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Mail 281 October 27 - November 2, 2003






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Monday, October 27, 2003  

Jim writes:

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

Well, HALF-right; you do need to register. But it didn't cost me anything when I registered, and they've never asked me for a credit card number.

Keep your garden hose handy tonight; let's hope the fires burn back on themselves.

Ken Mitchell





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Tuesday,  October 28, 2003

I am supposed to go down to the PDC this morning and perhaps I will, but this cold plus the smoke are not making things easier. I may pass PDC today and have a look tomorrow. Thursday is the Security presentation and that I will certainly get to.


Dear Mr. Pournelle:
Our new issue is out, and it includes a cover story (by me) called "Why
We're Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore"--it's on the blogosphere and the
revolution in conservative media. you may find it of interest: 
I've also linked several other pieces you might want to look at--Victor
Hanson v. Francis Fukuyama on the direction of history: 
Heather Mac Donald on policing in L.A.--and what challenges Willam Bratton faces: 
Steve Malanga on who runs New York City(the municipal unions and the social services groups, working with the increasingly powerful Working Families Party): 
Plus other interesting stuff you'll want to look at on our site.
Hope all is well,
Brian C. Anderson
Senior Editor
City Journal

I have to confess I haven't looked at any of this, and I have not seen City Journal before. I'll get to that when I can. Thanks

Why am I not surprised?

WASHINGTON - A Web site that encourages students to rate their teachers has been banned from hundreds of schools across the nation and administrators are saying it's a distraction and an abomination.,2933,101353,00.html 


I have mixed emotions about this kind of thing. But given the mess our schools are in, student ratings by teachers can't do a lot of harm. What will never happen is any kind of teacher accountability: the unions will not allow that. While in theory a teacher union might protect a good teacher against a capricious principal or school board, we all know that in practice the unions protect the incompetent against quite valid complaints.

More on the costs of Iraq...

"Mechanics working on Marine Super Stallion CH-53-E's, he continued, have found an average of 150 pounds of fine sand distributed "throughout the aircraft."

E.C. "Stan" Field

Hardly astonishing. As the President said this morning, "Iraq is a dangerous place." Mesopotamia has been the graveyard of a hundred armies of conquest, as well as the scene of the first and most important Arab victory (Kadisiyah, where they won against Rustam the Regent of Persia and thereby made possible the Muslim conversion of Persia).

Just in case you haven't seen this one yet: 

Thanks for all you do!

E.C. "Stan" Field

Thanks. I know of a dozen such vulnerabilities. Plus of course the wildfires. With about 200 dedicated agents in a coordinated attack you could do some real damage to the United States, in ways that would make 911 look tame. Most intelligent people know this. But of course the remedy we get is TSA, and the persecution of Tom Butler.

Maybe I should write an end of civilization thriller. The Y2K books were silly, but that doesn't mean all such would be.



Someone agrees with you:

October 28, 2003: Official Washington has been atwitter recently over a memo, intended for strictly limited internal distribution in the Department of Defense, but leaked to the media by a person or persons as yet unknown. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had drafted this memo with a number of "thinking points" to spur debate and discussion amongst his staff. The media and political opposition have since trumpeted their interpretation of this memo with lurid story leads and headlines screaming "Rumsfeld Questions War," or some such. A closer examination reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.

Rumsfeld asked EXACTLY the right questions of his most trusted subordinates. In his seminal work vom Krieg, Karl von Clausewitz challenges military commanders to ask the same sort of questions. It is the leader who questions nothing, and never countenances that some preconceptions might be misconceptions, for instance an LBJ, or a Jefferson Davis, that leads his nation to military disaster. <snip>


I'm not astonished that Dunnigan comes to the same conclusions I do. When we disagree we each take another look; I have considerable respect for his views.

On the PDC

What the NYT had to say:

found on's best of the web for Monday.

Just Wait Till Last Year "Some 7,000 people have registered to attend Microsoft's professional developers conference, which begins today in Los Angeles. The turnout is a record, Microsoft says. The computer professionals will be shown glimpses of Microsoft's next version of Windows, named Longhorn, which will be built using Web services standards. Microsoft has not said when Longhorn will be ready, but it is not expected to be shipped until late 1995 or 1996."--New York Times, Oct. 27, 2003

The title of this excerpt was hyperlinked to (I believe) this site at the NYT:

Jim Woosley

All true, but rather superficial. Alex and I are both there (well I am not just at the moment but will be this PM) and we'll have a full report in BYTE as well as some details here.

There were over 100 press, which is a record in itself.

Re: payment to the New York Times...

The New York Times online edition DOES require registration, it DOES NOT require payment.

Articles "age off" after a certain number of days, and are sent to the archives. Articles in the archives require payment before they can be read. -- 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Freedom of speech isn't working out so well for liberals now that they aren't the only ones with a microphone. It's not so much fun when the rabbit's got the gun." -- Ann Coulter

Gary R. Utter

Be vewwy vewwy quiet...



Dr. Pournelle,

Here is yet another validation of your premise that manufacturing job loss is both significant and a crucial issue for our economy. There are some interesting points in this article as follows: 

"...Manufacturing jobs in the United States pay an average of $650 a week or about $34,000 a year, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Retail jobs, in contrast, pay an average of $373 a week, or about $19,000 a year. Even as the recovery starts to pick up speed, the U.S. economy is shedding $34,000-a-year jobs and replacing them with $19,000-a-year jobs..."

