being involved. If there is a soul it lives in a functioning brain and leaves when the brain is no longer functional.

If Terry Schiavo is truly brain dead then let the zombied husk she left behind die as well. Any other action is better suited for a Buffy episode than the real world.


=Joanne makes the case with passion, but I say again: it's not my decision nor yet that of the state. "Zombied husk" is an easy phrase to use. So is "wretched life of pain". But who gets to determine that? A board of ethicists?

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

In your response to Al Lipscomb, you write: "In the particular case we have two sets of relatives with two different views. [...] I do not myself think the state should choose between them." Is that not what a state is for?

Better that Ms. Schiavo had made her wishes known beforehand; if 26 is too young to think of a stroke, it is certainly not too young to think of an automobile accident. Better, too, that Ms. Sciavo's parents and her husband had come to a meeting of minds on this, or a compromise. They have not, however. Perhaps the hope is that they will shout angrily at each other until everyone involved dies of old age. Mr. Lipscomb's remarks at the beginning of his letter suggest that this may not be a realistic hope, though.

I do not think that the state has more than a 50/50 chance of making the "correct" decision in this case. I do think, however, that its decision, whatever it may, will be better than having the armed supporters of each side gather in front of the hospice and shoot it out.

------------------------------------------------ John W. Braue, III <>

"Gold cannot always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold" -- Niccolò Machiavelli

And what happens when there are the relatives who say "Keep her alive" and there appears a "public service" advocate to put the proposition that "this is a zombied husk"? 

Let the state in and you will soon find that the state makes all the decisions. I say again: this is not my decision to make, not in person and not through bureaucrats and hirelings.

In any event I think I have presented all the relevant positions. Mine remains: I don't want to decide, and I don't want to give the state the right to decide. I think once the state is given that right, you will not get it back; and the scope of the state's grasp will extend beyond anyplace you imagined, to the cancer ward and the insane asylum.

I will put up one other view and leave that as the last word:

I don't think you have any choice. In matters where someone has died, the state has no choice BUT to become involved.

I am not sure I read the article on Terri clearly. I got the idea the husband went to the court to get permission to pull the plug. This is not quite the same thing as the court deciding, but the court assuring this man that his actions will not get him in trouble with the law. If he had not done that, then the In-Laws could have pursued legal actions against the hospital, and criminal charges against the husband, thus, the state would have really gotten involved (can you say, full employment for lawyers?) To say, let a bunch of squabbling relatives decide, well, the court will get involved there eventually.

But see below



Hi Jerry,

You wrote:

Most mail service providers have what used to be thought of as generous limits to the amount of mail you can store before the box fills and all subsequent mail is rejected. Alas, most of those limits were set before the storage revolution sent the price of a gigabyte of storage down to pennies, and service providers haven't caught up with that trend. As a result, mail boxes can fill quickly in a period of Internet worm attacks.

Being an Internet mail server admin who personally receives upward of 1,000 spam emails a day, I think I can give some insight:

Storage is cheap. Server power to process huge mail boxes is not.

Every time someone logs in with a POP3 process, checks their 30 megabyte mailbox for new messages, and deletes one or more messages, my server then must read AND simultaneously write that 30 megabyte file back to disk. Some people have their mail clients set to check their email once a minute. Multiply that by a few thousand users, and you can imagine the massive power and storage capabilities required to manage huge mailboxes.

I have several hundred gigabytes of free space on my server. Yet my users are restricted to 30 megabytes for their mailbox - and my server is still choking during the business day.

The other reason is because I use the best server-based spam/virus removal product available, called Declude. Fortunately for me, Declude runs only on IPSwitch's IMail mail server, which is unfortunate for the rest of the world that doesn't run IMail. Declude first does virus checking on every message, then runs an exhaustive battery of spam tests, including checking some online spam databases. This can take upwards of ten seconds per email. If I've got a large volume of incoming email, all of which is being checked for viruses and spam, that is eating up CPU and disk I/O time as well.

Even running Declude, constant tuning and monitoring is required, which is made a lot easier through the Declude mailing list, populated by IMail/Declude admins, who share information on the latest spam tactics being used. Spam is a constantly moving target, and I spend a great deal of time tuning my server to eliminate the majority of it for my users while avoiding false positives.

Once upon a time, running the web server side of my business was the worrisome, time-consuming part, while email was an afterthought that Just Worked with little intervention. No longer - now the web server just chugs along on its own, and I spend probably 75% of my admin time on the mail server, fighting spam and viruses.

Scott MacLean
ICQ: 9184011

Thanks for the insight.

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

Under the topic of "We can all sleep a little easier" -- this headline showed up on today's debka,com. I don't have a full subscription, so all I can see is this teaser. Maybe one of your readers has more detail.

Pakistan will deploy nuclear missiles and warheads at Saudi bases under military-nuclear accord signed in Islamabad by Crown prince Abdullah. DEBKAfile adds: Pakistani security umbrella will replace US troop presence withdrawn from kingdom this summer. Deal flatly defies Bush warning to Abdullah this year not to deploy nuclear weapons on Saudi soil.


Greg H.

First I have heard of this. Thanks.

And from Roland:

Subject: ' . . . that sort of ugly specter of patriotism.'

Roland Dobbins

It was especially ugly at Omaha Beach


Subject: Another blow to greenhouse warming? 

A very short article that is summed up:

<snip> "... over the whole 1150 year record available, the sun has been most magnetically active (greatest number of sunspots) over the recent 60 years." <snip>

Braxton Cook

Dr. Pournelle,

I subscribe to a little newsletter that has periodic updates as to new findings in physics,, the following quotation (total extent of the available article) is as follows:

" EVIDENCE FOR AN UNUSUALLY ACTIVE SUN since the 1940s comes from a new estimation of sunspots back to the ninth century. Many natural phenomena such as solar radiance and sunspots vary according to natural cycles. The variation is subject also to additional fluctuations (arising from as yet unexplained effects) which complicate any study which examines only a short time interval. The longer the baseline, the more confident one can be in drawing out historical conclusions. In the case of sunspots, the direct counting goes back to Galileo's time, around 1610. But earlier sunspot activity can be deduced from beryllium-10 traces in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores. The reasoning is as follows: more sunspots imply a more magnetically active sun which then more effectively repels the galactic cosmic rays, thus reducing their production of Be-10 atoms in the Earth's atmosphere. Be-10 atoms precipitate on Earth and can be traced in polar ice even after centuries. Using this approach, scientists at the University of Oulu in Finland (Ilya Usoskin,, 358-8-553-1377) and the Max Planck Institute in Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany have reconstructed the sunspot count back to the year 850, nearly tripling the baseline for sunspot studies. They conclude that over the whole 1150 year record available, the sun has been most magnetically active (greatest number of sunspots) over the recent 60 years. (Usoskin et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article)

I just thought you may be interested.

best regards

steve mackelprang

Which may be more significant than CO2.

On the Rule of Law:

As you often say, it's impossible to do business without violating some law. This item from The Volokh Conspiracy ( ) gives a good idea of what we're up against.

