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Mail 290 December 29, 2003 - January 4, 2004






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Monday  December 29, 2003

There was a lot of mail over the weekend as usual; be sure to check there first. Including some NAFTA discussion.

Regarding your comments on Iraqi clans, specifically this, from Saturday 12/27:

"But if you know something about the clan structure you can figure out a lot of things -- and if you don't know what a clan structure is, or even that there is such a thing, you can't possibly govern."

I would recommend this article, originally from the Wall Street Journal:

Two Novice Gumshoes Charted The Capture Of Saddam Hussein: 

"The duo read through sheaves of interrogation reports from detainees and interviews with local Iraqis. They plumbed a huge database provided by central military intelligence. Eventually, they created what they nicknamed "Mongo Link," a four page, 46-by-42-inch color-coded chart with their 300 names on it. It was basically a family tree, with Mr. Hussein's picture at the center, and lines connecting his tribal and blood ties to the six main tribes of the Sunni triangle: the Husseins, al-Douris, Hadouthis, Masliyats, Hassans and Harimyths. The military believed members of these clans shielded Saddam for eight months, financed the resistance, and planned assassinations and attacks against Iraqis and coalition forces.

While I am sure that our / the Coalition Provisional Authority's understanding of Iraqi clan structure isn't what it could be, it seems we figured it out well enough to track down Saddam.

Happy New Year,

Jim Riticher

Your confidence may be justified, but my information is that the top layers of our government in Iraq don't pay a lot of attention to the people out there doing the job. There are plenty of captains and colonels who have learned much about governing Iraq; how much of that has penetrated to Brenner and his immediate subordinates is open to question. I have no inside information: I can only go by what I see them doing.

Of the billions and billions headed for Iraq, little has left Washington, or if it has, it is controlled at levels far above where it is needed.

Finally: catching fugitives by good military intelligence (performed in this case by a Lieutenant and an enlisted man whose superiors were willing to listen to them) is a bit different from day to day governance. You can do a good bit of MI work and military operations planning from inside a Green Zone. It's not quite so easy to govern from there: and if those who have to do the governing are subject to the orders of people who stay in the Green Zone, and whose major concern is the reporters who also stay in the Green Zone and come out only when there is "news" (which is to say a disaster) this isn't inconsistent with the praiseworthy work of those who located Saddam.

The conquest was glorious. What has been done so far is amazing, and we are feeling our way. We have, after all, some of the smartest soldiers in the world from Pfc to General. If we give them the resources already allocated, more amazing things can happen. I hope your confidence in the governing authority is on target. I am waiting to see.

Dr. Pournelle:

Read the stuff from Iraq with great interest. In light of your comments on clan structure, I thought you might find this interesting:,0,6559429.story?coll=ny-nationworld-headlines 

We are doing a few things right over there, but the bureaucracy is a big problem.

Tom Brosz





Subject: I find this very disturbing.


You are one of about fifty who has sent me references to this, and yes, it is disturbing. I fear we won't have much liberty to guard if all this keeps up. "We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own." But that is not good enough and we must guard everyone else's liberty, and carry liberty across the world at the point of a bayonet (or the muzzle of an Abrams tank).

But alas, there is a price for becoming involved in the affairs of others, and they become involved in yours, and now the price seems to be a great deal of our own liberty: to be paid so that we may have the privilege of spreading what is left across the globe. Better that all the globe be a little free than that it remain in tyranny while the United States stands as a beacon of liberty, a shining example, a beacon on the hill. That appears to be the modern view.

I continue to believe Adams was right. Spreading liberty across the world by force of arms has too high a cost. I would prefer to have freedoms at home. Those, I am told, must be curtailed for the duration of this war -- a war with no recognizable ending event. Whose surrender will signal that it is over and we can go back to our old ways of freedom and liberty?

But we were born free.

For a long discussion of this matter, see below


More things to worry about:

Hello, Jerry,

From today's Washington Post:

"VIENNA -- Evidence discovered in a probe of Iran's secret nuclear program points overwhelmingly to Pakistan as the source of crucial technology that put Iran on a fast track toward becoming a nuclear weapons power, according to U.S. and European officials familiar with the investigation."

Full story at:  Regards,

John Welch

Astonishing. And how long before Pakistan has a regime change through assassination or other such means? Who will then have their nuclear technology? And what will we do?


On a lighter note:

A discussion of using sled dogs to power bicyles on a listserv I moderate may be of humorous interest.


From: "Cycle Santa Monica!" <> Date: Sun Dec 28, 2003 5:56 pm Subject: Types of power-assist i.e. Sled dogs

In an earlier post someone discussed "types of power-assists" and gave example of sled dogs being a form of power-assist. And it reminded me of a product I actually saw that would allow you to tether your pet dog to the side of your bike and the pull that the dog would generate would assist the cyclist in moving. It was fabricated in a way that appears to maintain stability. Springer Bicycle Dog Jogger


From: "David Hammond" <> Date: Sun Dec 28, 2003 6:59 pm Subject: Re: [power-assist] Types of power-assist i.e. Sled dogs

Back in October, I met a guy on the Red Line (Ed. note: Boston) subway, who got on the train with two harnessed huskies and a folding e-scooter. It was about 8 pm, so there were few other people on the train. The dogs were perfectly behaved, and friendly. I blew off my stop and the 8 following to talk to him. Seem he was a Yupik from Anchorage whose wife got stationed in a Navy recruiting center in Dorchester. He said he tried an un-assisted scooter, but the dogs could only manage about 5 miles before they were done for the day. The E-assist trebled the dogs' range, he claimed. He said he made the in-line harness himself, and attached it to him, rather than the scooter. He claimed he had better control of the dogs, the ride, and everyone's safety that way. I got off with him at Davis just so I could watch him "mush". To me, it looked way easier than mushing on snow.

Ummmm, is CANINE power-assist too off-topic? ;-)


I haven't gone bicycling with Sable, but our previous Husky, Sasha, used to love to be my power assist on long bicycle rides. As he got older he was more willing to just run alongside, and after he got to be age 12 or so we stopped doing it. I figure to get Sable used to this by this Spring.



My thanks to Charlie for finding a way within Win XP to initialize a new hard drive. I had a similar experience. In My Computer > Properties > Device Manager I could see the newly installed HD, but I couldn't get at it within Windows. Luckily, I had a consumer box HD that came with MaxBlast (Maxtor's disk management software) on CD. Using that, I installed the drive. But I was unhappy that I couldn't find out how to do it within Windows.

Now that I know my way to your website, I can find my way to this management path again. Lord knows I'll never remember how to find it on my own.


Actually START/Administrative Tools/Computer Management is a very good thing to know about, and one every XP user ought to explore. There's a lot of useful stuff in there.


Subject: Mac Experience

Dr. Pournelle,

I just want to throw my 2 cents in on the Mac and OS X experiences you've been writing about. I started out using PCs (OS/2 and Windows) in the early 90s. A few years back I added Linux (very little, but it counts) as a hobby OS. I dropped Warp when XP showed up. Finally, a Windows OS that was "good enough" for me.

I've been interested in the Mac for years, but have never had any justification to play. That may be changing, as one of the guys I work for uses a Mac for his business operations, and that may be just enough.

In any event, my part-time employer just switched from OS 9 to OS X (10.3) on his G4 home system (his laptops remain 9.2). One of the things that he used to do to make things easy to find was start file names with ".". This caused them to go to the beginning of nearly any sort. Under OS X (BSD), this is treated as a hidden file. My Linux experience helped me open a terminal window and rename the files (manually, though I'm looking for a quicker way) and he was almost happy.

He also lost his networking. Since he does a large part of his work on the road, and uses his main system to compile everything, this was critical for him. He hadn't done anything for a week because of this. I found the (public?) folder (I don't recall the name of the folder, but recognize it when I see it), set it so it could be shared, and set him up with the appropriate shortcuts. I knew how to do it from my Linux and XWindows work, and _what_ to do because of your writings. My thanks for that.

I'd like to say that, while I doubtless could have found the solutions needed on the Mac sites, I probably wouldn't have. My short forays into Mac-land reminded me of my days using Warp. Dangerous for those of sensitive temperament, and annoying to any but the most thick-skinned.

I read Chaos Manor (and subscribe to it) because it is a readable forum, and I am likely to find information "in passing" that I need later. This is information I would not likely find on my own. You have my thanks.

Jim Lang

-- Jim Lang Student Always --

Well, I do lots of silly things so you don't have to. Tonight I will be looking into how to make the Mac communicate without AdmitMac; or discovering that you can't do it, and buying AdmitMac. At the moment all attempts to communicate fail because AdmitMac won't let itself be turned off even though it has expired. It insists I pay and won't let me attempt to make communications without it. This is no fun...


I have just finished and highly recommend Nathaniel Philbrick's new book, Sea of Glory, the story of the almost completely forgotten--but not by me*-- US Exploring Expedition 1838-1842.

This expedition mapped 270 islands in the Pacific and explored Antarctica, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii. Its collection of thousands of specimens and artifacts (far more than previous expeditions by Cook and others) formed part of the basis of the Smithsonian Institution.