Isn't THIS a crucial issue, and one that is frequently overlooked?

-- Gary, looking forward to more adventures by Glloway & Co."

Aristotle defined democracy as rule by the middle class. The middle class are those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. Retail jobs don't make one middle class.

The glory of the US was the enormous middle class that included many blue collar workers. That was why communism never got far here. Recall that fascism was Marxist in outlook too: Communism would end class warfare through the dictatorship of the proletariat and the liquidation of the middle class AKA bourgeoisie; fascism forced the classes to work together by putting the state, as a coalition of middle and upper classes plus church and army, above all class warfare. 

The American alternative was Aristotelian democracy. Whether that's possible with the increasing differentiation between those who benefit from sending jobs offshore -- executives, the managerial class -- and those who lose by it -- the working classes -- is not entirely clear. And yes, I understand that cheaper goods are supposed to benefit all of us, and I continue to point out that the costs of job export are not accounted against that. Social disorder and alienation are terribly dangerous but economists never take those into account.


One opinion, FWIW. I don't mean to offend or upset, but I've gotta say something to get it out of my system.

I've been following the discussion on Drudge about the upcoming CBS "biopic" of Reagan.

Disclosure: I was raised in a "yellow-dog" Democratic household; the family had been Democratic for almost as long as the Democratic party has existed as such. With that background and under the influence of liberal friends, I voted against Mr. Reagan in '80 and '84, giving heed to their arguments that he would roll back certain socially liberal/libertarian policies that they (and I) generally favored.

However, my transformation had already begun under the previous administration, trying to listen to Daddy try to defend the amnesty of the Viet Nam era draft evaders after he spent almost 6 years over there. And listening to him talk about Carter's charlie fotxrot in the Iranian desert in March of 1980 (as experienced on the ground, though I admit he didn't really give a lot of details...) And listening, virtually every time he gave a political opinion, say something that was radically at odds with everything I was reading in the Democratic literature and hearing on the news...

In any event, by the time '88 rolled around, switching parties was at most only peripherally related to voting my pocket book, instead being rather firmly based in comparing Dukakis and Bush I, even as discounted by my father's choice personal commentary regarding Bush I. Because I had seen that my friend's social-based concerns were mostly groundless -- and that the economic and defense policies of the Republicans were generally to be preferred. (With a strong wish that a shift closer to libertarianism would be possible, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, back on what's being disclosed on Drudge about the upcoming Reagan telepic. As you can see from above, I came to being a Republican too late to be a Reagan Republican, and so never developed the respectful attitude towards the gentleman held by my new political role models. Despite that, Drudge's descriptions of the way Reagan is being portrayed by James Brolin ("Mr. Barbara Striesand") are sickening. Claiming that Reagan referred to himself as the anti-Christ? Claiming that Reagan said that AIDS victims are getting what they deserve for their sins? In scenes where the claims cannot be corroborated?

Drudge reports today that Mrs. Reagan is seeking to have the production stopped, and I sincerely hope she succeeds. This abomination goes against everything that the liberals in the Democratic Party claim to stand for -- which only goes once again to prove how shallow have become their beliefs.
2003/10/24/20031024_134805_rr4.htm  (link good this evening but likely to be moved to the Archive site tomorrow).

<snip> some exerpts which summarize my reaction fairly well: 

To dramatize Reagan's alleged neglect of AIDS, "The Reagans" depict the president making a moralistic statement about AIDS victims that he never made. Even the scriptwriter admits the statement was a fiction. An even more contemptible slur included in this miniseries about a man who at the age when most are in retirement ran the largest corporation on earth is the stress the Hollywoodians put on Reagan's supposed forgetfulness. This is high drama for a Hollywood scriptwriter -- for, you see, Reagan now ekes out his daily life through the fog of Alzheimer's disease... A bestselling book of his lifetime correspondence, "Reagan: A Life in Letters," shows a sharp mind at work right up to retirement. Yet the 92-year-old former president does have Alzheimer's disease. His wife, family and friends live with great sadness, and for Mrs. Reagan grave burdens. So what can we say in the end of CBS's broadcast just now of this anti-historical life of a great man? We can say A) the child-like mind of the Hollywood artistes ignored "the evidence," and B) CBS and the producers of "The Reagans" have publicly committed an act of remarkable cruelty.

Jim Woosley

I do not intend to watch that. We knew Reagan before he became a politician. As Republican County Co-Chairman of San Bernardino County in 1964 we invited him to come speak at the Orange Fair Grounds, and Mrs. Pournelle (County Co-Chairman) was among the first to urge him to run for public office. We saw the research notes he used for his speech. There was nothing wrong with his reason in '64, or '68. 

In 1981-85 he personally read all the reports of the council I chaired and the papers General Graham and I and others produced on SDI. There was nothing wrong with his reason in those years. I lost contact after 1988.

I am not astonished that this particular Hollywood outfit has committed an act of cruelty. Why should I be?

