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Mail 284 November 17 - 23, 2003






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Monday November 17, 2003  

COMDEX. 24K access. Spam. Defeated.







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Tuesday, November 18, 2003  

COMDEX. Press room. Time problems. Short shrift.

Welcome to the 419 eater

Hi Jerry

On a lighter note: 




- Paul

Heh indeed.

Dear Jerry

Hubble shots

Very cool !!!

It is a slideshow of actual photos taken by the Hubble telescope. Truly

awesome!! Be patient.. load time is a bit is worth the wait 


Douglas M. Colbary I & C The Electric Plant City of Painesville 440.392.5944 440.392.5938 FAX

"You Can't See Where you stand, From Where You Sit" unknown

Awesome indeed.

And more awesome:

Hi Jerry,

May God* grant us the wisdom to make the right choices

Scientists create a virus that reproduces 

Not that it is a surprise. I knew it was coming. Somehow, I felt "safer" when the USSR had lots of atomic bombs pointed at us.

- Paul

* invoke deity of your choice - we might need the help.

I need to see more before I comment. Given the source it is probably not time to panic.


Hi Jerry,

More of your interview is posted at: 

Thank you again for a wonderful interview and your hospitality!




You have a cow and a bull. The bull is depressed.

It has spent its life living a lie.

It goes away for two weeks.

It comes back after a taxpayer-paid sex-change operation.

You now have two cows.

One makes milk; the other doesn't.

You try to sell the transgender cow.

Its lawyer sues you for discrimination.

You lose in court.

You sell the milk-generating cow to pay the damages.

You now have one rich, transgender, non-milk-producing cow.

You change your business to beef.

PETA pickets your farm.

Jesse Jackson makes a speech in your driveway.

Cruz Bustamante calls for higher farm taxes to help "working cows".

Hillary Clinton calls for the nationalization of 1/7 of your farm "for the children".

Gray Davis signs a law giving your farm to Mexico.

The L.A. Times quotes five anonymous cows claiming you groped their teats.

You declare bankruptcy and shut down all operations.

The "cow" starves to death.

The L.A. Times' analysis shows your business failure is Bush's fault.

Ed Hume





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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Subject: NASA's OSP plans

I can't stand it! 

NASA needs to lead, follow or get out of the way. From NASA's schedule it seems as though they are looking for a rescue vehicle to be in operation by 2008 with an actual crew transfer vehicle by 2012 at a price tag of 12 to 13 billion dollars (That's at least 20 billion dollars in NASA speak). People, we went from Mercury to walking on the moon in 9 years.

What's wrong????

========= Terry Goodrich CSMG Design "Machine Design & Parametric Modeling"

NASA has an enormous standing army that must be fed...

New information in light 

Is this cool, or what



Since you know I have been after you to get a 'better' picture of yourself on your web page. Consider this one. It could be cleaned up a bit, as it is a bit 'grainy', BUT, you are smiling!

A happy Dr. Pournelle!


Does everyone like that one better?

Dr. Pournelle:

Let me add another point to this discussion of tariffs. Two of the most obvious costs of free trade are routinely ignored, i.e., A) defense costs and B) income taxes.

A. It should be obvious that if America outsources anything vital to its economy, it has to be prepared to project force to defend it. On the other hand, force does not have to be projected to defend any part of the economy kept at home. The difference in cost can be visualized as the difference between our current Navy of Aircraft Flotillas, and the Coast Guard's Fleet of Cutters. This difference in cost may be worth paying. Still, in considering the real benefits of free trade, this is a cost that must be factored in.

B. Free trade means the elimination of tariffs. Tarriffs are taxes. To the extent that you eliminate the revenue from tariffs on imports, you must directly tax the people. For Americans, this has meant that income taxes largely replaced tariffs after the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. Yet, this change also meant the Federal Government was no longer limited to a few discrete sources of revenue. It now had an unbounded claim on the resources of the Country. To put it very mildly, swapping tariffs for income taxes did not benefit the American taxpayer. Again this may be a cost worth paying, but in discussing free trade, remember that it is a real cost.


John J. Willis

A tariff is a sales tax, on imports, and thus "voluntary" in that you have an alternative to paying it. Income taxes don't have this feature.

Dr. Pournelle, Your comments of leaf blowers reminded me of my favorite Wendell Berry essay called "A Good Scythe." I know how precious your time is, but this essay is very short, and I must admit it made a difference in how I buy and use tools. 

James Ritchie

Wendell Berry is an old acquaintance and sometimes friend. We don't always agree but we approach things from somewhat the same direction. He's probably more conservative than I have ever been.

And see below


Dr. Pournelle:

I would love to take an educated guess at “how much a soldier costs.” However, there is both too much and too little pertinent information available. I was intrigued enough to do a preliminary Google search, but don’t have the training/background to separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps some of your other readers are more dedicated or less tired than I am. Below are some sources that appear relevant to the discussion: 

Whoever takes this on is also going to have to take the following assumptions in mind:

Direct costs include food, fuel, water, ordnance, uniforms, medicines, and other supplies. Indirect costs would include transportation, relief efforts (which, as you say, could not exist without the soldiers being there), overhead, general staff (w/related salaries/supplies), and other infrastructure, such as satellites, ground stations, intelligence, what have you. My father reminded me that it doesn’t rightly matter if the soldier is in Iraq or Fort Lee; the basic costs are the same. For some things, that’s true. However, one must obviously factor in “getting there” as a basic cost. Also, does one include the higher maintenance and attrition costs on men and equipment due to actual use in combat? Does the DOD have “standard” numbers they automatically factor in This sounds like a dandy idea for a term paper for some bright young lad (or lass?) at West Point.


Bart Leahy

“The past will not tell us what we ought to do, but it will what we ought to avoid.”

--José Ortega y Gasset

A good start, and thanks


This is astonishing. From the Best of the Web, Monday November 17, 2003,  (The Wall Streee Journal)

If He Were Republican, This Would Be Hate Speech--XV

(Link to the Washington Post article at )

The nearly 40-hour Senate debate over President Bush's judicial nominees is over, and as expected, the Democrats held firm in their filibuster. As we noted Wednesday, however, this could well help the GOP in next year's election, which would make it harder for the Dems to be obstructionist in the 109th Congress.

The Washington Post has this astonishing quote: "Democrats will 'continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president' for the federal courts, said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)."

Here we are in the 21st century, and a prominent politician is equating members of racial and ethnic minorities with a primitive subspecies of human being. Democrats were once the party of slavery and Jim Crow, but we'd thought they were beyond that.

Jim Woosley

Ah but he is above suspicion...



For future reference, I've found that margarine dissolves tar quite nicely. And dogs like the smell much better than the smell of turpentine or alcohol. Traces of margarine will remain in a dog's fur, but I've yet to see a dog who really minded that.


Thanks. I didn't know that one. And see below


Dr. Pournelle,

This is a link to LtC Allen West's case, where he is being accused of improperly interrogating an Iraqi prisoner.

It really bothers me that the prosecution is getting away with saying that this lowers us us to Iraqi standards of behavior.