Carroll Bloyd

Start item --------------------------

The overcriminalization of economic conduct: "Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. The American Bar Association reported in 1998 that there were in excess of 3,300 separate criminal offenses. More than 40 percent of these laws have been enacted in just the past 30 years, as part of the growth of the regulatory state. And these laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are "[n]early 10,000.""

Consider also the following:

"Nor is the growth in the number of federal criminal statutes merely an academic question, without real world effects. To the contrary, between March 2001 and March 2002 (the latest year for which data are available), federal prosecutors commenced 62,957 cases, involving 83,809 individual defendants. More than 3,100 of these defendants were charged with crimes categorized as violations of "federal statutes"--a category broadly (though not precisely) congruent with charges reflecting violations of a regulatory program. This number exceeds the number of federal prosecutions during the same year for a host of common law offense categories, including murder, robbery, embezzlement, forgery, and sex offenses. Put another way, more federal prosecutorial resources are invested in regulatory prosecutions than in the prosecution of forgery charges."

Addendum: Eugene points out that some of this comparative numerical effect follows from the typically state-level nature of crimes such as murder and robbery. Nonetheless the following remains true: " has now become commonplace, American society will enforce complex and often unclear regulatory obligations not through the law of tort and civil liability but through the stringent provisions of criminal law. Those who voluntarily choose to engage in productive economic conduct place themselves at risk of criminal sanction for their "felony failure to supervise.""


Welcome to the land of the free.

When you cannot possibly know what the law is, and whether or not you are breaking it, you must depend on the good sense of those who enforce the law. This puts you at the mercy of a corrupt aristocrat if on happens along; it also leaves you vulnerable to political suppression through what appears to be routine enforcement of the criminal law.







This week:


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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Subject: Boy's Internet research snags him in FBI web 

with no comment needed

best regards


Actually, this is precisely the way the situation ought to have been handled. Hurrah.

Subject: Introspection of Empire

Roland Dobbins

Another one they got right: it's good to be asking such questions. (See view for more)


Not all the news is good:

Dr. Pournelle:

I found the following on Apparently someone thinks Sacramento is Lake Wobegone:


Quote from a critic of the Sacramento School District's outgoing superintendent:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," she said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."

[Note - in more ways than one, obviously - ed.]


"Profanity was too weak. All Max could say was, 'Oh, my.' " -- Robert Heinlein



Apparently I am not alone in my paranoia:

Law professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has a good column on this topic at: 

Money quote:

"There are too many laws — many of them contradictory or obscure — for any person to actually avoid breaking the law completely."

Carroll Bloyd

Of course I used to be a pre-law professor myself.

Brice Yokem says:

If someone is doing something perfectly legal, that some political entity does not like, then arrest him for spitting in the street, loitering, or fine him for his house not being up to code, anything to shut him up.

We need a statute which allows a jury to acquit if no one has been convicted of a particular crime in the last 20 years. What do you think? I would also like to see you discuss a fully informed jury law.

The legislature could 'renew' these laws every 20 years, but most obsolete laws would not have that done.

Actually, a "fully informed jury" law (also known as jury nullification) is a two edged sword. Requiring conviction by a local jury "of one's peers", most of whom would be fully informed of the circumstances of the case before the trial began, was one of the safeguards the Saxons insisted on and the Normans granted in the long struggle to create England from Norman and Saxon.

It was also the reason that the Royal authorities tried to institute Star Chamber and "other courts unknown to the law" since it was very difficult to get a local jury to convict of crime against tax collectors when the tax wasn't considered legal.

Of course now "jury nullification" in considered heinous; listen to McCoy on Law and Order rail against it. With reason. The OJ Simpson case was jury nullification pure and simple, as were the old "unwritten law" defenses of the Old South.

Jury nullification was the Saxon defense against Norman tyranny: a people ruled by conquerors, and conquerors trying to achieve some kind of national unification (read Ivanhoe for an account of some of that)

Is that where we are now?



It occurs to me that while you are correct as to the pointlessness of confiscating box-cutters and "club-like objects" (alas my lost mag-lite) from airline passengers, TSA does still serve a useful purpose. Not well, not efficiently, and not pleasantly, all true...

The threat of a passenger airliner being hijacked and used as a fuel-air demolition bomb effectively ended the instant word got out, as you point out. Alas, the long-time threat of the airliners themselves being targeted for inflight destruction via smuggled bomb remains. Current TSA procedures do at least give potential suicide bomb carriers lots of time to sweat about it while closely watched by numerous amateur profilers and by the checkpoint staff, as they wind their way through the lines. This doesn't make it impossible to smuggle a bomb on board, of course, but it does at least make it tougher than handing a bomb and a ticket to an expendable chump like Richard Reid.

Given that by far the terrorists' most abundant resource is unsophisticated young male expendable chumps, passenger screening that'll weed them out is a good thing, even if the rules say TSA can't actually screen for them directly via "profiling".

The terrorist's shortage of western-educated types who can blend in here versus their surplus of narrow religious-school fanatics has a number of other interesting implications - for one, we dare not lose Iraq now, or we'll have given them a huge new recruiting ground for western-educated types who can come after us at home with some chance of success.

Henry Vanderbilt

Oh I agree we need SOME screening. But I put it to you that what we had before 911 was, despite it inefficiencies and inconsistencies, working very well.

I also put it to you that if you or I wanted to bring a bomb aboard and airplane it wouldn't take a great deal of thought and research to figure out how or to assemble the ingredients for doing it. If you want a plane down and don't mind being killed in bringing it down, and you have reasonable intelligence, you will be able to do it.


The Case for Empire

Subject: A Strategy for Republican Empire?

Respectfully submitted for your consideration.

David Hecht

This is worth reading, but it my judgment attempts to prove too much.

The short answer is: Hamilton said we would never have domestic tranquility without international respect. Agreed. Respect doesn't necessarily imply hegemony. 

After Afghanistan only fools failed to respect us. We don't need to occupy other countries to win global respect.

A policy could say to all rulers:  "If you allow your country to be used in any way to aid attacks on us, and those attacks harm us, we will change the regime in your country: you will not personally survive. To the protest that you cannot prevent such attacks on us, we say 'Resign in favor of someone who can.' To the protest that 'Our successors will be worse' our reply is 'Then we will remove them and they will not survive."

Whether that is the right policy or not is open to debate; I would argue that it is as good as the one we have and a lot cheaper.


Subject: Zero-tolerance gun policy runs counter to gun-safety classes at school

Ed Hume

Zero Tolerance often has unintended consequences/

On the Right To Die

I said I was not going to post more on this, but this letter is the right summary to end the discussion:

As a physician with a long interest in bioethics who has had to chair a few hospital committee meetings on the subject, I absolutely agree with your position that end of life decisions should be made privately by the concerned parties and not by the community. Our committee would consider it a failure to have any questions wind up in court, because our primary function is to foster consensus among those who matter (even if some of us ourselves would disagree). That consensus ALWAYS must address the question of what the patient would want if he could speak for himself, regardless of what the rest would prefer. Unfortunately, the squabbling relatives in Florida seem to have resorted early on to competing professional advocates, and now the legislature is involved. Maybe, just maybe, if the care facility had the sort of bioethics committee hospitals are required to have, this could have been avoided.