FOR a mild instance of what's going on now


I have several letters on this, but haven't been able to get to them:

Jerry, I'm running Mac OS 10.3, and I can assure that Expose bears about as much resemblance to any version of Window's Cascade or Tile function as an AR-15 does to a club with a nail in. Expose is simply so many orders of magnitude more useful and elegant that it's not even worth comparing the two. With a touch of a key it quickly and seamlessly scales down all the individual windows, proportionally and with the content still running, and then restores them the same way. However, it's rather like telling you that Gene Kelley dances pretty well in Singin in the Rain; you really have to see it in auction to believe just who good it looks. And its one of those interface innovations that after you've started using it, you wonder how you lived without it. Tell you what: Get your hands on a current Mac running 10.3 and press F9. If, at the very least, you don't go "Damn, that is nifty!", I'll buy you a drink (alcoholic or non-) the next time we're both at the same science fiction convention.


Lawrence Person My Web Page: Nova Express: Lame Excuse Books:

I'll have a 15" Mac in a few days.


The fear here is not of dirty needles. No, it is of rumours that the vaccine itself has HIV. Africa is such a pathetic place.

*Northern Nigerian States Suspend Polio Campaign.* / Mon October 27, 2003 12:17 PM ET / (Page 1 of 2) ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Three states in northern Nigeria have suspended a polio immunization program led by the World Health Organization (WHO), saying they suspected it spread AIDS and caused infertility, Nigerian officials said on Monday.

In Geneva, the WHO said there was no question about the purity or safety of the vaccine it used.





And more revelations about SCO

SCO, in their eternal quest to reach new lows of absurdity, claims in court filings that the General Public License is both voidable and unconstitutional. For example, their "Eighth Affirmative Defense" states

"The GPL violates the U.S. Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws, and IBM's claims based thereon, or related thereto, are barred."

To quote our esteemed host, "ye flipping gods."

Full details, analysis, and reasonable s/n ratio at 

Steve Setzer


This hadn't escaped us:

Subj: The fire-god awakes?

About an hour ago I finally finished reading “The Burning City". Remember the last page?

“Yangin-Atep feeds the fires that move a billion automobiles and a million airplanes everywhere in the world. Not cook fires alone but also automobile and diesel motors are each a nerve ending for Yangin-Atep. The god’s nerve trunks reach along freeways, paths that once ran through forest, then and still Yangin-Atep’s tail. From time to time the fire god’s attention shifts, and then the Burning comes again…”

In the very same place, yet.




The link posted for the NYT article on Levitt requires purchasing the article. However I found a free copy at: 

Roy Harvey Beacon Falls, CT



Drug Prohibition has worked exactly as well as did Alcohol Prohibition!

The Law of Unexpected Consequences is _still_ working well, with the poorly endowed with Etical Scruples selling the refined products of humble plants at a very high markup, enriching the bottlenecks in the distribution chain something wonderful.

We are not enduring an Heroin War, nor a Cocaine War, only because the Producing States are belly-crawling weak, compared the the Military of their best customers.

All Drugs, including Alcohol, are much better legal for Consumption, with well-understood consequences for consuming to Intoxication, and then operating a motor vehicle, or going to work. The highly educated and skilled North American Agricultual Community would out-produce the other couintrys, and come up with a higher quality product. As an example, it is rumored that West Coasts of the US and Canada grown Marijuania is sold in Mexico, at a profit!

To give the harried Traffic Police some help, a Hand-Held Sniffer, capable of detecting the metabolites of all known Intoxicating Drugs (including Alcohol), is a mandatory chunk of equipment. Security Gruards at Offices and Factorys, as well as foremen and Supervisors, also each need one. My own experiences with those silly enough to come to work, or consume intoxicants while at work, lead me to conclude that such a Sniffer-Brick would be a literal Life-Saver!

I am a retired Seismic Surveyor, who worked in Northern Alberta and BC, in the Arctic, and in the High Arctic. Alcohol and Marijuana were the bigger problems, with other Drugs a lesser problem only because of their cost. Total Prohibition of all "Recreational Drugs", in Bush Camps, became the Default Solution. This irritated the "Old Hands", but saved the Crew Manager, the Operator, the Drill Push, the Cat Foreman, and the Surveyors, many problems. The 18 to 22 year-olds had to do their experimentation on their own time!

We really need a King Canute, to place his Anti-Drug Throne at the Low-Tide Line, then have his Hangers-On, who claimed that The King can DO Anything, to stand fast and see how well the Tide obeyed his command to stop. Our many Drug-War Experts, who keep claiming that more money and people will enable Victory "real soon now" (thanks, Dr. P.), do remind me of King Canute and his hangers-on.

Neil Frandsen Apt 601 535-8th Street South Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 2J9

Unintended consequences indeed.

I have mixed emotions on all this.


Hmmm, but would I really want it in my back yard? ;->


And cheap at the price, too...






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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I ran across this critique of THOR on "U.S.S. Clueless", Steven Den Beste's weblog. I thought you'd want to know, and perhaps respond:

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

P.S. Please don't shoot the messenger! :-) dh

Well, I don't know who this chap is, but I see:

On the other hand, when it comes to any kind of kinetic weapon, it's the actual mass involved which is important, and if you want to do a lot of widespread damage, you need a lot of mass, quantities which dwarf the total amount of material the entire human race has lifted into space up to this point.

Which demonstrates that either he has the wrong idea of what Thor is about, or he simply does not understand kinetic energy. The whole tone of his web site seems to be one of "I'm the expert, and it's a pity these other people don't understand." But I fear it's he who doesn't understand in this case.