Ok, at what point did we attach a car battery to the prisoner's testicles? Oh yea, we didn't. When did we shatter his legs and attempt to amputate? Oh yea, we didn't. When did we rope his arms together dislocating his shoulders and causing permanent nerve damage? Ah, right... we didn't. When did we put that Iraqi on television and give him the choice of reading a prepared statement or face an unreported "accidental" execution? Oh yes that's right, we didn't.

Equating prisoner intimidation to the levels of torture that EVERY opponent the US has faced in the last hundred years have used is slander and utter BS. I've seen the real POW debrief tapes from various conflicts and they're UGLY. It would warm my heart for the defense council to play those tapes, and then ask the prosecutor to explain exactly what parts of those tapes were duplicated by LtC West, followed by a request for the prosecutor to be removed from the case with a reprimand.

IMHO the prosecutor should have been reprimanded for making outrageous claims against a military commander in charge of troops in the field in a combat zone. He sounds like johnny cochrane defending a crack whore. The Air Force has a term for the kind of people who are overly concerned with personal feelings while in a job that deals in death and destruction - we call them Sensitive New Age Pilots (SNAPs). I wonder what the Army term is, and why the Army seems intent on turning their field commanders into a collection of spineless politically correct yes men.

Sean Long

At some point a commander will call on his comrades to defend him. It has happened before.

SUBJECT: Conduct unbecoming? Dereliction of duty?

Dr. P,

Let me see if I get Sean Long's point correctly:

A battalion commander who leads some of his troops to where a prisoner is being questioned, allows those troops to beat the prisoner, and then acts to protect those troops from disciplinary action should not be prosecuted, regardless of how many regulations and standards of conduct he violated in the name of protecting "his" soldiers.


God save us from what some would have us become.

William Clardy 1LT INF (retired)

I do not know enough of the case to have an opinion. All I know is what I read in the newspapers.

But See Below



SCO sues 

Apparently BSD is now fair game. Going to be interesting considering that AT&T lost that battle years ago.

Eventually the headlines will read "SCO plans to sue everyone who has ever heard of a linux".

I for one will be glad when they run out of $ and their lawyers move on to richer fields.


And see below


Dear Doctor Pournelle:

While reading the New York Times, local tabloids and other media available in my neck of the woods (Brooklyn, NY) I have been struck again and again by the notion that the American public, more pointedly US media, remember little and understand almost nothing.

Jessica Lynch was assigned to a logistics unit. In convoy, this unit took a wrong turn and wound up caught in a meatgrinder. 'After Action' reports from the Vietnam War ought suggest the sort of things that can befall a road-bound supply unit in nonsecure territory. Actually, narratives of any conflict in history can suggest that the logistics train of an assault force is subject to counterattack. Horrible as it may seem, such is 'the price of doing business'. Fiasco it may have been (that is not for me to say) but unsurprising.

That Lynch and friends did not react in a manner befitting Green Berets is understandable: they were not Green Berets. Or The Black Watch, SBS, et cetera. They did what they could as truck drivers, clerks and warehouse staff, in a rapid and ugly situation not of their devise. The endless parsing of what occurred by laymen-as distinct from military professionals-seems absurd in light of the above. They were neither superheroes nor (please forgive the vulgarism) f--kups, simply military support personnel in a jam.


My point is this: we must neither lionize nor condemn these folk. As the episode was 'reported' around here, I read plenty of dramatic articles which suggested either magnificent heroism or abject incompetence. I believe neither extreme to be true. As above, they were "simply military support personnel in a jam."

The media have also ran amok regarding the Occupation. It would seem-according to pundits-that the governance of an entire nation whose police and military apparatus had been demobilized ought to be easy and devoid of casualty. I would point out, as a little and simple man, that it has not escaped my notice that the governance of The United States itself is neither easy nor without casualty. Despite the best conditions possible.

What does any of this mean?

Only this: In the few instances where the media have commented upon things I am familiar with, intimately know, yadda yadda (labor relations, criminal justice, auto manufacturing) they have gotten it wrong. This makes me wonder about the manner in which they report things of which I know only second hand, such as the current situation in Iraq. I am well aware of my limitations intellectually and in terms of experience.

Are they?


PM Collison


Dr. Pournelle Normally I don't send out virus warnings as they tend to get picked up by most checkers, but this one's really got me annoyed. There is a program called b.exe that the company it's coming from calls adware, but is effectively a virus. It re-writes the profile of any AIM profiles on your computer (I don't know about MSN, ICQ, etc) to make them point to a download of itself at . The link text reads:

Whoaaa....look at what I found, click here.

Apparently it also causes porn popups. I haven't seen those in that I deleted the file before it was able to throw any at me, but not before it re-wrote my profile a few times. Their website reads as if a lawyer wrote it and they're trying to keep themselves from getting sued. There are 2 'fix' files available for download, but I don't trust them. There are manual fixes, which tells about the b.exe file. HOPEFULLY that fixes it, but I have my doubts. Thought you and anyone using AIM might want to know.

Ryan Brown

I will have to look into this but not tonight. Thanks

Dr Pournelle,

Compulsory Democracy

Let me win your hearts and minds or I'll burn your goddam village down if you keep shooting at my troops.

Or, in the immortal words of LBJ talking about the Vietnam War, “If you have them by their short and curlies, their hears and minds will follow.” (This is the slightly cleaned up version.)

The first thing to say is that it does not work.

The second thing is that if the US’s mission is to spread democracy around the world (a goal that I can only say is admirable in itself) an imperial road is not merely contra-indicated; it is self-contradictory too.

The third thing is that imperial powers don’t go around conquering countries and immediately start planning an exit strategy. They are there to stay. That’s what an empire is all about.

The only compulsory democracy I know of is Australia, where electors are fined if they do not vote. But the Australians did that to themselves.

Jim Mangles

We have not yet decided where we will go although the Old Republic is long gone. But we are still in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sinai, Iraq... And see below







This week:


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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Begin with one I have no answer for:

Subject: a Linux annoyance

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

There is a problem with Netscape and Mozilla web browsers on my Linux computer lately. I bookmark a site for future reference, then either receive a rush of obnoxious spam, or find my requests hijacked to another site.

This is not a worm or a virus. It is an attempt to take over my computer. I must first decide for myself that a site found on the Internet may be of interest, then bookmark it. My firewall will stop outside requests for data, letting cookies function if permitted, but will allow all internally generated requests to be sent.

The proof was simple. When the bookmarks were deleted the problems went away. I have never used bookmarks on my Windows XP computer, and have no data to support a comment on Internet Explorer. The several bookmarks kept in the Linux Galeon web browser have not been a problem, but that sample may be too small to be meaningful.


William L. Jones

One of the things to do on my copious list of tasks is to build a new Linux box and see just what I can do with it, but I haven't yet.

I use bookmarks on Windows IE all the time and I have never experienced anything like this.


A couple of things....

First, an earlier post was having trouble with bookmarks in a linux box...

"There is a problem with Netscape and Mozilla web browsers on my Linux computer lately. I bookmark a site for future reference, then either receive a rush of obnoxious spam, or find my requests hijacked to another site."