My own experience with my mother was (at least in this aspect) considerably easier. She spent many years, when her faculties were intact, describing in great detail what she wished to happen when she lost the ability to control her own life. She went so far as to designate that if unforeseen circumstances required a judgment call she wanted me, and not her sister or my siblings, to make the call. There was nothing over which to squabble, even if we were so inclined. When I was young it all struck me as macabre, but it was her last great gift to us.

Two important lessons from this case should be shouted to the rooftops:

1) Choose your in-laws carefully. Think twice, thrice, a thousand times, before marrying someone who can't get along with your family.

2) Talk to your loved ones while you can. The more specific you can be, the more anguish you will later save everyone. Then give one individual a Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Regards, Tim Herbst

Thanks. And that, I hope, is enough said on the general case. On the specific Florida case, there are severe conflicts of interest, apparently worse than I thought. I am now certain that I don't know the right answer.


Subject: Atlantic Monthly on Columbia

I haven't seen the article that comes along with this interview. The only upside of Columbia is that it went a long way to let non-space people know how messed up NASA really is.  There have been thirty years of half-baked policy formed by the White House and Congress, to which NASA acquiesced out of the sense of the need to survive. There's been the dishonesty of NASA leaders in presenting their case to the American public and to Congress. And there are NASA's problems with managing its budgets and over-promising things.



Subject: Thanks, I needed that.

 Inflation history, from Virginia Postrel.

Quoth the maven:

"...this personal finance column in today's Dallas Morning News explains why people my age have had different economic attitudes, experiences, and expectations from people 10 years older or younger:

The worst five-year period for inflation was 1977-81, at 10.06 percent a year. The worst 10-year period was 1973-82, at 8.67 percent. The worst 15-year period was 1968-82, at 7.3 percent. And the worst 20-year period was 1966-85, at 6.36 percent. "


Very Interesting...






This week:


read book now



Subject: Apple's Latest 0.1 Adds a Lot

From a new article on Mac OS X

In terms of pure productivity power, Panther's most important perk is a new anti-window-clutter feature called Exposé. When you press a certain keystroke (of your choosing), all windows in all programs visibly shrink and array themselves across the screen like non-overlapping tiles. You just click the one you want to bring it forward at full size. This visual method of plucking a window from a haystack is so brilliant and addictive, you'll wind up using it dozens of times a day. Exposé is the biggest graphical breakthrough that operating systems have achieved in years.


Do you remember "windows classic" (16bit windows) doing this?!? It had tiled and cascaded windows. Now Apple is claiming “the biggest graphical breakthrough that operating systems have achieved in years”

….and it should be made clear, that this capability has carried on through all versions of Windows.

In Windows XP, right click on the Start bar and choose a tile or cascade option.


Tracy Walters

I also remember File Manager in classic Windows, and yes, I  recall the tiled and cascaded windows. I grow weary of trying to figure out what the rows of nearly identical "icons"  down in the tray stand for, but the cascade fuction, which messes up windows sizes, doesn't help me a lot. I would like to open the cascaded window in a window rather than having it take over the desktop.

Once you do the cascade you have to "show desktop" to get rid of it as far as I can tell. When you do that, the next time you open one of the items, it will not be the size you had set it to before you invoked cascade. 

Ah: German Rodriguez points out that once you "tile" there appears a new menu item called "undo tile". Clearly I'm still out of it because I missed that although I was looking for it. Clearly my head is still not working very well.

I expect this is worth a paragraph in the column. Thanks.

We'll be trying the new Mac shortly assuming I can raise the money.

Subject: Lightbulbs and a radiation law may never be the same 

Jerry, This is an interesting development..

Subject: Lightbulbs and a radiation law may never be the same

Tracy Walters


Subject: Costs of Empire

Roland Dobbins

That looks interesting. At one time I was working on a book with Vlahos. Sharp chap.


On Being Safer

>>I also put it to you that if you or I wanted to bring a bomb aboard an airplane it wouldn't take a great deal of thought and research to figure out how or to assemble the ingredients for doing it. If you want a plane down and don't mind being killed in bringing it down, and you have reasonable intelligence, you will be able to do it.

This is perfectly true.  There are also dozens of other terrorist acts, like derailing trains, blowing up buildings, and other things that are also nearly impossible to defend against.

Yet not one terrorist attack of ANY size has occurred in the United States since 9/11, although a couple of amateur attempts have been made (the shoe bomber).  Why?  Is the FBI that good?  Do the terrorist organizations feel that minor acts of terror would not be useful, and that they have to top the fall of the WTC somehow or it won't count?

To pull off another attack of some kind on American soil would be a major coup for al Qaeda and the others.  That it hasn't happened in over two years is either really comforting or really disturbing.  I'm not sure which.

Tom Brosz

They used up most their assets in 911; and the quick excursion into Afghanistan plus the financial operations undertaken quickly after 911 were very disruptive.

But we have since done more financial damage to ourselves in the name of  "security" than any enemy has been able to do. All they have to do now is make faces at us and feed us "threats". Once in a while they may do something, but given Hatfill, TSA, Butler, how much do they need to do? That would be my view, anyway.

The stated objective of bin Laden was to get the US out of the sacred homeland. That is being done.



Cleaning up a LOT of older mail that ought to have been dealt with when I was out of it:

Subject: The -important- stuff. 

Roland Dobbins



Another view from Iraq:=

Crime and violence are the main problems in Iraq according to Professor Imad Moosa who returned to Australia in early July from fixing up Iraq's monetary system. He said he wouldn't have gone to his original homeland if he had known it was going to be as dangerous as it was. Now my daughter has returned (to the UK) after 10 days based in Baghdad producing a TV doco on WMDs. Her reporter had established close links with the ISG (Iraq Survey Group) so they went where it went to some extent - though never more than an hour from Baghdad. She also says crime and violence are the big problems in a country where there are probably more guns than people.

Their security man was a formidable ex SAS Staff Sergeant who said they hadn't done anything more dangerous than join an American army convoy - compulsorily (the army wouldn't allow them to go otherwise) to visit a possible WMD site. They were in the second last vehicle with a Humvee front and back of them. My daughter's description of most of the American soldiers she saw was that they were over-armed Rambos from the sticks, mostly black and Hispanic ("economic conscripts"), with no knowledge of the country or people round them or opportunity to find out. There are more unfortunate incidents than one reads about; e.g. three businessmen from Jordan and their driver killed by US troops because their vehicle approached a road block too fast. (I suggested that the reason that such stories no longer feature while the deaths of American soldiers do is that the agenda of the leftish media is better served by sad stories about Americans than any mishaps to foreigners). When I asked about the army's better units she said that it seemed that the troops mostly weren't in traditional units with the corresponding teamwork and morale. They were gathered together ad hoc from wherever they were available.

By contrast she said Baghdad was booming, with whitegoods for sale spilling onto the street and improvements in at least some services in some areas. Her driver said that power went down four times a day but he had electricity 22 hours a day whereas it had only been 16 hours under Saddam. The hotel of course had its own back up generator.