Thor is predicated on reusable ships, and operations driven space access.  There is no inherent reason why it should cost more to put a pound in orbit than it does to fly that pound to Australia from the US. Put in that context, we already used large dead weight bombs (which really did need a lot of mass because they didn't have very high velocities): clearly someone thought it a good idea.

KE = 1/2 mV^2 is the relevant formula. At 10,000 feet per second velocity, a one pound weight has considerable destructive force, which is to say that 10,000 squared is a large number. I leave the TNT equivalent force of 1/2 x 10,000^2 foot pounds of energy as an exercise for the reader. It's not small.

Now true: getting that pound (and in fact a projectile would be more likely to be 50 pounds or so, to provide enough mass to survive reentry and have something left to guide to target) to orbit is expensive, and getting the fuel to take it out of orbit up with it is expensive, and the whole operation is expensive; but then war is expensive. A single Thor could take out any ship afloat, as an example. It could also take out any bridge, and nearly any structure. In World War II it took, I am told, tens of thousands of projectiles of all sizes and varieties to produce on average one casualty. Clearly we thought it worth that cost. Divide the cost of the war by the number of casualties we inflicted on Germany and Japan and you will get the cost per casualty: a rather large number.

For some reason this chap is talking about 500,000 Thor projectiles, which I suppose comes from his assumption that there exists someone in this world who wants to wage a war of bombardment from orbit with no other weapons employed. I don't know who ever suggested that. It's easy to win an argument if there's no one asserting the opposite of what you say. Certainly no one I know of suggests that wars be waged by putting 500,000 projectiles in orbit. 

At current costs to orbit, Thor even for limited target use makes no sense; there are cheaper ways to take out any known target. When costs to orbit are comparable to costs of air freight (and there's no reason why they can't be made so), then Thor is a viable alternative to stand-off missiles (expensive), gravity bombs (expose the airplane to attack) and artillery bombardment (you have to get the gun within range and you have to defend the gun from enemy attacks) for a fairly wide range of targets. It never was a magic bullet intended for massive bombardment (500,000 projectiles at 10,000^2 kinetic energy per projectile!); it is a magic bullet for particular hard targets that need to be taken out quickly and certainly and without warning.

And for that matter, if costs to orbit are down around air freight charges, Thor starts making sense for hundreds of targets: after all, you have to get your artillery shells, or gravity dropped bombs, or missiles, to the target theater, and that will cost you. This way you convert some of the cost of transportation into energy useful to kill the target.

He also dismisses Thoth, which was a "smart bomb" concept we developed before GPS and other location technologies. The equivalent of Thoth (air dropped precision guided munitions directed to targets located by ground forces) is in regular use. It was worth doing at the time our Boeing team proposed it, and something very like Thoth is in use now.

As I say, I don't know who this chap is who has this web site, but he seems determined to prove that systems I never proposed to begin with aren't practical. He's right, too.

As he says, "There may well be a place for that kind of weapon, but not as a means of delivering massive devastation." 

I quite agree. On the other hand, the whole notion of high tech war is to avoid massive destruction in the first place.

And See Below



It appears this one is going to hit us straight on, unlike the last one that hit us a glancing blow.

Batten down the hatches, and be sure to watch the Aurora Borealis, if the stinking fire will let you. A forum friend of mine lost his girlfriend to it, just after Homecoming.

-- David Bierbaum

Actually I should say the flare has happened and the results are coming...


Last weekend's geomagnetic storm turned out to be a wet firecracker. Yesterday's solar flare was the second largest ever seen by the SOHO satellite, and aimed pretty much right at us. While there's still uncertainty as to exactly how strong this will get - solar charged particles don't travel in straight lines due to magnetic fields - NOAA expects geomagnetic storm intensity to reach G-4 with occasional bursts of G-5, on a scale that peaks at G-5.

The main burst of charged particles is expected to start arriving around noon today EST, around an hour from now, and will likely last a day or two. RF comms interference, power line surges, and vigorous auroral displays are the chief effects to expect. Temporary outages in various satellite services are also a possibility. Also, if you happen to deal with extremely long wire runs, miles not yards, be aware that you could see strong induced voltages at times if the geometry is right. Watch out for self-electrifying fences if you happen to own a huge spread in Texas... for pointers to more info.

Henry Vanderbilt

=And Joanne Dow says

Expect wide spread communications and power problems and outages. Expect satellites to die. (A Japanese satellite is already perhaps dead at least shut down.) This is EXTREME as a problem. The GOES greater than 10MEV sensor has peaked out and perhaps burned out. It is off scale high. Heck, currents in pipelines can reach thousands of amps.

The news media is still not with it. They remark that it can hit like this during solar maxima. This is NOT the solar maximum. We're well down the curve. And there are a higher than normal number of Sun spots even for the Solar maxima.

Auroras are being reported on ham radio as far south as Dallas and Pahrump Nv. It's green skies in Colorado near WWV. Speaking of WWV the 10MHz WWV has died out here. Radio propagation is dead at HF. In Pahrump and Dallas the skies are quite glowing red to the North. Explore for lots of information overload. Explore for a pair of interesting animations. The one on the right is the last day's SOHO images of the Sun. The last 5 images grow increasingly speckled as the radiation hits the satellite.