The description is a little vague, but I have about 200 bookmarks under my Mozilla 1.4 on linux and never see this behavior. I also user Galeon (which is really mozilla's gecko under the covers) and Konqueror and haven't seen it there either. (I'd be happy to try and help them out if you want to pass along my email address.)

Regarding your statement..

One of the things to do on my copious list of tasks is to build a new Linux box and see just what I can do with it, but I haven't yet.

I have used many of the major distributions (Redhat, Mandrake, Slackware, Gentoo and SuSE) and right now I would direct anyone who wanted a great end-user experience to SuSE 9.0 and anyone who wanted a great techie experience to Gentoo.

Regards, John -- John Harlow, President BravePoint

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







Subject: Updates from the register :

SCO admit they may have bitten off more than they can chew:- 

Depressing arithmetic:- 

Programmers to offer "...fries with that" :- 

All the best

Ian Crowe



Hey Jerry,

This link:

 apparently shows "toys" that Palestinians are selling. It is an UBL figure holding a replica of the Pentagon and the burning twin towers. It is inflammatory enough to make an American's blood boil. I really liked the Pournelle Monument Plan from the beginning, now a truly believe that you were not going too far. Ramallah and Nablus could use a Pournelle Monument....

Truly, Jim Laheta

The longer this goes on the more I think my initial reaction, (build monuments everywhere there was celebration of the 911 disaster, and come home) was a good idea.



We have no dogs, but we do have several children (similar). When gum or other sticky things are found in children's hair (or carpet), we typically use peanut butter. The oils seem to be the thing that dissolves the stickies, and the peanut butter stays where it is applied.

Mike Cheek Tallahassee

I suppose if margarine would work so would peanut butter. The dog w0uld really like that....

Hi Jerry:

This is probably similar to the fact that typical hand lotion does an good job of cleaning grease off your hands after changing the oil or getting engine gunk on your hands.

I was amazed when my wife put a little lotion on a Kleenex and rubbed some grease right off my leg (from a bicycle chain) much easier than using soap or other typical (and harsher) cleaning agents.


Bruce Edwards


You mentioned that Sable would like having peanut butter used to clean chewing gum off her fur. Thought you might like to know that my cat, Gully Foyle, would also like it; he even likes crunchie style! Also, as Frank Gasparik pointed out to me years ago, dishwashing liquid is made to cut grease, and works as well on engine grease as it does on dishes. -

- Joe Zeff The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.

And that should be enough on that subject..


Dear Jerry,
>>Does everyone like that one better?<<
Thumbs down.  Keep the current one.  The more serious picture is more becoming to you.  I think it  better fits the present serious times.  The previous smiling, grinning idiot media head society is collapsing in debt, deindustrialization, military disaster, illiteracy and technological decay into a pre-industrial peasant society.  And I think the current pic is more characteristic.  Which of the two poses would I be most likely to see you in where I to suddenly appear next to you?
"31 Year Pournelle Stakeholder".
Ever since I caught the original Part II of "The Mercenary".       

That's close to a record...


An Awesome Sight

Hi Dr Pournelle,

I stumbled across the following site and found the software fascinating 

I haven't explored it all yet, but it appears to be a "galaxy emulator".

Best regards Richard Meyer


And Now Something Else To Worry About:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I found the article on cheating students very interesting.

It really fits with something I came across at the Rent-A-Coder web site ( ) several months ago. I had signed up hoping to make a few extra dollars coding small projects in the evening and weekends. Image my surprise to find the projects were about 50% ridiculous (the $500 project to create a VB development environment that worked on Linux) and 50% students looking for someone else to do their homework! I even came across someone looking to have a paper on "ethics in computer science" written for them!!

Oh man, what's gonna happen to this country in 20 years when this group of kids is running things? The only consolation I have is that the current state of health care precludes me living long enough for it to effect me personally......

James Kimble Loveland, Ohio

Consider the obvious comment made. It would take longer than I have to give you a serious answer.

At one time the Honor Code at the Academies was taken very seriously: "We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do." But that, as far as I can see, was in another country. Legalisms have taken over. I have a friend former JAG who has been called in to consult on a case at West Point that is a clear honor violation: but they are dickering about what sentence and whether the cadet ought to graduate, and other such things. Plea bargains.

Diocletian would have understood perfectly.



As a fellow Southern Californian and a burger enthusiast you got my attention with your reference to your Ortega Astroburger at Kramer's 4 Corners. What city is Kramer's 4 Corners in?

Cliff Mathews

We put this in Fallen Angels, too. Four Corners is literally that, a few shops and filling stations at the intersection of Highway 58 (Mojave to Barstow) and Highway 395. It's east of Boron, northeast of Edwards AFB. Astroburgers is a rundown odd looking hamburger stand in art deco a bit north of the intersection and north of the Shell station on the west side of 395, just far enough off 58 that it doesn't get a lot of business. It survives because it still serves great hamburgers including their Ortega Astroburger; arguably one of the best hamburgers in the world, certainly in California. Truck drivers and frequent travelers along the northern route to Las Vegas know about it. So do all Boy Scouts going up 395.

East of 4 Corners by maybe 20 miles is the turnoff to Harper's Dry Lake, and north of that are the Mojave Black Hills where I used to take Troop 395 for weekend rifle camping: there is an area nearly perfect for setting up a rifle range with a forty foot high embankment as backstop and nothing for 10 miles north of that. There's also a bush where the world's most frustrated tarantula used to live: twice a year we'd go there, the boys knew where the tarantula lived, and they'd tease him out of his hole. He was never harmed and he got fed before the day was over, but I suspect the tarantula really hated it when we were coming...

Also off the road north to Black Hills is an intersection with Yonder Hill road. Next time someone asks you where Yonder Hill is you'll know. This is the area I have long proposed as a storage area for glassified nuclear waste. Encase it in glass (which is chemically unreactive and very stable) and stack it out there. If you want, put the equivalent of the Super Dome over it. Fence it in good, put up some electronic surveillance and forget it. In 600 years the only radioactive waste left are actinides no more radioactive than the ores...


And now VERY SHORT SHRIFT as I try to clean up messages that need to be posted but I can't possibly comment on:


Subject: Judge shuts door on digital copyright: Replacement garage door opener doesn’t violate DMCA



X-37 Revived?

Jerry, You may have already seen this and undoubtedly you'll get lots of mail on this recent X-plan development info that's on the SPACE.COM website. Here's the link/URL 

A loyal reader & subscriber Marv Shelton

Haven't seen this, need to ponder

Subject: FW: Clock

The University of Poland science students have finally finished their digital clock they have been working on for 4 years. This is a real clock, and its pretty cool. Go to this site to see it:



The original article can be found here:

and as far as I know Fox reproduced the whole thing.

The DOD issued a press release: 

seeming to throw cold water on the whole thing, but I don't quite understand where they're coming from. Hayes has been publishing articles along these lines for months, and it can all be found on the Weekly Standard web site. It seems almost inconceivable that all this is just so much hot air.

If I didn't know better, it would seem like the Bush administration, the DOD, and the CIA are trying to duck this stuff, but I can't think of a motivation for it.

Tom Brosz

I am reading the original now.