And for the really good news: the US and China seem likely to form a really constructive working arrangement - well beyond the shared Texan and Chinese enthusiasm for executing bad people. The new President of China is only 59 or 60 and is going to address the Australian Parliament on his first major visit out of China the day after Pres. Bush does the same (on Thursday I think). As we tend to notice in this part of the world, they will have been together at the APEC meeting in Bangkok. Although it is said that Asia doesn't put terrorism as high on its list of concerns as the US does, it cannot help be a serious problem for the countries which depend on tourism for foreign earnings to the extent that Indonesia does.



Subject: Isn't global free trade wonderful?

When a hospital contracts out its medical transcription, and a chain of three subcontracts ends up in Pakistan, then HIPAA and other US privacy laws really don't matter, do they?

Oh, and think about this: 10 percent of all medical transcription for US patients happens overseas. A whole bunch of credit card processing and customer service is also moving overseas. Right now, chances are that someone who grew up in a Third World rathole with no experience of freedom or privacy is earning a buck a day to protect your critical information.

Don't you feel safe and free now?

Steve Setzer


tough lesson on medical privacy / Pakistani transcriber threatens UCSF over back pay</a>: "A woman in Pakistan doing cut-rate clerical work for UCSF Medical Center threatened to post patients' confidential files on the Internet unless she was paid more money......

On Oct. 7, UCSF officials received an e-mail from Baloch, who described herself as 'a medical doctor by profession.' She said Spires owed her money and had cut off all communication. Baloch demanded that UCSF find Spires and remedy the situation.

She wrote: 'Your patient records are out in the open to be exposed, so you better track that person and make him pay my dues or otherwise I will expose all the voice files and patient records of UCSF Parnassus and Mt. Zion campuses on the Internet.'

Actual files containing dictation from UCSF doctors were attached to the e- mail. The files reportedly involved two patients."

===== --------------------------------sig------------------------------ "It's one thing to see death coming at the hands of your own creation. That's part of the human epic tradition after all. Oedipus and his father. Baron Frankenstein and his monster. William Henry Gates and Windows '09." --David Brin, "Kiln People"

my website: WWW.SOPHONT.COM

Jay K




Subject: Rumsfeld Memo


My feeling on the Rumsfeld Memo is close to what you say in your Mercenary novels:

1. We can't win this war, we can only avoid losing. 2. They can't win if we don't lose our nerve.

Once again, I find your books fine reading for bringing home salient points regarding warfare.

Kind Regards

Mike Robel

The great thing is not to lose your nerve. Owensford echoing Falkenberg... See The Prince (which seems to be on a big sale at Amazon)


Dr Pournelle,

On Evidence for an Unusually Active Sune [sic]

So now it's only a matter of time before the Kyotoists claim increased activity on the Sun is due to us little creatures down here burning too much fossil fuels. (They have a beautiful and lucrative theory that mere facts will not be allowed to ruin.)

More interestingly, and more seriously, is the evidence from sounding balloons and later, satellites, that shows little or no warming since about 1940, just the period when solar activity is now reported to have grown.

I suspect the truth is that no-one on this planet can make a realistic forecast of our future climate, or truly know what factors really go into forming it. Heck, if they can't accurately forecast the weather next week, why should anyone take them seriously when they try to tell us what the climate will be like 100 years from now?

Jim Mangles

It may be easier to forecast climate than weather, but the models can't "forecast" the past with any accuracy at all. They will get there, but we need to know all the relevant variables as well as have the sheer computer power.


And I missed this gem from last week because of my cold:

Dr Pournelle,


An apparently nameless correspondent wrote the other day,

I think Orwell once said that, in discussing the Jews in relation to modern life, it is impossible to put a foot right.’

Maybe he did; it’s a good one-liner but I don’t know if he said it. However I do know that he wrote a most enlightening essay about antisemitism in Britain towards the end of the Second World War but before, we must assume, the news of what had been going on in the death camps had become public: 

I think the impact of the Holocaust changed everything, but not all at once. It seems to me it took a couple of decades for antisemitism to finally become totally unacceptable at just about any level, at least in Britain.

In any case, I think Gladstone gave us an even better one-liner, about another nationality that has also seldom been out of the news, and has been a thorn in the side of the British government for centuries:

‘Whenever we think we have solved the Irish question, the Irish change the question.’

Jim Mangles


Unfortunately there are some writers who do not seem to distinguish between misgivings about Israeli policy and anti-Semitism 

Subject: Response and support on the Stars and Stripes poll on Morale

As a former Sergeant who served in Gulf War I with the 1st Armored Division, I would like to support Kim's comments on the Stars and Stripes poll. Soldiers, especially first-termers, will gripe. It's the Sergeant's job to keep them focused, butt-kick them when the griping gets in the way of the mission, and worry when they stop griping. When a soldier is not complaining in the field, that's when you get concerned.

I heartily agree with Kim's comments on the kind of soldier that was polled. I served in Military Intelligence as a linguist (Russian), and even though we tended to get the smarter, better educated troops we still got our share of the "sick, lame and lazy". I expect most of the soldiers polled were line-of-communication troops; mechs, supply, and other support and service-support types. These soldiers have the same mission in combat or garrison; and while I have met some very good ones, they seem to have more than their share of people who would find the time to talk to the media.


Thanks, Christopher Mazuk

Keep looking around. There's always something you've missed.

Niven's Law: there is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads, and the fuggheads will be the ones interviewed. I don't know that it applies in this case.

Subject: Good Article on China in Space

It's weird because no one seems to be answering the wake-up call.

Beijing intends to send a man to the moon, perhaps within a decade, said Walker, now chairman of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, a D.C.-based lobbying firm. "Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call" that other nations need to be prepared to make more space investments, Walker said.



Subject: Space is becoming new priority?

Dr. Pournelle,

Maybe there is hope that there is some effort underway to shape a new space policy in Congress. I sure hope so... 

Best regards

-- Oliver Richter

We can hope. Take the high ground, boy, or they'll kick hell out of you in the valleys...

Dear Jerry,

First of all thanks for all the helpful words over so many years.

By now I assume many people have told you about the Internet browser iRider (  ), but I'm sending this anyway to be sure you know about it.

iRider has many features that make it easier to move around the Internet than either IE or Mozilla, or Opera for that matter.

Again my thanks,



One thing about Mozilla that makes me prefer it over IE:

You don't need a popup blocker.

I tried several with IE and they only sort of worked but there were all sorts of gotchas. In Mozilla preferences, you go to Advanced>Scripts & Plugins and turn off the first four items. So far, that has for me defeated every popup/under. And it is the reason (well, along with tabs) that Mozilla is my default browser.

Paul J. Camp Spelman College Department of Physics Atlanta, Georgia 

The beauty of the universe consists not only of unity in variety but also of variety in unity.

--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose









This week:


read book now


Friday, October 23, 2003

More short shrift as I try to recover from this nasty cold

On being safer:

Fred sure knows the Feds, by gum. I don't know how I missed this before. 


As he says, couldn't we just be in danger instead?

Subject: Cascading Desktop Windows

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

Thank you for posting the information on arranging desktop windows. It is not Earth-shattering news or information, but it actually made working better. Original post .