It happens that one member of the expedition, Charles Pickering, wrote a report based upon collected data called "The Races of Man." There is no reference to this in Coon's "The Living Races of Man," perhaps because it was largely unknown and unavailable.

The Smithsonian has digitized the **WHOLE** set of reports from the expedition, including Pickering's. It appears that only 100 copies of the report were printed and thus it was difficult to access. This digital collection is an astonishing resource. 

Pickering's book, in which he apparently identifies 11 races, is Volume 9 but also interesting is Horatio Hale's Volume 6 which, in a sense, created modern ethnography and linguistics.


*I had read William Reynold's account of the expedition.

€ William Reynolds of the Exploring Expedition was in Apia, Samoa, in February of 1841. On February 6, he saw an American whaler, the John Howland out of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, under Captain Whitfield, in Apia. The ship was named after its owner, John Howland, who had owned other whaling ships, and in 1828, another of his ships, the Minerva, had discovered a small island several hundred miles north of Samoa and named it Howland Island. A hundred and ten years later, Amelia Earhart would be looking for this island and never find it.

€ After the John Howland left Samoa, Captain Whitfield turned North looking for whales in the area of Japan. By June of 1841 they were near some uninhabited islands. On one of these islands, the crew spotted some small figures. A whale boat was set out and the Americans found five Japanese fishermen in a state of near starvation. They had been on the island six months. Since Japan was closed country, with a penalty of death for leaving, Captain Whitfield took the fishermen to Hawaii. In the course of the journey, the boy named Manjiro, only 14 years old at the time, picked up some English and became popular with the crew. They gave him the name John Mung. On the way, Manjiro impressed the Captain with his intelligence and character. Captain Whitfield invited him to return to Fairhaven where he could get an education. In Fairhaven, when Capt. Whitfield was away, Manjiro would sometimes stay at Captain Delano's house. Delano's daughter was FDR's mother. Across the street lived the Tripps, and my cousin Job became Manjiro's best friend. Manjiro later returned to Japan and became important in several ways.


What's fascinating about Kwanzaa is that its relentless advance in official recognition is solely a product of the Left's "march through the institutions." African-Americans who aren't part of the bureaucracy themselves don't seem to care much about it - at least not enough to download free MP3s of Kwanzaa songs. Have you ever heard a Kwanzaa song? To find out if any actually exist, I logged on to an MP3 song file-sharing network. (Note to the Recording Industry of America Association's mongoose-like lawyers: This was purely for journalistic research purposes.) I found 5,053 tracks with "Christmas" in the file name, a huge proportion of them performed by blacks. In contrast, there was not a single copy of an MP3 out there that had "Kwanzaa" in the title.

In contrast, I found many references to "Kwanzaa songs" on Google, but they all turned out to be tools for adults to use in indoctrinating defenseless children with Kwanzaa Awareness, not songs that anyone in his right mind would inflict upon himself.



The only survey I could find on the 'net says 1.6% of consumers celebrate Kwanzaa.



On the Pakistani  Abomb

There's basically only two choices:

1. Accept that, when the regime changes into an Islamofascist one, it's an acceptable risk, and that the new rulers of Pakistan can be successfully deterred from using or sharing their new toys.

2. Reject the above, and make it clear to India that if they decide to conquer Pakistan in that sort of situation, they'll do it without anything but token protest from the US.

(If, of course, the Musharraf regime is knocked off by some other reasonably stable one, the status quo will be, well, as good as it now is, more or less.)

Of course, there's always:

3. Hope that the horse will learn how to sing.

Which is really #1.

I don't think relying on deterrence is crazy, although the risks are huge. The success of it would depend on the mullahs not meaning much of what they say, and that's always a possibility.

The advantage is that it is, unless it fails, a low-cost one. But, if it fails, it fails bigtime. The second choice has some superficial advantages -- letting India solve the problem for us works only if they will.

As usual, I turn back to Heinlein, reread "Solution Unsatisfactory," and find that what we've got, in practice, is liable to turn far more unsatisfactory within a few years.


 Joel Rosenberg

 AACFI-certified Carry Permit Instructor and Certifier BCA-validated Minnesota Carry Permit Instructor NRA-certified Range Safety Officer, Pistol Instructor, Home Firearms Safety Instructor, and Personal Protection Instructor

(He's a pretty good author, too.)

Dear Jerry:

I tuned into part of this on C-SPAN, last Saturday. Interesting from several viewpoints, not the least of which was the universal validation of the Total Force Concept. Some of the brass marveled at the ability of a commander in one service to call upon the resources of another to execute battle plans; a navy admiral being able to call in Army artillery or Air Force air strikes.

There was also some incidental discussion of Virtual Reality. One general remarked that the ground campaign had gone so well "Because we had been there before, albeit not in real life, but in simulations", which implies that they had taken the multiphasic imaging of the terrain, imported it to SIMNET and run the problem in real time with virtual battalions and brigades. I can well believe this. It was something they were working towards ten years ago. This technology will be very hard for anyone else to duplicate for sometime to come and may be our real edge in military power.

The most interesting guy at the table was the most junior, a colonel named Karl Horst, (already selected for Brigadier) who is a division Chief of Staff and who said, "we are just beginning to explore the potential of this system". Horst strikes me as a future Army Chief, about ten years from now and very typical of the new Army. Someone to watch with great interest.

Personally, I suspect that we're currently using technology to balance out the lack of resources for the military. This is a good thing but we'll have to rebuild the military, and especially the Army to something that can handle all the demands that are likely to be put upon it. We have to keep pushing the envelope on development too.

On the social side of things, anyone wanting a good look at the current US military should read the "Person of the Year" issue of TIME. There are three grunts pictured on the cover. The one in the center is the medic who treated that TIME reporter who lost his hand getting rid of a grenade thrown into a HUMVEE. Her name is Specialist Billie Grimes, and as a story with statistical breakdowns inside will tell you, she also represents the future of the military. Reality has finally set in. Women make good soldiers and the impulse to exclude them seems to have been thoroughly quashed. The Army always moves slowly so it took about 30 years for the change to come, but come it has.

It's a better force than the one I was in for a lot of reasons. The Reserves and Guard are also part of the Total Force Concept, across the board. That said, I agree with you that we can not and should not use them to force other people into adopting our political system, especially when we seem to damage ourselves in the process.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Virtual Reality as the key to victory. Interesting.


I was sent a long "rebuttal" to Michael Crichton's lecture on science:

“This article almost has a good point except for the fact that it is total and utter nonsense. Crichton's statement that there is nothing scientific about the Drake equation for example shows that he understands nothing about "real scientific" approaches to solving problems. The Drake equation he claims is not scientific and is based on guesses. How can an equation be "non-scientific"? An equation is just that--an equation. It can be an incorrect or incomplete equation but it is neither scientific or non-scientific. It is what is done with that equation that is important.”  <snip>

The rest of the “rebuttal” seems to be “Well Crichton was right, but politics always rules, so get over it.” Translation: I am mad at Crichton and I might have to say something good about him, so I will just pound him for – well for being Crichton. After all, he called the Drake equation a religion, which means he is a heretic.

First: science consists of repeatable operations. One gathers data, uses that to form an hypothesis, and then sees if subsequent data confirm that hypothesis. Michael Crichton certainly understands that and to claim that “he understands nothing about "real scientific" approaches to solving problems” is mere vituperation. One does not get a Harvard MD without learning something about “real scientific” approaches, and surely anyone acting rationally knows this.

Crichton, like Senator Proxmire, seems unhappy that any real money is spent on something as improbable as discovering ETI messages. One may have a view about the likelihood of finding ETI, and when, and as a function of what one spends when. Mine is that surely it will be a lot easier to make the search from the comparative quiet of the back side of the Moon. The point here being that I can’t estimate the expected value of spending money now on SETI as opposed to spending it later when conditions are better and it can be done on weekends and third shifts by a spacefaring nation, but the probability of success won't be high in either case, and surely it will be much higher later than now. So: it is certainly not irrational to say that the only real reason to put money in SETI _now_ is through religious conviction. It’s pretty hard to make a scientific case for spending much on something that has piled up so much negative evidence.

The Drake equation is a public relations stunt. Drake knows that. Before Drake, Enrico Fermi made the same back of the envelope calculation at one of his dinners for his  graduate students, ending up with the question “Where are they?” because on his analysis (so many stars, such a percentage of Sol-types, etc.) they ought to be here. Note, though, that although Fermi was famous for getting order-of-magnitude estimates from very little data (“How many piano tuners are there in Chicago? How many hairs are there on a human body? How many ping pong balls can you get into a suitcase?”) he was working with even less data when trying to compute the probability that space traveling aliens are here or will shortly be here. (Bob Bussard famously answered Fermi “They’re here and we’re there,” sparking another debate I don’t much care to get into just now.) Drake put that into an "equation" but since none of the terms can be evaluated even to an order of magnitude, it's not irrational to say it's a pointless equation.