Dear Jerry Pournelle,

We now have the interview by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose online at: 

best wishes, Tony Lee editor ------ The ZONE


To be strictly accurate, shouldn't that be "Half the people are below median intelligence?"


Depends on your distribution assumptions. For a normal curve, mean, median and mode are all the same. If you don't know the population distribution then you have a lot of problems using statistical inferences.

We assume the normal bell curve, with truncation at the ends (no one with IQ below about 50 can live, and there is no one we know of with IQ above 200)

Mean is "average" (add up all the scores and divide by n)

Median is the middlemost score (and thus says nothing about the range)

Mode is the most frequent score.

In a bell curve all three are the same.


Subject: Embrace and extend. 

--- Roland Dobbins



I was looking at  for something else (instructions/utility for cleaning up my Rules list) and found this for synchronizing PST files across machines: 

Maybe it'll help. It sounds good.





Subject: The Fate of the Middle Class

You might find this interesting. 

Dr. Timoid of Angle

Interesting indeed.

Democracy is the rule of the middle class: those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. Rule of rich, and rule of poor, are unstable and often horrible. Turner's thesis was that the US could have some exceptions to the classical system because there was the frontier as an escape valve. That's gone now.

We have I think no choice but to see that we have not only the hope but actuality of a large middle class. That may take some form of distributism; the problem is that distributism is not popular with bureaucrats who want socialism under which they control the continuous redistribution of wealth, not merely hand off property to a wide class who may do with it as they will.



Wendell Berry's piece on the scythe made me wonder, why not a goat? When Sue was researching a piece she did for the New York Times on poison ivy, she discovered that the most effective poison ivy remover is a flock (herd? passle?) of goats.

In California you can rent a herd of goats to clear brush that would otherwise contribute to fires. They go up steep slopes where power mowers can't go, even slopes that would defeat a man with a scythe. Also, they don't emit unnatural fumes (their fumes are entirely natural) and they fertilize your soil as they work.

Who could ask for anything better than that? I'd say it's not a baaad idea.


Of course the goat is also responsible for the enormous expansion of the Sahara from Roman times to present...  But indeed.


On Mail Servers:

One choice that you should take a look at is of course Microsoft's Exchange 2003 mail server. While this is a lot of mail server for just a few people it works very well with Outlook. The server side rules can help filter some of your mail before it hits your inbox. Other features are there for mobile users to keep traffic low while on the road. Synchronized mailboxes are a pretty nice feature for users with both a laptop and home workstation. Microsoft even has a license program for those who wish to use it for demonstration and evaluation.

Al Lipscomb.

Licenses are not a problem, since I have an MSDN subscription. Clearly Exchange on Server 2003 is the "standard" or Microsoft would have it so, and needs to be tried.






The Health of the Empire


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

I don't think this needs commentary. At least they did not require that the Queen meet the airplane to recite a panegyric. It will be 20 years before those become mandatory. I doubt I will live to see it.

Note that Bush himself was probably unaware of the enormity of these requests made in his name.

Ave! Ave!

And see below






This week:


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Friday, November 21, 2003 

Dr Pournelle,

France hoist by its own unipole

Poland's Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said proposed new voting rules risked turning the EU into a "unipolar" club, and that it was essential for Europe's balance of power that countries like Poland and Spain did not lose their influence.

The Financial Times said his use of the term "unipolar" is likely to infuriate France, which uses the word to express its fears of a world order dominated by the United States.

Do you think Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
could be taking Chirac’s picz?

Jim Mangles



Subject: BBC: Henry, King of the Classroom

Too cute. 

And more Pournelle pics.

At an SF Con: nasfic99/GOH%20Pournelle.jpg 

At the Roton rollout: rotaryrocket99/jerry.jpg    

 I was hoping to find one of you at a DC-X launch, but if there's one on the web, Google didn't come up with it.


=At DC/X I was taking most of the pictures. There was a good one of Niven that he uses on his books now. I think some people took pictures there but I don't seem to have many. Pity.


Subject: Eeuw...--Copycat Terrorists

See <  >.

 It was never this bad even when the Soviet Union was supplying the weapons and money. I seriously doubt burning the villages and salting the earth will work. Suggestions?

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

Sure. I make them all the time. I don't have time for details this morning, but think through the problem:

Keep soft targets away from the enemy

Defend the homeland

Make it expensive and dangerous to attack us

Don't stick you nose where it it likely to be bloodied

Mind your own damn business, and reserve your massive retaliations for situations that need them.

Build monuments?


In 1905 the Wright brothers enjoyed a complete monopoly on heavier-than-air aviation. They had the world's only working airplane, were the only two pilots able to fly it, and had applied for a formidable patent that would cover any plane with three-axis control. Yet within five years they would regularly be surpassed by competitors at home and abroad, and before what was remembered as the Golden Age of Aviation arrived in the 1920s, they would be out of the aircraft business entirely. What happened?




Dr. Pournelle,

Your correspondent William Clardy misses my point entirely. My point is not that LtC West's actions were moral or met the standards outlined in military regulations, rather that the claims of the prosecution are outrageous, go far beyond the scope of any crime that was committed, and the military prosecutor making those outrageous claims is himself committing a crime. As I thought I wrote clearly enough before, I am disturbed that the judge allowed these comments to be made and did not reprimand the prosecutor.

There is simply no comparison to a rough field interrogation made by troops in contact, and the systematic torture of prisoners of war. If LtC West is found to be guilty of improper treatment of an enemy combatant (which that particular prisoner may not have been, as he was captured wearing an allied uniform which marks him as an illegal combatant or spy), then LtC West needs to be found guilty of that particular crime. Comparing him to Saddam Hussein's torturers, Hitler's death camp staff, or Hanoi Hilton interrogators is nothing less than slander even when that comparison is made by a prosecutor in a court.

So 1Lt William Clardy (ret.) did not get my point, and I am writing this in case any of your other readers were likewise confused by my previous email.

God save us from the lawyers, or at least look the other way while we hang a few.

Sean Long

I have made this comment before:

Long ago a Centurion wrote home from North Africa: "We hear that there are tumults and riots in Rome, and that voices are raised concerning the army and the quality of our soldiers. Make haste to reassure us that you love and support us as we love and support you, for if we find that we have left our bones to bleach in these sands in vain, then beware the fury of the legions."

But it is not a trivial matter, as Dr. Erwin notes:

Fourth Geneva Convention

Hi, Jerry,

I understand the convention was adopted in response to German occupation policies during WWII, and the Israeli Government makes the particular point that they remain in conformance with the convention. As a treaty signed by the US and approved by the Senate, it's part of US law. It's not a dead letter. Hence the suggestion that seems to be going around that we have violated it deliberately needs to be addressed before it becomes a propaganda theme. Europeans, in particular, still remember the German occupation.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD

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







This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 22, 2003

Subject: Scary interview with General Franks 

Generals talking like this worries me.

Terry Armstrong

Nothing lasts forever. Those who would exchange essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, said Franklin. We may be working at testing the truth of his observation.

And see below

Subject: Wired: Speed Kills, Military Wants More

Not quite Thor, but an interesting idea.