Simply put, the Windows Taskbar features to cascade the open windows helps me as a ‘virtual’ worker. My primary workstation is a dual xeon Dell with two 21 inch monitors. I find the extra screen real-estate quite productive. Often, however, I work from home or travel and use the remote desktop features to login to my work system.

When at work I have applications strewn across the two screens. Since many applications ‘remember’ what their last open positions are, occasionally some applications, after remotely logging in, will open just fine, but will try to display themselves on a monitor I am not using. Visual Studio is good at this particular feature, as is Windows Messenger. Your posting reminded me of (yet another) Windows feature I had forgotten about, which in my case happens to work well when I loose my desktop.

Stay well,

Terry Dee Losansky Software Engineer terry at

Yes, I had forgotten it also. And it is useful.



Something which your readers trying out Mozilla for the first time may be interested in: 

This site contains dozens (over 100, actually) of useful (and not so useful :-) add-ons to Mozilla. Mozilla supports a very extensive "platform" and is easily extensible. AFAIK, they are all free under various licenses.

One specific one to bring to your attention is AdBlock: 

This is a plug-in that lets you block advertisements, *including FLASH*, by simply right-clicking over any banner and selecting AdBlock. It brings up a short dialog to let you customize the regular expression of the URL to block, so you can put a '*' and block something like: "http://site/ads/*". If a flash ad comes up, select Tools->Flash Block and AdBlock will remember the Flash object on that page and block it from then on. No more annoying obnoxious flash ads.

I also use Multizilla/GoogleBar: 

Which, among other things, puts the close button ON the tab rather than way over on the right - I personally feels that's more intuitive. It also provides a very useable GoogleBar, similar to what Google themselves offer for IE, but since Google is my homepage, I don't really use that much.

Pete Flugstad

Thanks. It's clear I have much to learn about Mozilla. Sometimes it's a bit hard top keep up, but if I am going to pretend to know everything I guess I have no choice...

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                  
Date: 10/24/03    

   subject: Various

Dear Jerry:
        In the Terri Schiavo case, you say: "If it turns out there are multiple views among those with some rights in the matter, and it comes to a full disagreement as to what is right, I still don't see it as appropriate for the state to get in the act."
        I'm missing your point here.  How do the parents and husband settle their disagreement over what to do about a comatose loved one, without getting the state involved?  A fist-fight?
        Someone, after all, has to have power of attorney to make decisions for the comatose patient.  What are the doctors to do, till the husband and parents settle the matter?  Either they pull the tube, thus giving the husband what he wants, or they leave it in, giving the parents what they want.
        About the spam menace, another easy fix for the ISP's would be to check senders' addresses.  I used to complain to Hotmail about spam I'd received from someone using an ostensible Hotmail account.  The almost invariable reply was 'That isn't a valid Hotmail address.'  So, why the Hell don't they have an option where anything that says it's from Hotmail is checked automatically, and if it has an invalid account name it's automatically trash canned?  And of course, they could also screen the other big service providers too.  Not a valid AOL account name?  Trash it!  That would probably cut the problem down to size.
        Btw, I note the usual suspects are badmouthing the Senate's proposed anti-spam bill.  "Can't possibly work, blah blah. "  Get the feeling they don't want it to work?
        You say "Unfortunately there are some writers who do not seem to distinguish between misgivings about Israeli policy and anti-Semitism."  I know what you mean (I suspect something about living in that part of the world lowers one's IQ; it's the only way to explain Israel's settlement program), but the sticky fact is that the 'Palestinians' goal is to 'drive the Jews into the sea,' and nothing Israel does can affect this.  Whatever policy the state of Israel adopts, the majority of its population is still a bunch of Jews.  That makes the distinction between anti-Semitism and opposing Israel's policy increasingly academic.
        On the Chinese space achievements, and the long-term threat to the U.S., a lot of us do take it seriously.  But we're stuck.  The articles that "Rich" and Oliver Richter linked to don't mention the fundamental problems: NASA is psychologically incapable of creating a cheap, reliable way of getting to orbit; Congress is psychologically incapable of doing anything but deciding how much money they'll give NASA to waste.
        If the U.S. accomplishes anything in space, it will be done by people who wouldn't interested in a federal space program even if they were given dictatorial authority over it, and a guaranteed budget.  The Apollo program was a mistake we have to get over.

The Israelis seem determined to use the settlements to occupy all of Judea and Samaria. After WW II tens of millions of people were resettled in Germany, Poland, and the USSR, all done by force. Since that time ethnic cleansing has got a bad name: in 1945-46 everyone was in favor of it.

There is no way to have a Jewish State and democracy and mixed Arab/Jewish populations in that area. Someone is going to have to be resettled. The old accommodations in which there was a very prosperous Jewish community in Iraq from Crusader times well into the 1960's seem to be gone forever.

Building a fence along the Green Line might have worked. Israel chose not to do that. That may have been wise: in any event it has been done. The Road Map is dead, and there is no new picture of an end state there. The only stable endgame there I can think of involves mass deportations -- ethnic cleansing. No one wants to talk about that, and the US certainly doesn't want to participate in it. And there we stand.

Regarding quality of life: sometimes the courts must get into the act, to settle who is in fact the Guardian of a helpless individual. That, it seems to me, is a bit different from explicitly giving permission to starve someone semi-conscious to death. 

Subject: Insulin.

Roland Dobbind

O King, live forever...


"A Roswell (GA) High School freshman has been expelled for the remainder of the year for writing a fictional tale in her private journal about a student who dreams that she kills a teacher."

Seems like only yesterday that politicians were berating communist countries for suppressing their creative writers. Scary.

Ken McIntire Woodstock, GA

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


A solar radiation storm is due to hit sometime today. This is expected to be a fairly large one, G-3 on NOAA's Space Weather Scale that maxes out at G-5. Some comms disruptions and power system fluctuations are expected. Auroras down to mid-latitudes are expected. (Could be a good night to go out and have a look at the northern sky.) 

Henry Vanderbilt









This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 25, 2003

AOL Turning off features for users:

If a 17 year old was caught doing this the FBI would be on his case faster then white on rice. 

I am conflicted about this article because on one hand I want to applaud AOL for fighting the people who do these annoying pseudo popup messages. However at the same time I do not like the fact that they went about doing this without asking the users permission.

Part of me also wonders if perhaps the only way to have things improve will be to allow the creation of good viruses that seek out insecure systems and fix them.

Down that path lies a slippery slope however. But it's how the human body deals with infection (think white cells here).

- -Dan S.

I need to think about this one for a while.

The IRS paid out $30M in in fraudulent slavery reparations claims. The largest claim: $507,490. How does something like this happen?????

"IRS officials say many fraudulent returns are spotted because they claim an overpayment of $43,209 -- the amount suggested in a 1993 Essence magazine article as the value of the mule and 40 acres some freed slaves were given."


I guess I hadn't realized the IRS was actually paying claims for reparations.  Wow.

I think the first maxim should be, first kill all the professors . . . then the lawyers. 