No one thought Fermi was nuts or being religious; but Fermi didn’t have his “equation” put up next to Einstein’s as one of the central achievements of the century, either. Neither Sagan nor Drake were ever very shy about using the media.

Now it’s likely that Crichton could and should have made his central point without stepping on the SETI toes; after all, so long as one continues to search for SETI data and do analyses, one can claim to be scientific if not very fruitful, and a case can be made that the consequences of a positive result are so enormous that despite the low chances of success there is a positive expected value. There other and more obvious toes to step on. But Crichton’s main point was that this is hardly a science-driven society, and the views of actual science aren’t terribly important in the allocation of national resources, even for science. Shocking. But it hardly “shows that he understands nothing about "real scientific" approaches to solving problems”.

I would have thought that the friends of science would save their denunciations for real enemies. Crichton is no enemy of science. My guess is he would have other places he would prefer to see SETI money go, because he thinks we have looked in the obvious places and found nothing, and continuing to get negative results isn’t useful: in other words, the experiment was done, and it didn’t find anything, and it’s time to do something else.

Incidentally, given that more and more money for “science” is allocated not only through earmarks in Congressional Committees but also through University Committees – i.e. through socialist institutions with agendas not entirely friendly to the sciences – it’s astonishing that we find out as much as we do. We aren’t maintaining an optimum strategy for technology. A matter to which I have given some attention in the past.








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Joanne Dow on federalism:

Loren and I were musing about how our Federal government has its fingers in purely State issues and how our State governments have their fingers in issues that should be County or even City level. I was moved to a paraphrase of your perennial comment about our system of education, "If this system of laws and governmental interference were imposed on us by foreigners we'd be in open revolution." Then I had one of those "Duh" moments and remarked, "But it already is!"

Think about it, is the crew we have living in and around Washington DC and governing us really at all in tune with its constituents or any sense of reality? Are the rules and regulations we must live with day in and day out formulated by our peers or some faceless head in the clouds bureaucrat in a cloistered office in Washington DC or environs? We were in a hamburger place this afternoon. What started this whole chain of musing was Loren's noting that the place had to add a handicapped ramp from the side door, all the way across the front of the building and halfway back to a walkway across the drive through exit to the very seldom used sidewalk on the street. Loren had been forced to do this for his place on Foothill Blvd when he renovated it to make some offices out of it. Nobody uses that door and the driveway in both cases had gentler slopes to the more used doorway to the places. But DC in its infinite wisdom declares that this ramp must be installed, eliminating any landscaping that might have helped make the places less ugly.

We are, in effect, ruled by a foreign power. What does DC know about life in the inland Valleys around LA? For that matter I have begun to wonder what Sacramento, where they get snow on the ground in the winter, knows about reality and needs here where snow on the ground is a complete wonder to any children under 90 years old who see it. We might get flurries but nothing that amounts to enough to affect traffic and it's gone in minutes. Do we need the same things that Lake Tahoe or Eureka need?

Every time the Federal government steps in and tells us what we need we have, in effect, tolerated intrusion on our lives by a foreign government that does not understand our real needs or our way of life. Yet we tolerate it. No wonder we have the laws and education system we suffer under. We're lobsters being slowly cooked in water slowly rising in temperature. And we're all too lazy to climb out of the darned pot and try to elect a government that might give us back some of the autonomy states, counties, and cities used to have.



A reader sent this:

Subject: Seen on James P. Hogan's site - AIDS

Get a barf bucket, Jerry. You're going to want it. I promise. 

I can't recall reading anything that made me feel this sick to my stomach in quite a while.

Duesberg has good credentials, and if he is right, there is a lot of money being wasted on AIDS research, and a number of people being killed by the wrong treatments.

People I respect don't quite say he is off his head -- Duesberg certainly has made great contributions to viral science -- but they think he is both dead wrong and obsessed.

I have not any right to an opinion on the technical subject. My advice would be to give Duesberg the rather paltry sums he asks for and do the crucial experiments he wants, so that we can be certain he is wrong: he is, or was last time I spoke with him, quite willing to admit he's wrong if the experiments come out against him.

We spend a lot of money on AIDS research, and it would seem reasonable to listen to someone with Duesberg's qualifications to the extent of doing some "insurance" research, especially since the costs are trivial compared to what is being spent. However, there is very little reason in this discussion. Al Rantel a few months ago denounced Duesberg as a terrible person, using entirely intemperate language, because only a monster, apparently, can believe that HIV doesn't cause AIDS.

Me, I wouldn't allow myself to be injected with HIV, and if I had to bet I'd bet Duesberg is wrong; but a Bayesian analysis shows clearly that the best course right now would be to buy a little insurance by doing a couple of the crucial experiments.

NOTE ALSO that this was my conclusion a good two years ago; I have not followed developments since; and there may be new evidence I don't know about.


The Mangles Exhanges

Jim Mangles is an articulate spokesman for the view that the United States has no choice but to be a world policeman, and to pay whatever price is required to assume and successfully play that role.

Begin with the new Patriot Act signed by stealth.

Subject: On liberty


Dr Pournelle,

On liberty

"We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own." ... Spreading liberty across the world by force of arms has too high a cost.

But this is a perverse reading of events.  The United States is not spreading freedom across the world by force of arms, but on the direct contrary holding back and hopefully defeating the enemies of freedom by force of arms— and these include enemies who have already demonstrated an ability to strike at the heart of America, with devastating results.

Looked at on the world-historical scale, what is happening now in Afghanistan and Iraq is dealing with the detritus of rogue regimes that had to be removed for the safety of the United States, and the rest of the world too. Of course it’s important to replace them with democracies if at all possible, but that was not the reason for going there.

I cannot believe you believe that if the US withdrew from the Middle East, or indeed around the world, then the US-- never mind the rest of the world-- would be a safer place as a result.  Think for a moment how Bin Laden for just one would react; I think you could look forward to 9/11-type events on a monthly or even weekly basis. Think how the remaining members of the axis of evil would jump with joy as they resumed their development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons free of the danger that Uncle Sam will prevent them. Think how any number of countries, now afraid to join that axis would now eagerly leap at the opportunity. Think how other, more moderate, nations (among others, Japan and South Korea spring to mind) would feel they have no choice but to go nuclear for their own self-protection.

True, the EU, faced with such a withdrawal would have no option but to rapidly crank up its military (including nuclear) strength to replace the vanished Americans.  And as the Russians are probably easily persuaded to join in with that new EU military force, the French would be heard from wall to wall saying, “I told you so! You can’t trust the Americans!”

But nothing the Europeans, even with the aid of the Russians, might do could be done rapidly enough to prevent the world disintegrating into an anarchic, highly dangerous, volatile, series of armed camps. And a very large number of these groups and countries would be gunning for the United States. Star Wars technology will not save you; there are far too many other, much easier ways to deliver deadly cargoes to anywhere they might like— especially if they happen to employ suicide bombers.

So, in such a world, what would the US have to do to prevent such terrible devastation to itself?

Why, the very sort of security measures you are protesting right now, only vastly more so.

In other words, the inconveniences and restrictions you experience now are almost certainly inevitable, however you play things, at least for some time— except  that if you try to ‘run away’ it will in all probability get very much worse and very much more permanent, not better and more temporary.

By the very fact of becoming the world’s sole superpower, the United States must, for it’s own good, be the world’s policeman. It goes with the territory. There is no realistic alternative.

You CANNOT guard only your own liberty; if you try to you will loose it, because liberty is indivisible.

Jim Mangles

First, I do not equate  Afghanistan with Iraq. Bin Laden was hiding in Afghanistan. The Taliban was told to give him up. It refused. The Taliban was removed from power, and Bin Laden is now hiding in a cave, one suspects a bit more comfortably than Saddam, but no longer enjoying the freedom to move about, make movies, and gather and train recruits.

It is difficult to see the parallel with Iraq. Saddam was harboring none of our enemies that we know of, had no weapons of mass destruction (although he seems to have worked to make people think he might have some) and while a thorough moral monster, he was no danger to the people of the United States. Now had the moral argument been made that, having encouraged an uprising after the Gulf War and then failed to assist the people who rose up and were killed, the United States and Bush II had a moral obligation to those Bush I caused to be butchered, it would have been hard to resist. It wouldn't have made RealPolitik sense, but it would have been appealing.

As it is, we seem to be committed to stay in Iraq as long as necessary to accomplish a result that the people of Iraq may not want and may be unable to achieve. I don't know. But I do know that $83 billion is enough money to buy a great deal of energy independence.

As to the necessity to be a world policeman because Europe isn't willing or able, well, after all, militarily Europe is to the rest of the world as the US is to Europe: if we're not involved, why can't they police their part of the world?

If you truly believe that the way to stop suicide bombers is to go conquer people, I put it to you that the Israelis don't seem to have done very well at it.

First exchange

I wrote a short note in reply to the above and sent it privately, and received the following. I am not much a fan of letters interpolated with remarks, but Mr. Mangles has done this fairly and it does save a bit of time.

If you draw no distinction between Afghanistan and Iraq, I certainly do.

Viewed on the grand perspective, they are parts of the same war. Different in large details, but fundamentally the same war.