Speed Kills, Military Wants More

Ever in search of more powerful weapons, the Pentagon is planning some big and mighty fast missiles and rockets. By Noah Shachtman.,1282,61268,00.html

Gary Pavek



The new Homeland Security Bill has passed.
Things will be different now.
Internet surfing will be tracked by the FBI with a non-intrusive method.
The FBI says you will not notice anything different.
For a demonstration click on the link below...


This came last week, but got passed over due to COMDEX:

Well, we disagree about a lot of things, but this isn't one of them.

Exporting jobs increases overall system wealth. It also creates displacement, alienation and unhappiness for individual people. I have come around to the view that it is a legitimate use of state power to provide a cushion or safety net for those people, on utilitarian and state-defending grounds. Displaced, alienated and unhappy people revolt. Better a welfare state than a Bolshevik revolution.

However, a tariff on imports is not the way to fund this. The key principle of taxation is that whatever you tax, you get less of. Since imported goods are a net good for Americans (300 million of us get to enjoy the cheap widget, while 100 of us are thrown out of work by it), we don't want to discourage their consumption.

Instead, I would float the unemployment tax rate of companies doing business in the United States on the basis of their net U.S. jobs per annum. That is, if a company's job FTE count goes down in the course of a year, their (hefty) taxes for unemployment goes up. If the count goes up, their tax goes down. This alters the calculus when companies decide whether or not to outsource jobs to Mexico and allocates the burden of the displaced worker to the economic entity that made that decision.

Best wishes,

Bob Hayes

This probably needs discussion. Tariffs are simple and easy to apply, and apply across the board. They raise some revenue, change purchasing patterns, but if kept in the "tariff for revenue" range don't do much to distort genuine changes for efficiency.

The US is definitely changing, and one change is new efficiencies in manufacturing eliminate jobs as new efficiencies in farming eliminated farming jobs. The question is, can democracy as we know it survive this efficiency? And it is not a trivial question.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

A tariff IS a subsidy to the workers who are protected by it, at the expense of consumers who pay a higher price for the good in question. Your "philosophical" point is silly.

Regards, Gene Callahan Author, Economics for Real People

I must have missed something. A tariff is a tax. It raises revenue. A subsidy is a payment. It costs the government money. Now I suppose in some philosophical sense you can say that since the effect of a tariff is to protect a job, those workers are being "subsidized" but that is to deprive words of meaning, and end us in a soup of verbiage that makes it impossible to have a real conversation.

If that is economics for real people I must have missed something.

Some years ago, Jim Baen and I debated the point: would it be better to protect some key industries by tariff or by subsidy: that is, do we put in protective tariffs so that certain industries stay in the US despite their not being able to compete internationally, or do we simply pay tax-collected money to the industries so that they can pay higher wages: this is known as a subsidy.

Now you seem to argue that there is no difference here. Yet in the case of a tariff the tax is paid by those who use the particular goods; in the case of a subsidy the tax for the subsidy is paid by all, or generally so.

Your argument that there is no difference between the two policies, since both are "subsidies" does not seem comprehensible.


And now for something frightening:

Dear Jerry,

 I have learnt that today Mr. Brett Bursey should stay trial. Google ["I'm lucky"] showed  [from 26 June, 2003] It's short:

"The trial of Brett Bursey, the man arrested for "threatening the safety of the President" in South Carolina, has been delayed, for at least a month, according to [ ] from the AP wire. So what did Brett Bursey do that threatened George W. Bush's safety? He held up a sign when Bush was in SC. The sign read "No War For Oil." "

No word in popular press today; nothing of importance?

 Respectfully, Stef

PS. Interestingly, I've known people in [Stalin's time] Poland who went to jail for 5 years for a joke about Stalin [and it was a mild sentence!]. The man in question did not live long [tb] after leaving jail. Many, many years later I read about two drank polish farmers sentenced to jail for offending then president, Lech Walesa. They were sentenced on basis of the old, communistic law. Dura lex, sed lex which some translate [into polish, onomatopoetically] as stupid law but law.


When Clinton did this sort of thing we were outraged. We should be no less so now. But it is of a piece with the new imperium. He is supposed to be President of a Republic, and lese majeste is a crime previously unknown to the law.

Threatening the safety of the President by holding up a sign that he does not like.

Again I doubt Bush is aware of this sort of thing being done in his name, and I suspect political sanity will cause all this to go away: but that's this year.

We are not yet to the point of having the emperor's horse appointed to the Senate. We have elected the south end of a north facing horse or jackass or elephant more than once, though, so the precedent is there...


And to keep the record straight

Subject: Saudi sand

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe someone has told you less than the truth. Just before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1996 I read an article about Saudi Arabia buying sand for construction. I mentioned it to my ISP as an example of a super salesman at work. Imagine selling sand to Saudi Arabia! He had been there and was familiar with the incident. The Saudis were doing a lot of concrete construction. The sand there was too fine to be a good aggregate for concrete. The best answer was to import coarser sand from outside and get on with work. My own experience was that the sand was very fine, and the pebbles too large for concrete work. I am not a civil engineer, and may be corrected, but did have contact with construction people, and my ISP had been on a construction project before I ever went there.

The Saudi royal family has reviewed satellite photographs of the entire country looking for mineral deposits. Various areas of the country, some quite small, have been fenced off an labeled as royal family preserves to protect this mineral wealth. Theft in Saudi Arabia is very rare, and penalties are severe. Outsiders might be trying to loot these preserves, but they will soon be eating their meals with one hand.

The Empty Quarter deserves special mention. The royal family discovered a much larger than expected population there in the satellite photographs. They attempted to set up army posts to gain control, but none of the posts survived. Settlements in this area, such as Shawalah and Uballah, are ghost town remnants of these army posts. The Empty Quarter, Ar Rub Al Khali, belongs to the Bedouins. No one else can take the severe conditions. I visited and lived in areas bordering the Empty Quarter, and do not regret missing visits to the interior. I once saw a large directional arrow built of large stones there. It was to guide Bedouins to a water well. This is the home of the people that built those arrows and dug the wells, and I wish them the best that The One True God can provide.


William L. Jones


Dr Pournelle,

Saudi Sand

And the Saudis have announced a shortage of sand.“

When I was working in the place over two decades ago, sand was regularly imported— from England— because it was not possible to find the right grade locally to make concrete.

Jim Mangles

Which should take care of that.


Rather more important on setting the record straight:

Subject: Jessica Lynch and Anger at Iraq

Based on some of your comments in the mail section today, it's clear that you were shaken and disturbed by the revelation that Jessica Lynch was raped in captivity. I understand that -- I share it, to be quite frank -- but before you brand every Iraqi male as a co-conspirator I wanted to point out that this tactic has been used against the Iraqi population for a very long time...

(I understand, and you said as much on your site, that you were angry when writing and were not thinking with a clear head, but that just makes it more important to point such things out... misdirected anger can be disastrous).

I remember back in the first Gulf War there was an article (in the Washington Post, I believe) about an Iraqi dissident living in the US who received a video tape in the mail. When he played the tape, it was of his niece being raped by Iraqi Baathists. It was sent as punishment for his defection, apparently -- since they couldn't get to him, they got to his extended family.