But we were born free. (And I happen to know your husband has a law degree as well as being an MD)

Subject: The Empire's website



I don't normally think much of Asia Times pieces, but this guy has a really good point on the legitimacy of the UN: 


Indeed, this is a very good summary of the history of sovereignty, and the US view which isn't the same. It leaves out the fact that the States had established churches at the time of the Constitution, and the First Amendment forbade Congress to interfere with those, but that too was a compromise: we insisted that government derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and God knows the UN doesn't... 

 We also had principles of de jure and de facto recognition; for a very long time Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut was Chairman of "The Committee of One Million Against the Recognition of Red China" and the US held that the Republic of China (on Taiwan) was the legitimate government of all of China; as we held that the USSR was not the legitimate sovereign of the Baltic Republics. 

But for a short essay this is quite good. Thanks. (And see below)

Subject: The Perfect Solar Storm, another demonstration of solar variability 

===== -- John E. Bartley, III - K7AAY telcom admin, Portland OR, USA - Views mine. palmwireless (dot) cjb (dot) net Wireless FAQ for PalmOS(r)

This post is quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA. Dilbert is a documentary.

Global Warming, surely?


On Manufacturing Jobs

Quite a while ago I wrote a squib about loss of manufacturing jobs. I got a reply which managed to get lost. It needs to be posted.

"Jerry Pournelle" wrote: > We have lost 5 million such in the past decade or so. Manufacturing > jobs are precisely what we need: not only is the output hard goods, > things and not paper and the stuff dreams and bubbles are made of, but > the work is something that those skilled with their hands but not > intellectuals can do.

5 million seems a bit of an exaggeration. What's your source for this? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a decrease of 2.2 million manufacturing jobs from 1993 to last month. All of that decline (actually, 136%) came during the current recession. (  ) Graphs at 

It seems you are conflating several different things: the long term trend toward higher productivity, the long term trend of more trade and the short term problem of the recession.

U.S. manufacturing output grew at a healthy pace during the 1990s, growing 45% from 1990 to 2000, including an excellent 77% growth in durable goods output. Output has declined somewhat during the current recession, but the drop is not because of a sudden surge in imports. Imports of manufactured goods fell in 2001 and was flat in 2002. (Table 954 of Statistical Abstract of the US, 2002 and )

The manufacturing employment story is more complicated. It fell 6.8% from 1989 to 1993, then rose slowly (4.7%) over the next five years. It was basically level until mid-2000, then starting in July, 2000 there have been 36 straight months of decline; almost 16% of manufacturing jobs have been lost.

Although some of the losses since July 2000 are a continuation of previous trends, many are of a completely different character. There has been

(1) a huge decline in telecommunications, computers, and other high-tech industries after the late-90's bubble

(2) a general decline in business investment following the stock market decline of 2000

(3) some effects of 9/11 on aircraft and related industries.

Comparing the 151 months up to July 2000 with the 20 months after July 2000 (which is what is is available in my source file ), I find:

Of the manufacturing job losses post-July 2000,

17.7% are in SIC sector 36 Electronic and other electrical equipment From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector was roughly level (down 0.3%). From July 2000 to March 2003, employment fell 23%.

16.7% are in SIC sector 35 Industrial machinery and equipment From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector was up slightly (+3.9%). From July 2000 to March 2003, employment fell 18%.

10.6% are in SIC-22 and SIC-23 (Textiles and Apparel, respectively) From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector fell sharply (36.5%) and fell another 21% since then.

9.1% are in SIC-37 Transportation equipment

SIC-371 Motor Vehicles & equipment accounted for 4.0% From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector (371) grew 19.5% and fell 9.2% from July 2000 through March 2003.

SIC-372 Aircraft and parts accounted for 3.6% From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector (372) fell 32%. It fell another 18% since then.

7.2% in SIC-34 Fabricated metal products From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector grew 9.5%. It fell 10.7% since then.

6.9% in SIC-27 Printing and publishing From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector grew slowly (1.6%). From July 2000 through Mar 2003, employment fell 10.2%

5.5% in SIC-33 Primary metal industries From Jan 1988 through July 2000, employment in this sector fell 8.3%. It fell 17.9% since then.

That's 3/4 of the job losses. The other 1/4 are split among the other dozen categories.

For a couple of ways of looking at the data, see

He is, I am sure, correct, and some of my concern is exaggerated. On the other hand, I remain concerned about the shift from making things to thinking about things: intellectual work is more easily exported than manufacturing, witness that you now get connected to Bombay when you ask for local telephone information or help with your computer.

Mostly I continue to say: half the population is below average in intelligence. This is obvious, but we don't seem to think about what that means.

There need to be jobs for all, not just those clever with words and thoughts. There needs to be a place for care and craftsmanship. I am not sure that is where we are headed.


While I am putting up arguments, here is one on the War On Drugs from another conference:

I've watched bad management and bad decisions made by technical workers destroy value on a mind-boggling scale. You seem to assume that a worker with, say, half as much capability would just produce half as much wealth. But its a competitive world out there. Unless a company executes a wise strategy and does its various tasks well it can turn into an also ran and the profit for being in, say, 5th place can be nil or zero.

As for the costs of drug addiction vs the costs of the war on drugs: that's a really hard calculation to make. But I start from the position that one of society's biggest needs is for as many people as possible to be competent to manage themselves and to function and that we need to incur various costs to try to make that happen as much as possible. I'm skeptical of arguments that the costs of the War On Drugs are greater than the costs of legalization. I don't think that the people making those calculations are accounting for all the costs of legalization because they assume a well functioning society. Its a typical false libertarian simplifying assumption.


=See  below


On Blondes and stereotypes:

<<1) Are the blondes the ones winning the prizes?>>

I don't see where that would matter. The people winning the prizes are almost exclusively male. And there is no "dumb blonde" stereotype for males. I do think the stereotype (as it applies to females) might have a basis in fact, however. It's hard to sell stereotypes if they don't.

I suspect the problem here may be a failure to distinguish between light and dark blondes. Very few adult males are light blonde. Blonde males who have reached puberty are almost always "dirty" blonde, or for survey purposes "dark blonde."

I don't have any reason to hypothesize that dark blonde females are on average less intelligent that other white females. But whatthehell, let me tell you a little story about the light blondes.

Once, during one of those moments when I was fed up to my keister with political correctness, I decided to do a little inquiry into whether certain stereotypes might be true. And so naturally I looked at this one. I ran the means by hair color of white females in the NLSY. And found that the average for the light blonde group was in fact lower than for the others.

I have to caution that the numbers were not large. As I recall only about 50 light blondes in the sample. Lots of dirty blondes and other hair colors. Unfortunately I don't have this stuff on my computer right now so I can't give you anything more specific. Of the top of my head I think the difference was on the order of 5 percentile points between light blondes and the rest.

Also for my own research I focused on females who were in the top 10% for both mathematical and mechanical giftedness. Dirty blondes were well represented relative to their numbers in the total sample of white females. But there was not one light blonde or redhead (sorry Ralph). Here the small numbers were even more of a problem since only about 50-odd women out of about 6000 made the high math high mech group. Light blondes and redheads were around 3.5% I think of all NLSY white females. But 0% of the high math/mechanical group.