"Maude, this is the big one." {^_^}



"Actually I should say the flare has happened and the results are coming..."

It has arrived and it's an off the scale doozy. (Literally, the Planetary Kp index for satellite conditions is off the 0 to 9 scale. When designing the scale they'd not planned for one this big, it appears.

The GOES satellite Electron Flux sensor had to be turned off lest it die. The GOES satellite ">10MEv" sensor (the red one on "Satellite Environment Plot" on the page below) went off the scale on the high end.

See for some entertainment. Kp went from the green to off scale red in one averaging interval.




Subj: Hashemite solution for Iraq

Bring back the old 1925 Constitution, on an interim basis, then amend it.

That's what Bermard Lewis and R. James Woolsey suggest: 

Interesting that the Hashemites, although they are Sunni, "have historically been respected by the Shiites", based on their even-handed treatment of all varieties of Muslims during their centuries-long rule over Mecca and Medina.


Interesting. I proposed that before we ever went in, as one way we might be able to go in and get out...  The Hashemites are hereditary Protectors of Mecca, and an Iraq/Jordan dynastic alliance makes considerable sense if anything in that part of the world can be said to make sense.  


Hi Jerry,

Oh my. This story is just SO wrong on SO many levels, it just takes my breath away!

9-year-old arrested for waving toy gun 

Read the article as it just gets better. They arrested his mother as well.

If I lived in that town, I would be demanding that the policeman should lose his job immediately for abuse of power.

Simply incredible!

- Paul

And we can all feel so much safer.  When a stupid man is doing something he knows is wrong, he will always claim that it is his duty...

Hi Jerry,

Astronomy picture of the day site has some new photos from SOHO. 

Wow. That's impressive.

Fortunately, the sun output variability has no effect on terrestrial weather which means those scientists don't have to worry about "other" causes in their quest to prove CO2 is our major global warning source.

- Paul


DR. Pournelle As Southern Cal burns I am can't help thinking of fixes to the loss of homes and lives to wildfires. In the chaparral ecology of this area fire is supposed to play a large part. I don't remember that exact periodicity expected but 60 years is to long and 5 maybe to short. Here we use goats and CMC or CCC manpower to reduce fuels in critical areas after some fires in the 80's. However when we tried to extend the fuel reduction efforts further under power lines by thinning oaks and removing the undergrowth further from the site we were sued. The lawsuits flew before the people who sued had even found out what was planned other than the words 'thin' and 'oaks'. By the time a slightly reduced effort was actually started it was well into the fire season and the risks associated with the work greatly magnified.

Recent controlled burns that have gotten out of control have resulted in $$$$ lawsuits .This has virtually eliminated the use of controlled burns on public property. (Los Alamos and Yellowstone come to mind) . So FED/ State Laws must be amended to make burns a useable form of vegetation management. This must include some form of protection from the courts.

On another front the homes that are destroyed by fires in many cases are ignited by radiant heat through the windows. The high temperatures that occur as the flame front ignites flammable furnishings inside of the house via radiation trough closed windows. In most cases the high temperatures last only minutes as the flame front passes through. Many of these homes, especially the stucco ones with tile roofs, could be saved if a temperature resistant reflective shades could be applied quickly over the glass openings. Just an exterior sheet of reflective nomex or fiberglass cloth could give the transient protection required. Sheets of such fabric that could be stretched over the windows and nailed by emergency crews or home owners. Like people in the hurricane belt buy plywood and have shutters for wind protection. Or even pull down blind type permanent installations would be possible. A Stucco and tile structure should not be destroyed if built correctly by a brush fire passing by.

Thomas Weaver


10,000 fps de-orbit velocity is a bit on the high side of the bell curve, but I'll give you that. It depends on orbital apsides and geometry and how much energy you have available to change the eccentricity of the orbit in what time frame, and how long you're willing to wait for that shell to hit the target.

But on to the question:

First, we do it sensible-like and do it metric. We'll call 50 lbs of de-orbiting mass 25 kg.

There are 3280 feet to the km, so 10,000 fps is a pretty girl's kiss over 3 km/sec. We'll call it 3 km/sec for ease of conversion.

One kilo of TNT releases 4.128 MJ of energy.

KE = 0.5*m*v^2

KE = 0.5*25*(3000^2)= 12.5*9,000,000 = 112,500,000 J, or 112.5 MJ, or 27.25 kg-equivilants of TNT.

(In fact, for writing SF, a handy rule of thumb is that an object impacting at 3 km/sec relative to the target delivers KE equal to an equivalent mass of TNT....and once armed with this rule, you can find some howlers in a lot of SF.)

Ken Burnside


I just saw this on Slashdot: a judge has ruled that the DMCA does not allow Lexmark to lock out all third-party toner cartridges.

Also, have you seen the latest on the SCO saga? You just can't make this stuff up.

IBM demanded that SCO list exactly which trade secrets they are accusing IBM of improperly giving away to Linux. SCO's response was that they don't know exactly which trade secrets, and they need a huge mountain of documents from IBM so they can figure out which trade secrets. (But several SCO people made public statements a while back that SCO doesn't need a "fishing expedition", that there is plenty of evidence they can use against IBM. Doesn't seem to be the case.)