I use that example because I remember it fairly well, but there have been reports of this going on for a while, and right after Baghdad fell and people started to think Saddam was actually gone they started telling all kinds of horror stories, and a lot of them featured the use of rape as a form of intimidation and punishment.

The use of rape as a form of keeping the populace in line is especially effective in Muslim countries, because Islam considers the rape of a woman in much the same way as the rape of Tamar is portrayed in the book of Samuel. Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon, after which he spurns her. Her only chance to lead a respectable life after this is for Amnon to marry her, which he refuses to do -- and so she is forced to live out the rest of her life in seclusion in her father's house. (2 Samuel 13 thereabouts)

The Iraqi secret police (or whatever you'd call them) obviously didn't care about any shame brought upon themselves (the Baathist were fairly ambivalent about religion unless it came to trying to unite the Arab world against the US) but they certainly counted on the fear families had of it happening to their daughters.

This isn't meant to disregard what happened to Jessica Lynch, by any means... but to point out that not all (or even most!) of the males in Iraq thought this practice a good thing -- and in fact that many probably lived in *fear* of it happening to their daughters or sisters.

As for Jessica Lynch, there is some hollow consolation in that she apparently has no memory of the event (though since I know nothing little about psychology I'm not sure it that is actually a good thing) and she lives in a society where she will not be universally regarded as a woman who is "ruined." That doesn't make it better in any way -- nor does it heal any of the injuries she sustained -- but she still has options she can pursue and a life she can live.

As for the people who did that to her, I can only hope they get exactly what they have coming to them... I'm just not sure I can comfortably point a finger at every Iraqi man and say "let this crime be on you and yours."

Christopher B. Wright (


>> There was a time when most educated people in the United States were >> pretty familiar with the English Civil War from Ship Money and Star >> Chamber to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Many had read Macauley. >> Ah well.

>I'd say most educated people still do. A much smaller percentage of >people nowadays are educated, of course.

I aspire to be one of the educated people, I looked and looked for the book on Google and on Amazon. I often buy books that I hear mentioned on Chaos Manor.

I did find that "Home Alone" is on DvD for a good price. I don't think that tyke knows anything about a Roundhead.

Any idea for a source, or is there a reprint with an ISDN?


Actually, Macauley's Lays of Ancient Rome are posted here, but of course when I said "Macauley" I meant his History of England. That is a five volume set, available from many sources -- it is still in print -- as well as in good editions at used book stores. Reading it will take some time, weeks at least.

It is a history of England largely from the accession of James VI and I through William and Mary/William III, with as much about the Restoration and Glorious Revolution as all of English history up to that time. It is also an experience. Churchill used to read Macauley before making a major speech: that kind of experience. This is English as it can be but usually is not.

The Folio Society has Macauley as a bonus, but many used books stores have good sets at reasonable prices.


Regarding the police arresting the 9 year old boy with toy gun:


Being from Ohio I would like to say that I hope we all are not that stupid as the cop who did that. My feeling on this is that the terrorists have won. Not physically but definitely mentally. When the paranoia is so high that a nine year old is arrested at gun point for playing like a nine year old then there is something wrong.

I had the thought that the paranoia level was too high when I went into the Southern District of Ohio US Bankruptcy Court where I go for work several times a week and had to run my shoes and belt through the x-ray machine just incase I was smuggling weapons in them. The reason for this was that my belt buckle was metal as were some of the fitting on my shoes since the didn’t clear the metal detector I had to remove them in public and walk through in my stocking feet and trying to hold my pants up. I really hate to think that the bad guys have won but I think on September 11th they not only killed thousands of people they also killed common sense.

Adlai Stein

As I have said many times, what they did to us on 911 is as nothing compared to what we have done and are busily doing to ourselves. We are not only cutting off our noses to spite our faces, but blinding ourselves as well.


Joanne Dow adds:

Quoth you: As I have said many times, what they did to us on 911 is as nothing compared to what we have done and are busily doing to ourselves. We are not only cutting off our noses to spite our faces, but blinding ourselves as well.

Quoth me: I'd say that we are closer to cutting off our national balls than our national noses. We have to keep the noses for proper brown-nosing our public servants.




And for something more pleasant, Col Haynes suggests:

Subject: Surprise Ending

 Hi All:
Turn up the sound, click on the URL below and enjoy!

See below for artist data

William E. Haynes


Dealing with Terrorism

"Terrorism is a technique, not an enemy state that can be defeated." Jonathan Steele: <,12469,1090844,00.html >. He's over on the left, so cum grano salis.

The current mess is like the state of an animal community that has been stirred up. "When you're hip-deep in alligators, it's hard to remember that the original goal was to drain the swamp." In computer security, I teach my students that malicious hackers _hate_ being watched. Computer security people need calm and quiet so the bad guys stand out. When things are stirred up, there are so many false alarms you get overloaded, and people stop cooperating with you. You want things calmed down so you can use data collection and analysis to keep tabs on the violence-prone, and protect the rest who just want to get along. That allows you to quietly stop attacks before they get any momentum. The same goes for terrorism.

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

Steele makes no real sense. Of course terrorism can be defeated. The question is, at what price? Once again, I pose this question: suppose someone in Iraq back in 1850 proposed a suicide bombing of the Sultan's palace? What would his neighbors have done?  "We'll all be killed! Stamp out that man!"  Saddam Hussein was pretty good at defeating terrorism.


Hi Jerry,


Such devotion.

- Paul

PS: Who can doubt, that with that kind of mindset, that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan saved millions of lives?



On Kagan's essay and other matters

Dear Jerry:

I read the Kagan essay with great interest, It says, more comprehensively and in greater detail, what many of us who post here have been saying. Bottom line is that you can't run the military like a business. Hopefully this will see wide circulation.

As for Bush not knowing what is done in his name: Does he ever? I don't mean to be cruel or snide here, but many reporters close to the Presidential beat have remarked how incurious he seems to be. He doesn't read newspapers, but scans headlines? Those functionaries who attach themselves like limpets to the powerful are very likely to overreach and assume authority when they have it not. This happens is all kinds of organizations. I've seen it in the military, in community theater groups and in large corporations. It's a power grab which must always be resisted.

As for the way the police do their jobs. That too is about power and the use of it symbolically. In the security business you learn a lot about the mechanics of running a good bluff. The way you keep bad guys at bay in a big city is to look like more trouble than you're worth. That gets harder as you get older because the bad guys are usually both young and stupid, with poor impulse control. Los Angeles, in particular, is the most under-policed city in the nation.

The last security guard company I worked for specialized in hotel security and it was here that I learned the basic difference between security and police. Security is all about "loss prevention"; something you can not do by standing idly by. Good security combines a number of techniques and technologies, some of which are so basic that people never think about them. Making sure that certain doors are locked at certain hours and that the premises have not just enough guards to patrol but to react to a threat are examples. The more layers you can add in the form of closed circuit television, alarms, security awareness education for other low-level employees, etc., the more secure your premises will be. Since you are working for hard-nosed business people who want to save as much money as possible and are always looking to cut costs, you really have to fight to get and retain these capabilities. The two most common expressions I used to hear were "What do we need all this security for? Nothing ever happens around here." and "Why don't we just call the police and let them handle it?"