The Afghan war was short, quick, cheap, and deprived al Queda of its resources.

We shall see how well it deprived al Queda of resources. I hope you’re right, of course. But we shall see.

The Iraq campaign is glorious but it is long, and anything but cheap...

Glorious? I’ve not heard it called that before. With all due respect, the technology was wonderful, which in some ways actually diminished the apparent valour of the human individual. There is little glory in dropping laser-guided bombs on someone who cannot even see that you are there.

Someone I can’t name (a colonel in the British Army) I met a few days ago who has recently returned from Iraq said that the vast discrepancies between the US and UK controlled zones in terms of fatalities of occupation troops (allowing for relative size of occupation forces) and in pacification generally, is that while the US are using Israeli Army experience to guide them, the British are using their own 30 years of experience in Northern Ireland where, for all its faults and errors, the place never turned into the bloodbath we see in and around Israel, and also previous British experience in peace-keeping in the Middle East in general since the First World War. He said the British had offered the benefit of their experience to the Americans, but were turned down.

This is nothing new, he said, and gave the example (which I did not know of) of the US Marines in France near Amiens during the Kaiserschlag— the last great German offensive of the war, in early 1918-- who refused the advice of the British gained from almost four years of trench warfare experience, and chose to advance across open ground walking upright at a slow pace as the German machine gunners mowed down over 5,000 of them all in one morning.

He summed up the current situation in Iraq this way: “The Americans shoot first and try to win hearts and minds afterwards, while the British try to win hearts and minds first,and only shoot when that fails.”

...and meanwhile we are throwing away any vestiges of our own freedom

And as for throwing away any vestiges of freedom? Come off it. That is a preposterous over-exaggeration; why, the very fact that you and I can have this conversation without fear of arrest gives the lie to that assertion.

Glorious I said and glorious I meant: Mesopotamia was conquered in days, with few casualties on either side. A tyrant was brought down. If there were few opportunities for great deeds of valor, is this not due to the competence of the military officers who planned and executed the campaign? Militarily it is hard to see how it could have been done better, with minimal damage to the infrastructure of Iraq.

As to the supposed superiority of the Brits in running other people's lives, I don't intend to argue, since my view is that government derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and I do not myself want the United States armed forces to get used to or become competent at governing people against their will.

As to throwing away freedoms, the story of the girl and her fish, absurd as it was, says a very great deal. Do you think the petty tyrants involved will be disciplined? I presume you are aware as I that freedoms and liberties can be eroded without vanishing. It is not an all or nothing proposition. But the fish story shows the absurd lengths to which petty tyrants can and will go. For more I call your attention to Kipling and The Old Issue.

The Second Exchange

Because this took place partly in public partly through private letters, there is some repetition; I have left one repeated paragraph in for clarity.


Dr Pournelle,

Riding the tiger

As to the necessity to be a world policeman because Europe isn't willing or able, well, after all, militarily Europe is to the rest of the world as the US is to Europe: if we're not involved, why can't they police their part of the world?

If you truly believe that the way to stop suicide bombers is to go conquer people, I put it to you that the Israelis don't seem to have done very well at it.

Yes, Europe could replace America as world policeman; I said as much. But I reckon it would take between 10 and 20 years for it to develop the military resources needed for the job. It’s not lack of economic resources— at the present time the EU has a larger economy than the US. ( at 1 Euro = 1.25 Dollars) --but even the largest economy in the world would take some time to build up military power equal to this task.

Meanwhile the world goes to hell. I have already hinted what that world, including the United States, might look like.

So no, I don’t think America has any realistic alternative but to continue in its role of world policeman. In fact there is no point in the US retaining such a military preponderance over the rest of the world as it has now unless it is for this purpose. So welcome to the imperial role; Pax Americana comes with the territory when you are sole superpower:

There was a young lady from Niger
Who went for a ride on a tiger
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And a smile on the face of the tiger.

Once you are riding the tiger you can’t get off.

As I already said, the only alternative to conquering the people who send suicide bombers is to step up Homeland Security (or whatever you want to call it) which is certainly the route you travel down already so long as you continue to follow the Israeli example of how to deal with this situation— see below. And, well, the Israelis have not made too great a job of conquering their Arab neighbours either. But there are ways, and there are ways.

Softly softly catchee monkey

Someone I can’t name (a colonel in the British Army) I met a few days ago who has recently returned from Iraq said that the considerable discrepancies between the US and UK controlled zones in terms of fatalities of occupation troops (allowing for the relative size of occupation forces— the British are now looking after about 1/4th of the Iraqi population with 1/10th of the American force size) and in pacification generally, is that while the US are using Israeli experience to guide them, the British are using their own 30 years of experience of low intensity operations in Northern Ireland where, for all their faults and errors, the place never turned into the bloodbath we see in and around Israel, plus previous British experience in peace-keeping in the Middle East in general since the First World War. He said the British had offered the benefit of their experience to the Americans, but were turned down.

This is nothing new, he said, and gave the example (which I did not know of) of the US Marines in France near Amiens during the Kaiserschlag— the last great German offensive of the war, in early 1918-- who refused the advice of the British gained from almost four years of trench warfare experience, and chose to advance across open ground walking upright at a slow pace as the German machine gunners mowed down over 5,000 of them all in one morning.

He summed up the current situation in Iraq this way: “The Americans shoot first and try to win hearts and minds afterwards, while the British try to win hearts and minds first, and only shoot when that fails. It takes more intelligence and diplomacy and guts by everyone down to the lowest private to go the British way, but it works out far better in the end. The thing to remember above all else is that while the Iraqis are grateful for being liberated from Saddam, it’s their country and they would like it back, please.”

Jim Mangles

Which begs the question: if we had energy independence we would not have been in the Middle East. According to Bin Laden it was our presence there that made us the target for his organization; had we not been there someone else would have been. Bin Laden seeks a new Caliphate. It is unlikely to happen; history is seldom kind to those who want to turn the clock back, and there is a kind of Moore's Law in technology that can't be halted. If there are no immediate targets, teenagers would as lief dance and listen to their Walkman as blow themselves to bits. You need a lot of motivation to get people to go to a foreign land and kill themselves just to harm someone else.

I will leave it to others to argue with your British Colonel, but he's dead wrong. In Korea we didn't shoot first, and we lost a lot of our kids to our reluctance to shoot first. As to massacres by scared troopers, I think the United States has no monopoly on such.

As to the Iraqis wanting their country back, it's a consummation devoutly to be wished: can we take our $80 billion with us and spend it over here to develop our energy resources while we give them their country back?

Incidentally, regarding WWI, had the Brits not got the US into the Great War it might well have ended with status quo ante bellum as a peace of exhaustion. One can speculate on what would come next. But I would not have thought that the US successes in St. Mihael and the exploits of the Lost Battalion were entirely the actions of stupid fools.

But the US can't do anything right: why the heck do you Europeans want our troops so badly?  Yankee Come Home.

And see below


And once again I urge you to have a look at the short report and photographs by Dr. Jennifer Pournelle fresh from Baghdad.

Of course not everyone agrees on the horrors of the fish story:

Dear Jerry:

I don't mean to be the Grinch, but using the fish story to lament our "lost rights" is absurd.

First, morons in office abuse rules all the time: blame the morons, not the rules. There ARE stupid rules, which should be changed, but I'm not clear from the story whether any were actually broken by the fish or whether it was just moronic behavior in uniform.

Second, and most important, is that air travel is like so many things in this country a privilege, not a right. The Constitution makes no statements about your right to a seat in coach.

This young person had a slew of options, had she wished to avail herself of them: she could have 1) taken a bus 2) taken a train or 3) rented a car to go from New York to Pittsburgh and preserved the health of her pet.

If airlines decide that passengers must wear stripes with plaids, so be it; if you don't wish to comply find alternate means of transport. If for whatever reason the TSA says pets are out then I guess pets are out. If airline security becomes too intrusive, then... wait for it... DON'T FLY!!! The problem would get fixed toot sweet under this scenario, don't you think?

To equate such random and anecdotal incidents with the end of our Republic is both inaccurate and inane, in my opinion.

All the best, and Happy New Year,

Tim Loeb

I see no real reason to make a reply: I think the letter says it all.

It is not the absurd incident, but the fact that nothing will be done because it is the pattern. Do as the authorities say, Obey the powers that be, for they are of God.

As to more serious incidents, there was Waco. Nothing was done about that either; in fact those in charge were promoted. And do we know where sniper Lon Horiuchi is now, and whose orders he is under?


Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed
to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
the people.

But we were born free.

If you got here by links, this is a continuation of a discussion.



Maybe there are no hydrogen wells to fuel the hydrogen fuel cell cars, but maybe this might work? (I wonder how many square miles of algae would be needed to replace the gasoline currently consumed.)

Neil Schulman 

DoE News: Berkeley/NREL Team Develops Green-Algae-Based Renewable H2 Production Technique

BERKELEY, CA/GOLDEN, CO - It sounds a little wild, but a lowly micro-organism, a green alga, may come one of the milk cows of the hydrogen age. Better make that "fuel" cows.