Also, SCO is arguing that the GNU Public License is invalid, unenforceable, void, and/or infringes the Constitution of the United States. At first glance, you wonder why they would claim such a thing: the GPL is all that gives them permission to do anything with a bunch of free software they really need, such as Samba, the GNU utilities, and even the Linux kernel (which they actually do still distribute). Aren't they just setting themselves up for lawsuits from every free software developer who ever released code under GPL? The answer seems to be that they are trying to get the GPL to be ruled as the equivalent of releasing code into the public domain, so they could do anything with any of the code.

But SCO has shipped (and continues to ship) the Linux kernel, and SCO knows the GPL applies to the Linux kernel, and SCO claims it owns a ton of stuff in there. So SCO seems to be arguing that everyone else's stuff should be public domain, but since SCO didn't really mean to use the GPL, their stuff isn't public domain and they can charge for it. That would be a rather sweet situation for SCO: able to do anything they want with everyone else's code, but able to charge for all their code.

It will never happen. The judge is neither dishonest nor an idiot, so there is no way this tortured interpretation will stand in his courtroom. IBM's lawyers are making restrained comments about how they are confident in their position and they look forward to trying this case.

It will take more time, but SCO is doomed.

As always, for the latest on SCO, read GROKLAW: 

Stay well; keep writing! -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

As you say, you just can't make this stuff up.  Thanks


>Subj: Hashemite solution for Iraq >Bring back the old 1925 Constitution, on an interim basis, then amend it. >That's what Bermard Lewis and R. James Woolsey suggest:

Which was considered early on, if my following of government pronouncements wasn't amis. For reasons I don't know but would be willing to guess at, the CPA decided to use the 1967 constitution instead. There is a summary of history of Iraqi law on some web site of the Fed's, focusing largely on commercial practice, but not exclusively on such. It appeared to me to indicate that the 1925 and 1967 constitutions had quite a lot in common.

Perhaps it would be good if the Iraqi Constitutional Committee, when they finally get around to forming one, considered simply adopting the old Constitution in large part. Of course, the entire Commercial fabric of any prior Constitution will need drastic changes to fit the country into the modern world rather than isolate it completely.



Dear Dr Pournelle,

I found the following on Drudge:

The Army has filed a criminal assault charge against an American officer who coerced an Iraqi into providing information that foiled a planned attack on U.S. soldiers. 

Someone, somewhere has truly lost the plot.

Kind Regards,

David Peters.

Ye flipping gods. Caesar can do that to the troops, sometimes. Eventually they auction off the empire...


Subject: Progress.






This week:


read book now


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Subject: Medical hold

Roland Dobbins

Indeed. Incompetent Empire...

Subject: MS employee fired for taking a photo

Yup, you saw that subject right people.

Guy from MS gets fired for taking a photo of MS taking a delivery of Macintosh G5's. Free speech meets employment at will at its worst in my opinion:

About the OS X security patch snafu everyone seems to be in a tizzy about:

1. The security holes apply only to Mac OS X 10.3 2. The security holes are as follows:

1. Core Files are disabled by default. So unless you've enabled them you should be ok. 

2. DMG Folder permissions can be a problem but I think the bigger problem is broken permissions on executable program distributions. Publishers and developers aren't using the right permissions. 

3. The buffer overflow crashes the machine but does not dump any sensitive data- no logs only memory addresses are dumped. This is generally not sensitive information.

Apple has provided security patches to OS X 10.1 while OS X 10.2 was the new version. They did not provide new functionality to 10.2 however. That is what 10.2 was for.

The majority of current applications now require Mac OS X 10.2 or greater.

"Apple declined comment.

David Goldsmith, director of research for @stake, a security company that found four of the vulnerabilities, confirmed that Apple said it wasn't going to patch the flaws in earlier versions of the software.

"In my initial conversations with them, they said they weren't going to fix 10.2, but I wouldn't be surprised if they change that," he said."

Now, let me be very clear here. It seems quite apparent to me that the folks at @Stake are nearly paid shills for Microsoft. (See the questionable firing of their head CTO) They have gone about talking about these security issues in the way that creates the most anti-Mac sentiment possible while forgetting to talk about facts like how the bugs in 10.3 are NOT IN 10.2. And I quote from the security-announce list:

"APPLE-SA-2003-10-28 Security Update 2003-10-28

Security Update 2003-10-28 is available.

It addresses CAN-2003-0871 a potential vulnerability in the implementation of QuickTime Java in Mac OS X v10.3 and Mac OS X Server v10.3 that could allow unauthorized access to a system.

The issue does not exist in earlier versions of Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server."

-Dan S.


> Guy from MS gets fired for taking a photo of MS taking a delivery of > Macintosh G5's.

I don't agree with Microsoft's choice on this, but it WAS their choice. To SHOW that Microsoft buys Apple products, even if everyone already knew it, opens Microsoft up to ridicule. Microsoft's response caused more ridicule than it prevented, of course. I'd simply have reprimanded the contractor.

> 1. The security holes apply only to Mac OS X 10.3

This isn't true-- there are all kinds of permissions-related issues in 10.2 that are encompassed in the 10.3 changes. In fact, I discovered several problems in my own machine's configuration after doing the 10.3 upgrade, all my own fault for ditzing around in Unix. They were okay in 10.2, but 10.3 didn't like them. Some of these are what @stake calls "security holes." I don't know that I'd use that phrase myself, but I understand what they mean.