In the LAX area, where I had two major accounts and was effectively the defacto Security Director of the bigger hotel I quickly found out why you try not to call the police. There aren't enough of them. Response is slow, if at all. There are along Century Blvd 25 major hotels and exactly one two-man car on patrol to handle all the calls from all of them. Likewise detectives and the fire department only come AFTER something has happened! Hotels are assumed to have their own protection. Cut back that protection and you become naked and vulnerable to all kinds of threats. So, security is proactive and policing is reactive. Something bad has to happen before the police can be called and it's far better not to have anything happen at all, although you can never convince those cowboys in Accounting of that.

There are many kinds of costs and Kagan's point that "efficiency" is actually the counterpoint of good effective service is a general principle not one just limited to the military. It especially applies in areas like Homeland Security. People complain about security measures because it is very hard to see the benefit of preventing something. If it doesn't happen, it can't happen or will never happen in most people's minds.

Depressing that. Makes me glad I'm finally out of the business.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

As I have said many times, good soldiers do not make good constables. Constabulary troops are important.

The Romans employed Praetorians: double strength Legions superbly trained and equipped, elite units able at least in theory to defeat larger numbers of other troops including standard Legions.

Legions, able to stand up to anything else in the world. Over time, though, some Legions became permanent occupation forces, staying in their regions and intermarrying, settling there on discharge. Benet's Last of the Legions, and Kipling's poem on that subject say much about that.

Auxiliaries who were locals (there were also specialists who served as what amounted to mercenaries with regular units). Think of these as native constabulary.

Now in practice things weren't this clear cut, but the concepts are easy enough to understand.

In the modern world, constabulary do not need Abrams tanks capable of single shot kills miles out of range of any conceivable enemy tank. Constabulary won't be fighting tanks, or organized stand up units of any kind.

Dirty shirt blue cavalry policed the West. When the Plains Indians had the capability to fight actual pitched battles, Nelson Miles's infantry defeated them in the Winter War. After that, the cavalry served as constabulary. Custer found out what happens when you throw constabulary cavalry against superior numbers of an organized force. (Yes, I know, it was a near thing, and Custer had prevailed with a bold charge in the War, and "the only tactics he ever knew was to ride to the sound of the guns." The point is still valid: he led constabulary cavalry against an organized force that chose to stand and fight. That is a job for the real army.)

If the US is to be a competent empire -- that is, to impose government on other people regardless of their wishes or consent -- then we will need constabulary as well as soldiers.

Marines, interestingly, can be both, although Marine units can't prevail against heavy armored units. But then they shouldn't be used that way to begin with. The Marines have been our traditional force for imposed government (Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Monroe Doctrine enforcers in general; Small Wars).


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Unlike your correspondent, I don't find General Franks particularly scary: instead, he should be praised for stating the obvious...which is that failure in keeping WMD from being set off in our country would be horrifying, and would have horrifying consequences.

I did not read anything in his comments that suggested he thought of the possibility of a military government as a positive: quite the contrary. I understood his observations perfectly straightforwardly, and indeed in a way consistent with my own: if the government of these United States is perceived to have allowed--through laxity, political correctness or general fecklessness--this situation to occur, a large mob of Americans will descend on the capital and rend every politician they find limb from limb.

As Justice Jackson rightly observed, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. John Adams and a Federalist Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts; Andrew Jackson evicted the Cherokee from their ancestral lands in direct defiance of the Supreme Court; Abraham Lincoln suspended /habeas corpus/ and thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court in /ex parte Merryman/; Woodrow Wilson and FDR violated civil liberties on a mass scale in two world wars; many of the laws presently on the books--decried by all as terrible intrusions into our rights, to be sure--were enacted during the Cold War.

Despite this, the republic survives: the very fact that this colloquy remains possible, without any of us worrying that we will be arrested or interrogated, is indicative of that.

And as long as we are throwing quotes from the Framers around, I'll give you one from our first President under the Constitution, the father of our country: "Eternal vigilance is the price of our freedom."

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

Eternal vigilance against what? Against nine year old children with toy guns? I agree that vigilance is needed, but I am not certain that our present course is directed against the right enemy.

For a somewhat different view (strong language warning...):

Franks is a fool. But at least he's consistent about it. He illustrates a point I've made: anyone foolish enough to support invading Iraq is foolish enough to screw up the occupation - evidently a lot more foolish than that, with the crap about any sufficiently big terrorist hit being the end of freedom. Screw him and the mule he rode in on.

Gregory Cochran

The question remains, what do we do NOW? We are there.

   Much of this came in during the night: it is well to keep it all together:

Mr. Pournelle:

I believe that Mr. Cochran is the fool. As you have pointed out time and time again on your page, we are destroying our own freedoms after just one such attack. More to the point, I have no doubt that the politicians will be more than happy to declare martial law to *keep themselves safe* with little to no regard for the effects upon the average citizen.

After all, I as a *juror* cannot take a pocketknife into the Dallas County courthouse. Absolute mindlessness; I don't remember such checks prior to 9/11.

Time spent replying to me would be better spent writing more science fiction; you'll get paid for it and I'll get to read it!

Thank you for your time.

-- Mark A. Flacy (USMA 1980) Any opinions expressed above are my own. Any facts expressed above would imply that I know what I'm writing about. Sometimes, I do! "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." -- Anon

I can testify from long experience that Greg Cochran is no fool. It is also self evidently true of General Franks. I probably should not have posted Greg's comment, which was clearly made in haste.

Fool is not true of the general, who defeated an ancient empire in days.

It is also not true of Saddam Hussein who anticipated the collapse of his conventional armed forces and took much money and other assets underground in order to wage the kind of war that defeated the US in Viet Nam. (That the defeat did not come until after our victory of attrition against the real enemy, the USSR, is not relevant here: we lost, not in Saigon but in Washington, and Saddam knows this.)

This is not a game for fools, although certainly much of our so-called policy is foolish. Policy balances desired results against means rationally -- prudentially -- calculated to accomplish those results. That has not been done here.



Terry Armstrong says that "Generals talking like this worries me."

I'm not sure whether he and I am reading the article correctly. As I read it, I believe that Franks was saying "be scared of this", and "people will demand this", rather than "I think this will be necessary".

Franks wants us to be scared of it NOW so that we will have considered replies ready if the situation arises.

Greg Goss

That was my interpretation.

Gregory Cochran paints with an awfully broad brush.  General Franks is no one's fool, and when he says something the wise man listens.
And anyone who thinks a sufficiently large terrorist attack might not be the end of freedom, or at least the suspension of freedom for a goodly amount of time,  must have forgotten all we've done to ourselves since 9/11.
The civil rights and basic freedoms of American citizens have hardly been a high priority with the powers that be since 9/11.  Now imagine a much larger terrorist attack, say a tactical nuke set off at the right place and time to do the most damage and take the most life possible. An attack large enough to make 9/11 look like nothing.
I doubt the constitutional rights of anyone would be even a passing thought in rounding up all those responsible.  More, I suspect a great many who now say such a thing couldn't happen, who say they would never support it, would suddenly be in favor of just such a consequence, especially when the majority of citizens might well step forward in support.  Rightly or wrongly, the vast majority of politicians hold whatever opinion the majority of their constituents tell them to hold.
Nor is it at all rational to label everyone who supported the invasion of Iraq a fool, anymore than it's rational to label all who opposed it as left-wing, liberal fools who couldn't find their own ass with both hands,  as many opponents certainly were.
There are good, wise, rational people on both sides of the issue. 