Voila, the hydrogen herd:

Cultures of tiny algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, can be conditioned via a simple microbial switch to forego what they normally do best: produce plant matter via photosynthesis and give off oxygen in the process. Instead, switched-on algae would produce hydrogen renewably, essentially from sunlight and water, stored in its cells as carbohydrates and other biochemical materials.

Nor is this process, discovered by a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, a one-shot proposition that would kill the "cows:" After generating hydrogen for several days, the gas can be drawn off and the molecular switch can be reversed again, permitting the algae to recover to their normal state and produce more plant matter, including carbohydrate fuel. <snip>

With $80 billion to spend we can find a lot of ways to build energy sources in the United States. Start with $40 billion in good old reliable fission reactors, a technology that provides something above 70% of the French electricity, and we still have $40 billion for research and development.

Of course that won't happen: instead we will pour the money into the desert in hopes that we will then be able to buy oil from people who don't particularly like us and will use the oil receipts for their own purposes....

And on that score:

Jerry: A very sober analysis of the Saudi situation:

Chris C

Indeed. Indeed.


Subject: I don't believe a word of this.

--- Roland Dobbins

Nor I, but then the World Tribune is well known for its point of view...


Dr. Pournelle:

I read your comments on Michael Crichton's science lecture with interest after finding your current Chaos Manor Mail column. At first I scratched my head, wondering what you were commenting about... because I thought this lecture was his speech from September (to the Commonwealth Club). I followed your link and read that Caltech lecture from January. (My observation: Crichton tends to lecture in more of a "two by four to the side of the head" mode, but he is interesting.) His September speech debunks the religion of environmentalism and makes for good reading. A few Greenies I know read it, and were infuriated... how dare he challenge the orthodoxy of the environmentalist cause because they care more than everyone else does... yadda, yadda, yadda. Here's the link for the speech: 

I hope you find it interesting!

Best regards,


 bill kelly | sr information developer kitba consulting services

Yes I saw that one too and it slipped my mind. Thanks. That one ought to drive some people to a frenzy.

And it's always good to hear from Colonel Scithers:

O Jerry:

In the matter of your comments in the latest _SFWA Forum_ --

The judicial system of the United States increasingly fits C. Northcote Parkinson's definition of a Theocracy: ". . . a Sacred Book, a Priesthood [in ecclesiastical Robes, yet], a Place of Pilgrimage, and an Inquisition." Increasingly, it operates in accord with Revealed Wisdom, rather than what has been enacted by elected representatives of the population. It even has even developed a heretical opposition: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Of late, it has inevitably become a jealous Theocracy as well, which is precisely why the courts are increasingly hostile towards pre-existing religions.


George H Scithers Weird Editor


And on a cheerful note

Happy New Year everyone!

Mei is falling in love with cartooning, so I have been roaming around the net looking for some interesting sites.

I came across a concept called Cartoon Grammar. Developed by an artist, he writes, because

"I attended California Public School. I was placed in Special Ed. in the fourth grade. I took dumb bell English at a Junior College. I am a visual learner. I developed Cartoon Grammar for myself during my forties." 

Interesting idea.


And it is indeed interesting. You can, I guess, find almost anything on the Internet now...


Dr Pournelle,

Roman Empire & Republic

And Rome lasted far longer as an Empire than as a Republic.”

Sorry, not so.

The Roman republic was founded in 590 BC

Caesar was made Dictator for life in 44 BC
(The earliest time at which it could be said the republic died, although in truth that’s pushing it; the civil war was yet to come. A more realistic date would be 27 BC, when Octavian, having won the civil war, was given the title of Augustus and “restored” the Republic but in reality consolidated the Empire.)

The reign of the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, ended in 476 AD
(That is, real Roman Emperors, ruling from Rome. What happened in the east, at Byzantium, is considered another tale.)

Thus it could be said that the Republic lasted 546 years and the Empire lasted  520 years. More realistically, based on the date of Augustus’s “restoration” of the Republic, it should be said that the Republic lased 563 years and the Empire 503 years.

Either way, the Republic lasted longer than the Empire.

Jim Mangles


This is the sort of historical quibble I like to play with, and of course technically you are right, but Rome doesn’t really appear on the world stage until Pyrrhus and Cineas and so forth; still it did exist as a republic before the conquest of the Samnites and expansion into southern Italy, so technically you are correct.

But I have another quibble: The Senatorial Republic prior to the display of the 12 Tables wasn’t much of a republic; at least I can argue that the real republic was founded in 450 with the admission of the plebeians to some measure of rights, which takes 140 years off the life of the Republic as such. I will agree that Octavian is the beginning of the Empire proper; one can argue that Julius Caesar really would have preserved it if he had lived and if he could. So taking 27 BC as the end of the Republic (the murder of Cicero is a pretty good marking place) we have Founding – Kings – Patrician Aristocracy – Republic – Principate – Dominate, after which the stage shifts to Byzantium.

On a different matter:

Some say the great mistake of Belleau Wood was accepting attack orders from the French who were in overall command of the sector - given that Haig died persuaded he had been right in all respects I have trouble with the given example of failure to take counsel from the British as a lesson to be learned. Don't feed the meat grinder and don't be somebody else's cannon fodder now those are lessons I can respect.

Clark Myers

Which is difficult to argue with...


On Computer Management

Dr. Pournelle,

I can't resist pointing out that there's an even easier way to get into the Administrative Tools part of the Control Panel, and that is to right-click on "My Computer" and select "Manage". This will pull up the management console and I've been kicking myself every since it was pointed out to me that I had been going there via the long route.

-- Stephen Borchert

AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!! And maybe I even once knew that. But I too have been going the long way around...







This week:


read book now


Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year

Dr. Pournelle:

Re: the naked man found in the chimney at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore

Uncle Hugo's is at least regionally well-known as a science-fiction bookstore, so I paid attention when a news crew showed the roof of the building. The would-be burglar had broken down the top of the chimney to roof level. The resulting square hole in the roof measured 11" x 11"--it's amazing that the guy managed to even get inside.

The police and fire departments had to break apart a lot of brickwork in the basement to get him out, so he'd somehow managed to get completely inside the chimney.



"Dr. Pournelle, I can't resist pointing out that there's an even easier way to get into the Administrative Tools part of the Control Panel, and that is to right-click on "My Computer" and select "Manage"..."

Easier yet, after a one-time setup:

* Right-click Start and choose Properties on the context menu * On the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button, then choose the Advanced tab * Scroll to the end of the "Start menu items" list and under "System Administrative Tools," select either "Display on the All Programs menu" or "Display on the All Programs menu and the Start menu" * Click OK twice to dismiss the dialog boxes and apply the change

You can now reach all Admin tools, not just the Computer Management tool, with one less mouse click.

Noel Hyman

That one I knew and never bothered with since I do management so seldom. But the right click on My Computer is handy. Thanks


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Mr. Mangles is just plain wrong in one aspect: the traditional date of the Regifugium is 509 BCE, not 590 BCE. So using his other dates of 44 BCE for the end of the Republic, 27 BCE for the beginning of the Empire and 476 CE for the end of the Empire, the Republic lasted for 465, not 564 years. Empire, clear winner.

I'd also challenge his other dates -- the fall of the Republic ought to be dated as no later than Sulla's dictatorship (if the "restoration" of the Republic after death counts, well, consuls were still being "elected" into the 6th century CE), and Byzantium could be considered Roman into the reign of Heraclius I (unless one takes the radical viewpoint that the East was never successfully Romanized, and that Byzantium, Persia, and the Caliphate and its successor states down to the Ottomans were just different masks on the same "Magian" civilization), but that IS the sort of thing that you probably don't wish to take up space with.

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

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

I tend to agree that the Republic tottered in the wars of Marius and Sulla, but I think it did not quite die. Cicero in particular tried to restore it and his use of the Ultimate Decree and summary execution in the interests of safety and restoration were precedents for the lists of proscription -- including Anthony's which caused his death.

Julius Caesar spared most of his opponents, and I think (an opinion based on his writings and his actions) would have rebuilt many of the Republican institutions, curbing the power of the Optimates to do as they would with Populares they didn't like -- starting with the Gracchi but going right on into Ciceronian times -- while also curbing the wilder tendencies of the Populares (of which he was hereditary and actual leader). Caesar had definite ties to both classes. Think Bobby Kennedy, perhaps. Or if Ted Kennedy had fewer moral and intellectual flaws

Constantinople was Christian, which in itself precludes it being Magian. The Magian fire worshippers were the bane of Islam, and you can see traces of the hatred it inspires in the Thousand Nights and a Night as well as other Islamic literature. And they took their religion seriously, as in the famous quip about asking and innkeeper for the price of a room and getting a lecture on Monophysite doctrine...