. png


New Jersey is crazy 


When I was a kid I played World War 2 with my friends, slaughtering "Jerries" (sorry 'bout that) and "Japs" with many a brrroww of automatic weapons fire, dying dramatic deaths on the grass, throwing dirt-clod grenades and other such boyish reenactments of a very recent conflict. We also sang such ditties as "Whistle while you work. Hitler is a jerk . . ." We moved toy soldiers around in great battles with tanks and artillery. We drew elaborate battle scenes. I shudder to think of what today's New Jersey educators would think of us.


Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide. 







This week:


read book now


Friday, October 31, 2003  All Hallows Eve 


Scott's mother said school officials described the drawing as "not the work of a normal mind."



I say the same thing about the school system.

Brice Yokem

Maybe that's the trouble


Saw this on /. 

Removing some of the DOJ's spin (despinning?) the Patriot Act.


-- John Harlow,

There are certainly flaws in the Patriot Act. The problem is that we don't have a competent FBI any longer, so whatever laws are passed won't be enforced very well.

On Israeli strategy:,2763,1074804,00.html 

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

Surprising only in that he's going public with this. I guess the IDF is really upset.

Dr. Pournelle:

One down..... "A 39-year-old Sydney man was today arrested in relation to a multi-million dollar scam commonly known as "Nigerian fraud".",7204,

And Network Associates / McAfee released a special anti-virus file today (10/31/03) for the more-prevalent "MiMail" virus...which does a Denial of Service (DOS) attack against two obscure servers; but that may just be a test. It could easily turn your computer into a "DOS-ing" machine that targets multiple sites; which would make your ISP and others very unhappy.

Rick Hellewell, Security Dweeb,

Hurrah. And thanks for the warning.

Roland sends this link regarding this virus:


Subject: There's still hope.



I have converted to FrontPage 2003. Let's see what happens...

Best Bumper Sticker of the Year:

"If you can read this, thank a teacher....

If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier."

Tracy Walters

That seems to have worked.


On Thor

I think you misunderstood what Mr. Den Beste was saying... First, he was responding to someone doing the typical college freshman "Well, what if we had a ton of these up in orbit already, wouldn't it be great?" type question. More specifically, the initial question was talking about having a "massive non-nuclear attack capability", which would replace the effects of nuclear weapons without some of the nasty side effects. What Mr. Den Beste replied was that it is a great single-target weapon, but a) it won't devastate a city with one shot, and b) we don't have the spacelift capacity to put up significant numbers at this time (not to mention cost!).

Additionally: "Dr. Pournelle was dreaming. Unfortunately, that sounds like a scornful putdown, and that's not what I intend. Dr. Pournelle was engaged in speculation about the kinds of things which might be useful, and that's an essential part of the overall process of advancement of technology. "

Just my $.02

John D. Ballentine III

I must have missed the part about it being a great single-target weapon. I also don't quite understand the dreamer part: I proposed Thor as something to build, as I proposed Thoth back in 1960 as a practical system. To be sure, before you can deploy Thor you must deploy systems that will get you to orbit at something approaching airliner costs, but I don't find that to be dreaming either: we can do it, and for a lot less than the $80 billion we are spending to feed troopers to the Iraqi meatgrinder. Perhaps the Iraqi opertion will eventually prove to be good policy. I would think, though, that low cost access to space, which would cost about 10% of the present Iraqi operations budget, would have a significant effect on our economy, and would allow us to deploy Thor.








This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 1, 2003 All Saints Day

Regarding Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover, the new Star Wars novel which follows the adventures of Mace Windu between "Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III [Revenge of the Sith?]".

Besides being probably the best Star Wars novel (despite being probably also the darkest Star Wars novel ever), it is noteworthy that in one scene it involves an attack by De-Orbiting Kinetic Anti-emplacement Weapons (DOKAW), a variant of the Thor concept...

Star Wars: Shatterpoint, A Clone Wars Novel, by Matthew Stover. 2003, Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45573-8. $25.95.

"In my dreams, I always do it right.

"... In the swirl of the Force around me, I could feel the (web of) connections Dooku had forged among Jango and the Trade Federation, the Geonosians ... without him to maintain it's weave, to repair its flaws and double its thinning strands, the web would rot...

"When I faced the choice to kill a former Jedi Master, or to save Kenobi and young Skywalker and the Senator ... I let the Force choose for me ...

"And so: Dooku escaped.

"My nightmare is what I find when I wake up."

Thus begins (admittedly highly abbreviated) Shatterpoint, the first of the series of six novels which forge the connection between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars Episode III, which has recently reported will likely be named "Revenge of the Sith."

While admittedly I'm not a devout follower of the Star Wars novels, I have read most of those which are tied closely to the movies, together with a smattering of others.

Simply, Shatterpoint is probably the best Star Wars novel ever written.

Shatterpoint tells the story of Mace Windu, Jedi Master, between the events of Episodes II and III. The story takes place on his home planet of Haruun Kal, a jungle world that reads like "Doc" Smith's various jungle planets meets Larry Niven's world of Plateau. According to legend, Haruun Kal was settled by shipwrecked human Jedi in the years before the Sith Wars; the natives are all strong in the Force, and their survival in a jungle inhabited by Akk Dogs and fever wasps has only been possible because of their adaptation of Force to everyday life of the jungle.