James Ritchie


We can certainly agree on your first and last sentences. Greg Cochran is so outraged over what he considers the colossal arrogance that led people he usually supports to blunder into Iraq that it has affected his usual more careful good sense.

The fact remains that an army of conquest is not necessarily a good army of occupation. Often just the opposite; just as a good field commander is not necessarily a good pro-consul for governing occupied lands.

Occupation and nation building, and leading constabulary, require skills not necessarily mutually exclusive with being able to lead an army into battle with another army, but they skills are at best complimentary: they are not the same.

Franks is no fool; but I doubt he was much consulted over the question of what he would do with Iraq once he had conquered it. The problem is that State, the CIA, the President, and the neo-cons all have different goals and agendas, and those are often very much in conflict.

The President wants to get in, impose a stable democracy or reasonable facsimile, and get out. State and the Arabists long ago concluded that only the Sunni could rule Mesopotamia, and the Ba'athist structure was a good idea because it sits on Muslim extremism. We even had the imbecile spectacle of the US Army raiding the headquarters of the US Pentagon sponsored Iraqi National Congress. I have no idea who issued those orders, but as one of the troops involved said, "They won't be pro-American any more, I guess."

Iraq as Iraq is not governable; but local areas of it are, and some are actually developing self-government. Of course the more successful those effort, in Kurdish and Southern regions and elsewhere, the more resentful will be the Sunni's and Baghdad who are deprived of their traditional rulership over the rest of the Iraqi empire -- for empire it certainly was, once part of the Turkish empire, then carved into a British sponsored Hashemite empire ruled by the Hashemites as a reward for their aid to Lawrence of Arabia (once the Brits proved unable to give them their real due as hereditary Protectors of Mecca: the Wahabi-Saudi alliance was too strong for the Brits to put the Hashemite dynasty in charge any part of Arabia).

I doubt that any of the people involved in making our "policy" in Iraq knows as much Iraqi history as I do -- and I don't know much. But then they don't know much about making policy, either. A policy consists of a realistic goal, supported by measures designed to accomplish that goal with acceptable investments of resources under your control. Our "policy" seems to be a wish list.

But then we have been that way a while. When Saddam invaded the Kurdish areas, Clinton sent in cruise missiles to kill janitors at night in Iraqi intelligence center buildings: accomplishing nothing but to show the US as a paper tiger. Imbecile policies did not begin with the present President, nor did the move to Empire.

The fact remains we are there, and the question should be, what should our policy be? But first we have to understand what a policy is.

Continued Next Week







This week:


read book now


Sunday, November 23, 2003


Had a random thought that might have some validity. I'm submitting it for your interest/amusement.

While you direct much of the conversation that occurs here, there are other contributors as well, many well-versed in their own fields of endeavor. There's also the occasional metaphorical 'gate-crashing drunk' who has a point to make and doesn't consider etiquette in the process (i.e. your humble correspondent...but that's another story)

Considering the above, would it be fair and accurate to refer to as a Web Salon, of the type fostered by the nobility and smarter nouveau riche of Europe in the past? If so, could we come up with a contraction for it to counter 'blog'?

Just curiosity and idle thoughts.

Best Regards,

Doug Hayden

An excellent suggestion. Now we need a name...

From Ed Hume:


So your site is like an intellectual salon, of years past. Very like, I'm sure. I recently read the new bio on Ben Franklin. He sure attended many such, and liked to form his own. But a name?

I think Mr. Hayden's suggestion of 'web salon' was nice. It can be contracted to 'weblon', or even 'blon', but those are nearly as ugly as 'blog'. Web salon I think would do it.


Certainly it is more a salon than a "blog"; for one thing the mail is the main inspiration for most of what is said. I do two things, filter the mail for the best or most relevant or most stimulating or by whim, and make comments. Both are necessary I think.

Incidentally, I have a lot of mail on job exports and tariff, from many views, most not in full or even partial agreement with me; and I intend to edit this into something coherent for Monday.

Web Salon. I like it.


On Civil Liberty:

Subj: Civil Liberties

 Dear Dr. Pournelle:

You wrote: "When Clinton did this sort of thing we were outraged."

Some of us were; a lot of us apparently weren't.

I don't know if you ever read usenet, especially the political groups, but you ought to, every six months or so. Entirely aside from the neo-Nazis and those who include "Haliburton" in every sentence are an entirely different group. I call them "streetgang" partisans. They're people [Republican and Democrat] for whom ALL morality is determined by partisan political affiliation. I've seen allegedly "liberal" Democrats defend the Japanese internment, and for no other reason than the perpetrator was a Democrat. I've seen plenty of similar knavery from Republicans. These people don't have an ideology, merely grudges. They could no more intelligently explain what they believe in than any gang member in South Central or the West Side of Chicago. But for accident of birth, they'd be burning books in Munich or chanting Mao Tse Tung "thought". They want to "belong" to something, and the more infused with elemental rage that something is, the better.

A lot of this is simply driven by pure malice. Partisan politics gives it a focus. Without the two party system, these people would simply radiate misanthropy. Belonging to a party lets them aim their sense of schadenfruede and entitlement at specific [and largely imaginary] targets.

I'd like to believe that people realize that what you do to others can in turn be done to you, but I'd also like to believe that people realize that cannibalism is to be avoided. Unfortunately, I just read a BBC story calling into question the latter....

From: Chris Morton

I gave up most of Usenet a long time ago on the theory that readers will show me anything really important I have missed...


Dear Dr Pournelle,

That thanksgiving card < > - was a hoot. But did anyone notice that the artist (Jacquie Lawson) was British? 

"The card you have just seen is one of a small collection by the English artist Jacquie Lawson.

There are currently 33 cards in the collection, and about 12 new cards are added each year. This gives some idea of the complexity and attention to detail in these cards: each one takes several weeks to draw and animate; and most have music specially composed or arranged, and carefully timed to the animation."

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427



The concept of a monument to demonstrate why you don't throw stuff at a man holding a gun or even at the man standing next to him keeps coming up. 

<snip> Mosul - Iraqi teenagers dragged the bloody bodies of two American soldiers from their vehicle and pummelled them with concrete blocks on Sunday in a burst of savagery in a city which had been among Iraq's safest for Americans. </snip>

I wonder how long it will take before a subset of our legions gets fed up with taking it on the chin so we can feel good about not behaving like barbarians? Kipling's poem, The Grave of the Hundred Heads, comes to mind here. I know you have read it, but in case one or more of your readers haven't:

I would never condone such behavior, but I would certainly understand it.

Braxton S. Cook

Kipling understood these things. Up the empire.













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