 Dr. Pournelle: 
Your site, particularly Mail, is my first and last stop each day.  The tone you set with your comments and filtering makes it enjoyable and a great resource.
Several months ago I saw mention in Mail of english language Iraqi blogs and browsed them at that time.  I have gone back every few days to keep up on Iraqi attitudes and expanded my list as more have appeared.  Naturally, those with a knowledge of english likely are pre-disposed toward the West, so I don't take the expressed attitudes as necessarily representative, but they are a useful gauge of progress there, nonetheless.
Iraq the Model ( has been the most interesting with Omar doing the posting but getting input from his friends Ali and Mohammed.  He has a great story about his jitney ride with several strangers from Baghdad to Al-Kut (170 km) in yesterday's post (Dec 30) where he reported their conversation.  In the competition for Best Iraqi Blog at the Asia Blog Award 2003, it looks like he will win (to be announced Jan 3).
Healing Iraq ( is an equally good site.  Yesterday, he posted the results of a survey of 1000 Iraqis performed by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies published on Dec 28 in the Baghdad  newspaper Azzaman.  Very interesting.  He visited Basrah before Christmas and posted some nice photos at
All the other Iraqi blogs are linked on a sidebar on these sites.
Friends of Major Gregg Softy (Armor Squadron S-3 of the 1-1 Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armor Division, stationed in Baghdad) have created a site at to help him gather school supplies for Iraqi schoolchildren.  A very well done site with a wealth of material for anyone interested.
Bill Mackintosh

Thanks. And see Jenny's pictures from last week.


Joanne Dow's Iraqi tirade:

Subject: What's this "anti-war" crap anyway?

OK, we had a war. It may have been wrong. (How often have I said this?) We're having trouble organizing the peace, because the war is not really over. The opposition is not shut down. That is the usual definition of an end of a war as I understand it.

Needless to say we have a tiger by its tail. I hear "anti-war" people complaining about how unjust the war was and all that. They declare "This war is a bad thing, so we should pack our bags and baggage then leave for home." We admit defeat, and leave a job unfinished. How utterly modern American that is. We have a 20 minute attention span and once things get difficult we want to go bury our head in the sands or soil of our homes forever damn the consequences.

Today, I don't give a damn whether the war was just or unjust. What I care about is finishing a job we undertook. If we leave Iraq what does it mean to the population of Iraq? Under Saddam they lived in a horrid tyranny. It was one Saddam installed and operated. *WE* did not have anything material to do with this. BUT, now we have stepped in and in effect taken responsibility for the Iraqi people. If we walk out leaving a huge power vacuum then every "victim" if a new tyranny within that country is on our hands for not finishing the job properly. (By that theory the British have been VERY derelict in loco parentis to that entire region of the world. They left a horrid mess that has devolved into tremendous amounts of blood on their hands.)

Furthermore, if we walk out leaving a festering boil of hatred, please explain to me how energy independence is going to protect the US from suicide bombers in small air craft stuffed with explosives and aimed at places of public gathering like the new Disney concert hall? How is throwing up our hands and saying to that part of the world it's their pigpen and they can play in it as they will going to keep some terrorists from contaminating our water supplies? How will burying our heads in the home sands and pretending the world does not exist going to prevent suicide bombers from detonating themselves near or inside a school during the school day? How is ignoring the fact that people who are at war with us originate and are financed from that part of the world going to prevent a devout terrorist from driving a truck loaded with some modest explosives and a lot of a biological agent from detonating himself and his cargo a little south and east of Santa Monica while a friend does the same about where the old Renn Faire site was out in Venture County just as the evening winds blowing to the East come up to disperse the agent from the beaches to San Bernardino and beyond?

We CANNOT reach energy independence by fiat. We cannot achieve it by magic without an interim energy source for a decade or two. And even if we do, what the freaking flying fubar is it good for? It may stop NEW income for the Saudis. They are still sitting on MONEY, gobs and gobs of money. Their oil is incidental. If they see oil revenues going away they invest in terrorism on a larger scale to bribe us to keep paying them for oil we no longer need. They dig into their coffers and pay for billion dollar terrorism rather than the ten thousand dollar terrorism we've experienced. How is energy independence going to stop the terrorists from that part of the world? It's a smoke screen.

The same can be said for just packing up and leaving Iraq. We'll get the stunning effect of leaving Viet Nam to its own devices and not supporting the government because the war was already won so they do not need it. We can pull out of Iraq and turn a potentially very significant victory into an utter defeat. I am sure this will be a good thing for the American psyche. We'll be forced to learn some proper humility that the Euro-cretins insist we utterly lack and need to learn while they hide behind our backs lest the nasties in the world hurt them.

I hear a lot of whining about how unjust this war is and how we should just get out and generate energy independence or some other magical shibboleth. I DO NOT SEE ANY OF THESE PEOPLE ADDRESSING WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING TO STOP THE TERRORISM *O*V*E*R* *T*H*E*R*E* WHERE IT ORIGNATES RATHER THAN INFLICTING TSA AND PATRIOT II ON OURSELVES.

If somebody wants us to get out of Iraq then let that person lay out a plan in some detail for what to do instead, why, what it will accomplish, and how will it free us from the terrorist threat. Until then it's all twaddle and trash talking by people with a "CAUSE" as dirtily founded as "environmentalism" and no solid basis in analysis.

And yes, I do think you have been guilty in this regard, too.

We get out.

What do we do next?

We invent instant energy independence from the Arabs.

What does this buy us in detail and how does it free us from the bin Ladens of the world?

We get bombed again by someone like bin Laden.

What do we do as we count our pointless casualties?

Do we again pretend it's just an isolated bunch of religious crackpots and turn our cheeks again? Soon enough we run out of cheeks.

Then what do we do?

Or do we simply nuke that region of the world into a glowing cinder of glass because we don't need the oil anymore?

Then what do we do with all THAT blood on our hands?


Interestingly enough Iraq provides us with a slim chance to accomplish something positive with regards to terrorism and interim oil supplies for when we tell the Saudis to go get their heads and attitudes repaired or else. (Note, WE can probably do that today and thumb our noses at the Saudis. We HAVE our oil supplies more or less. The Europeans would have instant energy shortages on a huge scale. So if we tell the Saudis to get off their terrorism support and the Saudis turn off the oil we will find ourselves fighting the world's other big nuclear power, Europe. Isn't that a fun thought?)


Great exposition of feelings. Precious little on what to do.

I will address one question: "How will energy independence make us safer from [a long list of possible operations]"

It does so by getting us out of that area of the world. You could ask the same question about anyone, including the Vatican City (certainly no great friend of Islam) or Canada (certainly decadent by Wahabi standards) or a great number of places.

It is one thing to hate the United States. It is quite another to generate enough emotional appeal to get young people to risk their lives going to the US to do harm. It's a lot easier to recruit suicide bombers for defense of your home and homeland -- the Kamikazi pilots come to mind -- than it is to recruit them as a weapon of Islamic expansion or cultural retaliation. Few Palestinians come to New York with mass murder in mind: they have targets closer to home. Distance and non-involvement are the keys to a certain measure of "safety" : you want the people who are willing to die for their cause to have someone other than you to attack. I make no doubt that if the US were not in Mesopotamia, the suicide bombers would find others close to home as targets: they aren't likely to come to the US.

Historically, patriotism is a better motivator than religion among the educated; and of religious martyrs, most have died in direct defense of their faith, usually in defiance of demands that they repudiate the faith or desecrate its symbols. Bin Laden's crew were motivated by the presence of the US in the Middle East, not even by US support for Israel, if you can take Bin Laden at his word.

Another answer is that there is no safety. You can only do the best you can. But do you truly think that if the United States had no armies on foreign soil we would be the first targets of those who think of themselves as patriots?  The Old Man of the Mountain is dead, and his sect of Islam has become the pacifists led by the Aga Khan. You seem to believe bin Laden has revived the Assassins, but I rather think not. The number of people who can fly airplanes and who truly believe that if they fly that airplane into a building they will be instantly transported to a paradise they experienced in a hashish dream is rather small in this century.

As Joel Rosenberg points out below, suicide bombers take a lot of management. Getting them to go to a foreign country and do their job isn't easy. It's a lot simpler to get someone worked up against the troops who just dynamited your house or shot your cousin. And Iraq, being about the best educated country in the Middle East, has far fewer people who hate the West because it is the West than other Arab nations do.

As to what we owe the people of Iraq, that is another matter. We exhorted them to rise up against their monster, and then abandoned them, and now their marshes are drained, and many are buried in mass graves. Does Bush II owe reparations for the actions of Bush I? For reparations is the best name for the $80 billion we are to pour into Iraq. Congress wanted to make it a loan, but the Administration insisted on making it a gift from the American taxpayers.

I wonder what a referendum restricted to those who pay $100 or more a year in Federal Income Tax (and excluding those who pay nothing or receive a negative income tax) on whether we ought to give Iraq $80 billion to rebuild would decide?

We also insist on acting as if Iraq were a nation, which it is not. The Arab sections are all dominated by clan loyalties: it's the Baathists who tried to build nationalism. I don't know where most of the sabotage and bombers come from in Iraq -- it's not my job to know -- but if I were in Military Intelligence there I would be looking at the clan structure of those who attack us. But how we build a nation out of a territory created by the British foreign office largely as a place honorable enough for the Hashemites to rule once they had been deprived of their hereditary position as Protectors of Mecca I do not know, and I doubt you know either.