I would hypothesize that the governing mechanism is testosterone related. Light blonde hair should reflect lower T exposure by virtue of the hormone's effect on hair color. For effect of relative levels of sex hormones on cognitive abilities I refer you to Helmuth's magnum opus, Hormones Sex & Society.

I will add two final thoughts. The first is that more research is needed. The second is that it will never happen.



On the Foreign Service:

Jerry P:

The posting about April Haspie is interesting but I assume many of us who read your site do not know who she is or was. As you do not provide any reference possibly you would enlighten us. If an ambassador delivers an erroneous message to a head of state, the President would surely correct the message as soon as possible and would do something about the officer who did not perform as ordered. So I would assume that Bush senior did just that. As you seem to be privy to communications between the president and his ambassadors, would you provide us with the communications between the president and the ambassador, who I assume from your message was named April Haspie. Rather than demean all FSOs you should realize that there might be one or two with some notion of diplomacy and professionalism.

Charles Simkins

Thank you for reminding me to be a bit more sparing with the tar brush.

The Foreign Service has provided a number of intelligent people even at ambassadorial rank; but when it insisted that it be given a fairly large proportion of those posts, rather than leaving such matters to the President, the argument was that they would better represent the interests of the US because of their professional credentials and experience.

In some matters, particularly those of technical nature, that might be true although the old system of political appointees advised by professionals worked pretty well even in those cases. But in some cases, the lack of direct contact and access between the ambassador, who is supposed to be the representative of the President, and the foreign head of state can be a disaster. This was one of those cases.

The Glaspie/Saddam Hussein communication isn't any secret. You can find copies on the web. It was diplomatic. (And yes, I misspelled her name, and apologies.)

The problem was, diplomacy wasn't really needed then. What was needed was a fairly strong statement: Don't go into Kuwait, it will not be allowed to stand. Yes, we supported you in your war with Iran, and while we aren't endorsing your regime, we understand the need for a balance of power in the Region. But don't go too far. We may need you but we don't need you that much.

A political crony of the president could say such a thing. A professional diplomat could not. She was in over her head here: but so would any professional diplomat be. What was needed was someone close to the President who could get him on the phone and say "Mr. President [even close friends don't usually call the President by his first name: as the Speaker said the night before his swearing in, 'This is the last time I can call you Harry...'] Mr. President, this guy really is going into Kuwait. He's using it as a bargaining chip: he wants help against Iraq and control of that waterway that the Shah took away from him, and if he doesn't see some progress going on there he will probably hit Kuwait. If we're going to talk him out of it we'll have to be blunt."

That may or may not have done the job; but it might have. What Glaspie said could be construed as permission to take the runaway province (that's how Iraq, from the days of the monarchy on, has always regarded Kuwait). Some have made a big conspiracy out of that. I don't. I think she was just talking standard State Department professional diplomacy language.

The State Department has always had its own policies, most of them at odds with Republican Secretaries of State. Requiring by law that a percentage of them get rewarded with ambassador posts is an odd interference in the power of the President to conduct foreign policy.

I will withdraw some of the more intemperate language; but not the sentiment that the President ought not be hampered by the requirement that not only all the ambassador's staff, but the ambassador as well, be drawn from "career professionals". That was an experiment that hasn't worked well and should be abandoned.



Dear Jerry,

I was reading about the Liberty affair at  and wondered what you thought.


I once asked General Graham his views on this and he wouldn't tell me, but it was clear he wasn't happy about it. It's hard to come up with a motive for the Israelis deliberately to attack a US ship. On the other hand the survivors are unanimous in their belief that the Israelis must have seen the big holiday flag they put up, and recently the US investigators have said they were ordered to report it was an accident when they had concluded otherwise. 

It happened a long time ago. I was appalled to discover the Israelis have what amounts to a laudatory shrine to the people who made the attack.






This week:


read book now



On Feeling Safer:

Subject: Ananova - Toy dog causes stink at airport

A novelty dog toy which breaks wind as it bends over has sparked a major security alert at a US airport.



Subject: The end of spam?

As the saying goes, we may have the technology: 

Dr. Timoid of Angle

That would be welcome news.


Joanne Dow on the War On Drugs:

"But I start from the position that one of society's biggest needs is for as many people as possible to be competent to manage themselves and to function and that we need to incur various costs to try to make that happen as much as possible."

If that statement is taken as a given several things come to mind as being quite logical requirements derived from it.

First a universal health insurance is needed to maintain everybody at their peak. (Yeah, with whose money to pay for it?)

Second it logically follows that anything which might endanger or impair performance for anybody must be outlawed. This includes things like extreme sports. But then even an innocent game of softball can break bones. So even that must be outlawed. So no games and no risks.

Third, in order to accomplish items one and two this spurious concept of personal freedom must be eliminated.

I suggest the author come up with a better reason for supporting the war on drugs.

And to repeat my overused mantra, rather than attempt to block the supply for something with a very high market demand you're better off trying to reduce the market demand. Either make the item unwanted or unneeded. Market forces will do the rest. (This mantra works for most anything, not just "the A word.")



And perhaps the last word on the Treaty of Westphalia:

Dr Pournelle,

Sovereignty and Legitimacy

Indeed, this [Asia Times editorial] is a very good summary of the history of sovereignty, and the US view which isn't the same.

I’m afraid the piece does not strike me as a very good summary at all. It is inaccurate and draws dangerously wrong conclusions.

Some sample inaccuracies:

A--It is a principle that the United States not only never accepted, but actively opposed throughout the course of its formation from 1620 to date.

The United States has historically always accepted  the principle of sovereignty, and indeed about the first thing the young nation sought from the rest of the world was for it to be recognised by the European powers and allowed to take it’s place alongside them as a sovereign power. As for the reference to 1620… well, from 1620 to 1776, none of the 13 colonies considered themselves to be anything other than part of the sovereign power know as the British Empire, and owing loyalty to the British monarch.

B--American neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars, the Monroe Doctrine of 1821, the expansion to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico Coasts - is best viewed as a contrast to the Westphalian system…

Hogwash. Every one of these actions by the United States were entirely in strict accord with a sovereign nation behaving in the ways set out under Westphalia.

C-- America's insistence on legitimizing principle produced the oldest continuously functioning constitution for 226 years - the longest in recorded history.

Apart from ‘insistence on a legitimizing principle’ being an entirely internal matter, it has NOT ‘produced the oldest continuously functioning constitution’. That honour belongs, ironically enough, to Britain, which can claim 317 years. But the United States is the second-oldest! (There is something going on here, which may be in some way to do with the Common Law, freedom of speech, or even blood being thicker than water. I’d like to look into why this has happened some day.)


The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 was the point from which modern European and eventually world-wide diplomacy became possible. It’s fundamental position on sovereignty and legitimacy have stood unaltered from that time, which is that sovereignty or lack of it defines the international status of a nation, while legitimacy is a strictly internal matter for a sovereign state.

Any other position is a recipe for chaos, or war.

Chaos, because it makes the operation of any sort of international political business in the normal sense, whether bilaterally or multilateral, impossible. Certainly, there was no other possible basis than national sovereignty that could ever be used to create, firstly, the League of Nations, and then later, the United Nations. You may wish to argue whether the UN is a good thing or a bad thing, but that is a separate question.