However, the fragile peace of the planet has been shattered by the Trade Federation and their Separatist cohorts, who seek to destroy the natives so that they can harvest the native barks for pharmaceuticals and narcotics. Windu's former Padawan and protege, Dapa Billaba, has been sent to investigate -- and after months of silence, returns an ambiguous message suggesting she has gone native in the most appalling way.

Sent by Master Yoda and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to investigate, Windu discovers a world of plots within plots, wheels within wheels, enemies with common course and friends who seek his death or domination. It's a grisly story, with thousands of victims of these struggles left in pools of their own blood, with messages written in shattered bodies of the opponents, with heroes killed in less than a day by the native insects of the planet, their wounds being bathed to slow down the invasion of deadly fungi that attack hardened steel as if it were flesh, and flesh as if it were fertilizer. It is never to be recommended to the faint hearted.

But it is to be recommended as a strong, compelling story; as the best expression of what it means to be a Jedi. As an exploration of the nature of warfare: how it challenges the spirit, but also how one man can stand by his convictions in the midst of chaos and make a difference.

Jim Woosley


We have been a  bit under the weather here. I'll try to catch up with mail.






This week:


read book now


Sunday, November 2, 2003  All Souls Day

Dr Pournelle,

Mediaeval gas-guzzlers

A scientific paper has been published which destroys the fundamental basis that the global warning panic leading to Kyoto stands upon.. It is available to download as a .pdf at the following address: 

The Abstract reads as follows:

The data set of proxies of past climate used in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998, “MBH98” hereafter) for the estimation of temperatures from 1400 to 1980 contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects. We detail these errors and defects. We then apply MBH98 methodology to the construction of a Northern Hemisphere average temperature index for the 1400-1980 period, using corrected and updated source data. The major finding is that the values in the early 15th century exceed any values in the 20th century. The particular “hockey stick” shape derived in the MBH98 proxy construction – a temperature index that decreases slightly between the early 15th century and early 20th century and then increases dramatically up to 1980 -- is primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.

This pretty conclusive evidence that the 20th century was not the warmest of the 2nd millennium as we are regularly told by the Kyotoists, abolishes their entire argument at a stroke!

I suppose we shall shortly be hearing from the Kyotoists not only about how the current increased solar activity is due to increased human production of CO2, but also about the so-far unreported millions upon millions of gas-guzzling cars that our ancestors drove around in over five hundred years ago.

On a slightly more serious note, I refer to your recent comment to the effect that climate forecasting is not going to amount to much until there are forecasting models that make accurate ‘forecasts’ of the past. How true. But ‘forecasts’ of the past climate are still not worth anything until they are based on an accurate history of past climate.

Jim Mangles

Agreed. And see below



Remember the spam requesting time travel equipment? Turns out the guy was serious. Check this out:,1284,60141,00.html 

His spam spawned this: 

It may seem strange to some, but the first guy's issues sound all too familiar to me.


Familiar to you. As in your practice as a psychiatrist? I do think it rather unsporting of people to take advantage of this chap.



I've been using an unsupported freeware newsreader for awhile now called Microplanet Gravity. You can download it from 

It was an easy install and setup and has always worked flawlessly for me.

Thanks for doing all this so we don't have to.

Stan Field

Thanks. I've fixed Outlook Express, which is Good Enough for the news reading I do (not much and that mostly in closed areas like Science Fiction Writers of America). It is probably not optimum. I also use Grabit for getting binaries such as public domain music.

More on Newsreaders:

I note that you want a decent newsreader. When I am faced with questions like that, I always do the same thing: I check out what's available on is a free or shareware site; the rule is "the software must not nag you", hence the name "nonags".

Here's the page with newsreaders: 

They rate software on a scale of 1 to 6 rubber ducks. Don't ask me why. There are several 6-duck free news readers.

I think if I were you I'd check out XanaNews:

Stay well. Keep writing! -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

The home page for Nonags is and it's worth visiting: there's a lot of good stuff in there.  Thanks



I thought you'd be interested in this:


Army, Marines Rushing Body Armor to Troops in Combat Zones

By Rudi Williams American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va., Oct. 31, 2003 – A soldier with the Army's 10th Mountain Division was knocked down by small-arms fire, got up, and continued his mission.

Hit again by enemy fire, the infantryman got up a second time and continued his mission.

Army Maj. Scott A. Tyler, executive officer, Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va., demonstrates the new helmet that works with the new Interceptor body armor being used by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo by Rudi Williams (Click photo for screen- resolution image); high-resolution image available.

He's still alive, thanks to the new Interceptor body armor being worn by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Army Brig. Gen. James R. Moran, program executive officer of Program Executive Office Soldier here.

The Army and Marines are rushing to get enough body armor into Iraq and Afghanistan by December for everyone who needs it, as fast as it comes off the assembly line.

The full article can be seen at .


Shades of "Nemourlon." I predict that as this kind of body armour becomes more widely used, we'll see a resurgence of interest in full power battle rifles firing armour piercing ammunition. Maybe the Garand isn't so obsolete now? :-)

-- Dave Markowitz AIM: frodo527 Y!: dave_markowitz RKBA = FREEDOM!!!

Interesting. Thanks.


Rules are rules, says Roland:






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