A winner take all election in Iraq with the oil revenues at stake?

I have no desire to cut and run, but I don't think I deserve to be screamed at for asking what I think are obvious questions.

And I would still prefer to spend $80 billion on energy sources in the US than on rebuilding Iraq. I didn't install their dictator, and while I may feel some moral obligations to try to make things right after Bush I raised a rebellion he wouldn't support, there are limits to that obligation.

And I continue to believe that the best thing the United States can do is be the best United State we can be, and once we have set the proper example, we can let our citizens go forth as missionaries...

And see Greg Cochran below


And now Joel Rosenberg on everything:

First and foremost: Happy New Year to you and yours.

Libya: It's hard to see the recent Libyan cave-in as anything but a victory for both sanctions and implicit military threats. Arguably, the sanctions could have done the job by themselves -- but the cave-in happening in sync with the Iraqi/Afghani adventures is, if it's a coincidence, an awfully remarkable one. I think your concerns about the American Empire are still well-taken -- and while I tend to come down on the other side of the issue, the problems that you've been pointing to are provably there -- but it's clear that at least some things are working.

Syria: Probably the place to watch over the next year or so. Between the Iraqi recidivists who have fled there -- along with their bank accounts and possibly WMDs -- and the decreasing number of safe havens for Arab terrorists to operate more or less openly, it's going to be the problem that the Administration will need to deal with. Assad Jr. is clearly perceived, locally, as being as ruthless as Daddy was -- he hasn't had to prove it, yet, just because of that.

Saudi Arabia: is the Bush Administration's test case for constructive engagement of the jihadis and their supporters. My gut feeling is that that's going to continue to be a failure; it doesn't much matter if the whole conflict between the kinder, gentler Wahabbi supporters and the bad cop Wahabbiists is more or less a good cop/bad cop thing for Western consumption, clever local politics by the Saudi family, or some combination -- what it is is clearly insufficient to cut out both the financial and institutional support for Islamofascism, which, after oil, is the Saudi entity's largest export. Interestingly, though, it hasn't been a big seller in Bosnia.

Russia: well, so much for democracy. Not that I didn't have a lot of it already, but watching what's been going on there gives me even more respect and gratitude for the Founders here. Is it possible, in the modern age, to go from dictatorship to democracy without hanging the correct number of officials/supporters from the ancien regime? Too many, and you get France under the Jacobins; too few, and you get Putin and the oligarchs. Which, of course, leads to

Iraq: a mess. Not nearly as bad as even mainstream critics predicted, but we're seeing the problems with having US troops relying on local informants to purge the significant remnants of the old regime. It'd be terribly handy if the supposed pace of democratization in Iran would speed up, as that would make the dismemberment of Iraq a lot easier -- if the Shiites in the south wanted to unify with a democratic Iran, that would be a much easier sell, and a more stable situation, than even the dismemberment that I think ought to happen.

US: as somebody who used to be a Jackson (Scoop, of course, not the loathesome Jesse) Democrat, there's some perverse joy in watching the Gore/Dean wing (the Bike Path Fundamentalist wing of the Democratic Party) seize control of the party just long enough to swerve it into the iceberg. Be interesting to see who picks up the pieces, although my money's on Hillary. I'm not at all fond of her, mind, but I respect her mind -- she's a very canny politician, and, unlike her husband, appears to think with the head on top of her neck. Getting to the right of President Bush on Iraq was a brilliant example of triangulation, as was encouraging Clark to go out as a stalking horse and get pasted. Not admirable, particularly, but a very canny political calculation. She didn't want to run against a incumbent Bush -- her husband did it successfully, but at the right part of the economic cycle -- and has both good positioning, good relationships, and a bully pulpit to make the call as to whether or not to go for what's likely to be a competitive campaign in 2008.

I don't think she can win, mind; she'll be a hard sell as a Southerner, and it's hard to see how a Democrat can win without breaking the solid hold on the South that the Republicans have spent a generation working toward.

Terrorism: well, despite the fact that so many of the things we see on a day-to-day basis are, at best, utterly useless, there's some conceptual things happening to deal with yesterday's threats. (I had a student in one of my carry classes who is one of the few pilots who can now carry in the cockpit. Stubborn guy; given the trouble that the authorities have gone through to make it difficult to qualify, it's not surprising that there's only a handful who have jumped through the hurdles.) Far too much symbolism, of course -- the key to preventing airplanes-as-weapons is the mindset of the passengers, after all. Smuggling a gun on a plane wouldn't be much of a challenge for anybody with an average IQ and a decent home shop; strip-searching elderly Norwegian grandmothers suspected of wanting to travel to Omaha isn't what's stopped that.

Hijacked airplanes are yesterday's threat -- tomorrow's probably includes bombs shipped in airplanes, simultaneous low-level attacks at high-PR soft targets (I live awfully near the Mall of America, frex), although probably not a lot of suicide bombers in the US. The Israeli experience shows that the shahids-to-be need a lot of management up until they detonate, as a not-insignificant number change their minds if left alone long enough, and end up ratting out the rest of the cell. But OKC showed how inexpensive and effective such a thing can be, and the US is filled with soft targets.

Gun stuff: Minnesota went "shall-issue" this year, and Missouri and Wisconsin are awaiting, respectively, a court challenge and a veto override. The big untold story, over the past dozen or so years, is the changeover from shall-issue laws going from being a marginal thing to a mainstream one. I don't think that it's being suppressed, mind; it's just that major news organizations are very East Coastal, and TV in general is Californian -- the only big states not to go "shall issue" are New York, New Jersey, and California. The silly "assault weapons ban" shows every sign of sunsetting next year, and the Democrats, rather than being the party of "gun control", are combining changing the pitch to "reasonable gun laws", "gun safety", but, mainly, changing the subject.

On the other hand, all of the other longterm trends are negative.

Well, so much for 2003. On a professional note, my Everything You Need to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Handgun in Minnesota book is in its second printing, and I'm working on the Missouri version, and probably shortly on the Wisconsin one; Baen reprinted the first Guardians omnibus, with the second one coming this year; I've got my second mainstream mystery coming out next year, as well as my honking big fantasy novel (it takes place several centuries after Mordred supplanted Arthur the Tyrant, establishing the Pendragon dynasty, splitting the Church several centuries early -- and for better reasons than the English King needing to get a divorce -- allowing for even more rapid expansion of the Abassids, although in different directions) and I'm working on the sequel (definitely a stretch for an agnostic Jew to be writing from the POV of various sorts of believing Christian knights, almost all of whom take matters of salvations not only seriously, but important on a day-to-day basis).


And, with that, once again, a Happy New Year to you and yours,

-------------------------------------------------- Joel Rosenberg 612.824.3150 AACFI-certified Carry Permit Instructor and Certifier BCA-validated Minnesota Carry Permit Instructor NRA-certified Range Safety Officer, Pistol Instructor, Home Firearms Safety Instructor, and Personal Protection Instructor


Last day or so, reference was made to McNamara -giving us the F-11 aircraft, it was actually the F-111, by General Dynamics. I may be one of the few to have worked them both- the F-11 in the Navy, mid 60's, when they served as training aircraft in the Naval Aviators training program. As designed and used they were quite decent, short-legged but decent. Then after retiring in 1986 I have worked as an Equipment Specialist for the Air Force- the first aircraft was the F-111 in several variants including the EF- Raven version. They were always worthy of any scorn heaped on them, some versions could perform their mission, but always at a huge cost in logistics-both human power and material assets. I have always considered that McNamara probably kept us from several incremental but effective upgrades of then current aircraft, and possibly a new one or two by diverting brainpower and $$$ into the F-111, which was never quite given a name, other than 'Aardvaark'. Given the situation to return via a time machine to have to work on either- I would pick the F-11 Tiger with no hesitation. Hugely enjoy your website.

Thomas Cantrell

Misprint. I worked on the Boeing TFX proposal (which became the FB-111) and we used the TFX affair in The Strategy of Technology as an example of what's wrong with "systems analysis" and the figure of merit fallacy.

The F-111 eventually became a reasonable interdiction/recce-strike aircraft after many modifications.  Did it never have a name?  I had forgotten that.


Joel Rosenberg is moved to say more:

Argh. Joanne Dow's tirade makes me want to write something more....

To whit:

I'm not at all sure that I buy into your view as to how significantly energy independence would be able to allow the US to withdraw from dangerous foreign involvement. Absolutely, it would let the US get out of supporting the Saudi entity; I'll accept, at least for the sake of argument, that it would let the US stop paying both Israel and Egypt for Egypt not attacking Israel. The big one, though, would be the ability to let the Gulf go its own way, and that would be a good thing.