War, because the idea that one nation (be it ever so powerful) can impose it’s concept of what is legitimate upon another has almost always led to war. (If you doubt this applies today, look especially at Israel and Palestine.)

Certainly history offers plenty of examples. Even the American War of Independence (as distinct from the American Revolution, which was not quite the same thing) can be viewed as a power struggle over sovereignty rather than legitimacy as such, between Britain and rebellious colonists. That would have been crystal clear if the British had won, but because the colonists did, this fact has got conflated with issues of legitimacy.

The Napoleonic Wars, which grew out of the French Revolution and the notion that its definition of legitimacy should be forcibly imposed on the rest of Europe; the Second World War, when Nazi Germany set out to impose it’s concept of legitimacy across Europe and the rest of the world if given the opportunity; the Cold War and what lead up to it, where Soviet Russia attempted to impose what is considered to be the only legitimate form of government— Communism— on the rest of the planet. These are just the most familiar examples. Of course internally, questions of legitimacy can tear nations apart in bloody civil wars; that is essentially what happened to the United States in the 1860’s.

Thus, it is clear that the greatest wisdom of the Treaty of Westphalia was to say, in effect, “Sovereignty is what the government of a nation possesses because it has the might to impose it’s bailiwick over such-and-such territory; legitimacy is something that same government has to establish internally with the people it governs.”

Legitimacy might or might not have something to do with there being or not being a state religion; but that is an entirely internal matter.

I strongly suspect this article has got rather more to do with the politics of mainland China and how it is viewed by the rest of the world, than a serious analysis of the issues it purports to be about.

Jim Mangles

To which I replied

We have always distinguished between sovereignty and legitimacy, which is why we didn’t recognize Red China for so long.
You take the Morganthau “real politick” view and that’s fine; many  do. But it hasn’t always prevailed in the US, and doesn’t everywhere now.

I do recall the long period following the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China when Britain, as an act of Realpolitik had recognised the new regime quite rapidly, yet the United States had not. For reasons of legitimacy? Perhaps; but more likely to do with mollifying the amour propre of it’s client state still holding out (and still does, of course) on Taiwan— and perhaps more significantly, not unrelated to the question of who ‘owns’ China’s permanent seat at the UN Security Council. In other words, the US also performed an act of Realpolitik here, all neatly dressed up as a question of legitimacy, I suggest.

And yet, of course you’re right. The US occasionally allows questions of legitimacy to guide it’s foreign policy; all nations do. But that can never become the normal way of conducting international business, or we face permanent chaos and war, as I said before.

Then again, perhaps when it comes to international relations and foreign policy, these acts apparently carried out for reasons of legitimacy are more often in reality made for reasons of domestic public morality— at least if we confine ourselves to considering the behaviour of modern western democracies.

All of this deserves a longer essay than I have time for; but I do point out that for a long time the US did not recognize the USSR, and Roosevelt was castigated for something approaching treason when he did recognize the communist regime in Russia. We have always held that de facto recognition wasn't necessarily de jure, and didn't always imply approval.

Most of this is moot today. Hans Morganthau and his Realpolitik school have pretty well won the day, but I am old enough to remember Tom Dodd of Connecticut and his Committee of One Million against the Recognition of Red China.

In those time, the US took its moral positions seriously. The Cold War and our requirement to befriend some pretty grim dictators pretty well put paid to that, and few will recall that we didn't always take the position that whoever was in charge was legitimately there.

Our anathemas against Saddam Hussein (Operation Iraqi Freedom) are a remnant of a much older tradition that you seem to realize.


Dr Pournelle,

Sovereignty and Legitimacy, continued

Our anathemas against Saddam Hussein (Operation Iraqi Freedom) are a remnant of a much older tradition that you seem to realize.

I think I maybe do realise. The obvious precedent in American history for Operation Iraqi Freedom is the war against the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s. In both cases an attempt was made to form an international coalition to deal with the problem and in both cases the enemy in question was either not recognised as legitimate states (a la Westphalia) and therefore outside its strictures, or was a state already in breach of numerous promises and commitments.


More generally, I believe what you are moving towards here is a description of or perhaps justification for what has been called ‘American Exceptionalism’, born of it’s open frontiers in the west and isolation from Europe in the east through most of the 19th Century.

Throughout this time, the United States could very easily see itself as the ‘City on the Hill’, blessed above all other nations to make its own way in the world without concern for the squalid and petty affairs of other less fortunate lands and peoples.* And for a time it was true, but it could not last. The Pacific Ocean in the west drew a boundary to western expansion and the isolation on the east was really, for most of that century, the entirely accidental ‘gift’ of the geopolitical fact that the Royal Navy controlled the North Atlantic as if it were it’s own private lake, yet Great Britain was never interested in attacking the US after 1815— although there were some dodgy moments during the Civil War.

So there grew in the minds of the people and politicians of the United States in this period, a belief that not only were they immune to interference from outsiders, but because of this they were free to criticise and condemn the behaviour of other nations on moral and legal grounds. It became a habit that was (and remains) difficult to break, especially as the ‘open frontier plus oceanic isolation’ condition only slipped away gradually.  

Hence it persisted even past the first Great Shock, which was when Germany’s actions finally forced the hand of Woodrow Wilson, who may have been the most exceptionalist US President ever, into taking America into the First World War. Certainly Wilson’s Fourteen Points were very much the product of an American Exceptionalist way of thinking, and they were used as the basis of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. Yet even then, the League of Nations was built upon the Westphalian principle of national sovereignty even as the map of Europe was being redrawn on the supposed basis of legitimacy.

Then America failed to ratify, and retreated back into its isolationism.

So for some 20 years, America reverted back to it’s now traditional view of itself as the City on the Hill, while the rest of the world went to hell, as it were. Then, one Sunday morning in 1941, came the second Great Shock; Pearl Harbor. (I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if Hitler had not declared war on the United States at the same time)

Now the United States woke up to a much more realistic view of the world. Remnants of the old view persist of course, even to the present day. But America can no longer realistically believe it is immune to the troubles of the rest of the world. The third Great Shock, 9/11, ensured this. During Word War Two and the Cold War that followed, America fought for what was right, but still these were wars and diplomacy played according to the rules of Westphalia and Realpolitik; there was and is no other way.

Jim Mangles

* This condition was not unique in history, and may well reappear in the future. Shakespeare said it best, and first, and of another nation that in it’s day though the same of itself:

   This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands,—
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm,
    This England.

What I learned from Pearl Harbor and 911 is:

1. If you are going to put your nose in other people's business on moral grounds (Japan in Manchuko, The Archangel Expedition against the nascent USSR, Lebanon and the Middle East prior to 1989) have a powerful fleet and keep your powder dry.

2. "Isolationism" doesn't come cheap. Machiavelli noted that wealthy Republics need strong military forces, no matter their intentions.

3. We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own. Deviation from that policy dictates a large Navy. Moral superiority on the cheap is usually costly.



Your links to articles in the new York Times need a: registering for and b: paying for -- not nice: 

Jim Pickford-Perry

And you prefer I don't show the link at all? I don't intend to violate copyright and post the article. Tell me what to do here.









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