Still doesn't solve the nuclear proliferation problem, though, and that's both heating up (North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel) and cooling down (Iraq, Libya). Deterrence only works for those who will be deterred, and it's a two-edged sword. If the Really Terrific Leader were to roll south into South Korea, grab it, and announce that any attempt to expel his troops would be responded to by letting ICBMs fly, would the President throw US forces into that pot? (Assuming that there are US forces to throw in.) Hell, would it have been rational to escalate if the Soviets, back when there were Soviets, were to roll through the Fulda Gap over the US divisions there? It was certainly rational to persuade the Soviets that we would, but would it have been rational to actually do it? (I'm not sure, either way. Not something to forget about; we may still be dealing with an expansionist Russia during our lifetimes.)

And there would still, even absent oil issues, be people who would be willing to throw US troops at genocide in the Balkans -- me, for example -- or in Somalia (not me; I'm not happy about it, but I've come to the conclusion that Kim du Toit is right about Africa). Or, perhaps, at a North Korean invasion of the South. (It's hard to argue that the South Koreans and Japanese wouldn't be willing for the US to throw troops at a NK invasion of SK.)

The big win of energy independence would be, well, the energy independence. The supplementary benefits -- like telling the House of Saud to go ahead and drink their oil -- would, it seems to me, be just lagniappe. I don't think we'd be seen as inconsequential as Canada, even minus our huge military and huge involvements damn near anywhere.

As to domestic terrorism, it's clear that my 20-20 hindsight is as good as such things are, and that, so far, the much-vaunted Arab outrage seems to dissolve in good jobs, Big Macs, and . Whether it's Arab immigrants, or domestic White Separatists, the authorities are demonstrably effective, most of the time, at rolling them up. It's largely, I think, a matter of paying attention. The real hard terrorists to find are folks like the Unabomber -- unconnected, untalkative, and more interested in killing his chosen targets than anything else -- or the DC snipers would have been, if they'd been more interested in continuing to murder than they were in trying to get a $10 million dollar payoff; it wasn't the killings that rolled them up -- it was their insistence on communicating with the authorities.

Truth is, we live in a vulnerable world. Not exactly a new thing, but it's a new realization for a lot of folks, and it is something that we're just going to have to live with. Melioration through energy independence is, IMHO, a good idea, but it's not the cure-all (not that you've said it would be; that's a caricature of your position, not a characterization), as there isn't any.

How to handle Iraq, obviously, something that reasonable people can disagree on. But the issue shouldn't, it seems to me, be Ms. Dow's how-should-we-feel-about-it , but if-we-do-this-or-don't-do-that what are the costs and benefits?

As to terrorism, that's simple, whether we leave Iraq, stay in, or (some magic required:) turn it into the world's first Arab democracy: we're just going to have to learn to live with this horror.

-------------------------------------------------- Joel Rosenberg 612.824.3150 AACFI-certified Carry Permit Instructor and Certifier BCA-validated Minnesota Carry Permit Instructor NRA-certified Range Safety Officer, Pistol Instructor, Home Firearms Safety Instructor, and Personal Protection Instructor

Precisely: little will make us safe. But do not underestimate the difficulty of recruiting suicide bombers who are willing to stay focussed long enough to come to the US and do their mission. It's no so easy to get people to do such things.

And I still say we are important in Europe and the Middle East because we are there; were we not there, someone else would be, and that someone else would be the target. Better them than us.

Regarding intervention in Bosnia, last time I looked that was Europe, and the whole thing was a territorial dispute in Europe, and we were warned that getting involved in those would be costly not only in money but in our liberties.

Liberty shrinks in war time. Always. And it is seldom all given back. I would say never, but someone may think of an example in which the population of a republic which won a war had as much freedom after that war as it did before it. I suppose put as baldly as that someone will think of an example, but I see none offhand.

Regarding the mention of Africa, see below.




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now









CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, January 2, 2004

Doctor Pournelle,

I saw a posting of a speech given by Paul Brucha (CMOH winner), and thought you might be interested in what he had to say to the Vietnam Veterans Association National Convention.



Dr Pournelle,

Liberty and war

Liberty shrinks in war time. Always. And it is seldom all given back. I would say never, but someone may think of an example in which the population of a republic which won a war had as much freedom after that war as it did before it. I suppose put as baldly as that someone will think of an example, but I see none offhand.

True, neither can I think off-hand of republics more free after victory than before.

But (just to be contrarian) I can think of one, and possibly two, republics that have more freedom after LOOSING a war.

First is the Soviet Union. Indeed, its name was more properly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, so you could say here are a whole bunch of republics with more freedom after defeat in the Cold War than before.

The other, perhaps more problematical, example is Germany. Why problematic? Because it depends on whether you can accept that the Third Reich was a republic or not.

So far I can see, the Nazis never formally changed the republican constitution, and actually ruled Germany on the basis of an emergency suspension of civil rights, decreed quite legally by the then President Hindenburg under the Constitution of the Weimar Republic, following the Reichstag fire of February 1933.

A shaken President Hindenburg, 86 years old, easily convinced that the nation was on the verge of a communist revolution, was induced by Hitler to sign an emergency decree suspending the basic rights of the citizens for the duration of the emergency. ... The decree did not include any provision guaranteeing an arrested person a quick hearing, access to legal counsel, or redress for false arrest. Those arrested often found their detention extended indefinitely without legal proceedings of any kind.

On March 2, Hitler was asked by a correspondent of the Daily Express whether the suspension of liberties was permanent. He          answered in the negative saying that full rights would be restored as soon as the Communist danger was over. The reality was that the decree of February 28th established what would become the normal order of things under National Socialism - arrest on suspicion, imprisonment without trial, the horrors of the concentration camps. This condition would persist until the end of the          Third Reich.
/End quote

So one can argue that the Third Reich was, at least technically, a republic.

If this line of argument is accepted, then in defeat the Germany republic could be said to have became more free than it was before.

Happy New Year,

Jim Mangles

I can think of many examples in which people were more free after losing a war than before, depending partly on the generosity or general structure of the conquerors -- many of those conquered by Rome ended up with more rights for the citizens than they had as subjects to whatever government they had. Of course few of those were republics.

The Swiss  won their war with Austria, and of course the US won its Revolution, but those were wars of liberation and foundation, not wars of a republic. By my main point was that victory seldom brings more freedom to the victor, even in a war of survival. The Great War is a prime example.


Subject: If they'd only known this during Korea

Chemical prevention of hearing loss to be tested by DOD:,1294,61646,00.html

Eric Pobirs


On that address:

A stunning number of places on the net have the same address for him (culled from county real estate records). Among other places, it got posted on slashdot, and people signed him up for the most amazing variety of catalogs...

Buyer: ALAN M RALSKY Buyer Mailing Address: 6747 MINNOW POND DR, WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI 48322 Seller: BING CONSTRUCTION CO Property Address: 6747 MINNOW POND DR, WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI 48322 Sale Date: 8/28/2002 Recorded Date: 9/12/2002 Sale Price: $ 740,000 (Full Amount)



Ah. Thanks


On McNamara

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Although I'm sympathetic to the view that Robert McNamara was a disaster in any organization he was in, the common belief that he was in some way responsible for the Edsel when he was at Ford simply isn't true. The picture presented in C. Gayle Warnock's book The Edsel Affair (1980) describes Warnock's inside view of things as a PR man who was promoting the Edsel when it was introduced, and McNamara appears only peripherally. McNamara was working for the main Ford division as a top executive and had nothing to do with the conception, development, or introduction of the Edsel. When he does appear, McNamara is a menace not because a doomed car was his personal brainchild, but because he was trying very hard to kill the project (apparently because it was draining resources from his own division) before it ever had a chance, while looking good to the bosses. With a debacle like the Edsel, there was a lot of finger-pointing, and some bad decisions were made by people who should have known better, but McNamara comes off as really bad -- an executive martinet who intimidated subordinates, and in one incident is shown ignoring important information from the field (a survey of dealers' opinions) when it contradicted his policy and even trying to re-stage the survey so it would come out the way he wanted it.

You can't really pin the Edsel on McNamara, although the fact that he was simply there at the time leads to the association in many people's minds. He might even be commended for company service for trying to kill the Edsel when it became apparent that a car aimed at the upper-middle-class market like Buick and Oldsmobile and first planned in the prosperous mid-Fifties was not going to go over during the later '50s when a recession had hit and the trend was to compact cars. (The only good thing for Ford out of the Edsel affair was that there was now a lot of new factory capacity intended for the Edsel but nicely adaptable to the Falcons and Comets that were selling in droves.) But being McNamara, he even went about that badly.

--Dwight Decker

Thanks. Sometimes I get careless since I know someone will find me out when I am...

I thought I recalled this from Insolent Chariots, which isn't really all that great a source. Anyway, I know RSM made up some of the data he gave Congress. We caught him at it.



I think we need a new award system for the dumbest air travelers in the country. Maybe we could revive Rowan and Martin's Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award for some of these folks.

We should start collecting these stories for a book.


Here's a guy who thought it was okay to bring a box cutter on a plane. What planet has he been living on? And, how did that box cutter make it through security?!!!!! (Oh, I know, it wasn't a fish!) 

Ex-con/psych patient loses it on flight from Hawaii

Dawn Sunday? That's a real name and a real nasty passenger too. 

And here's a guy who must have wanted to see if the rules about no entry to the cockpit were true . . .



Greg Cochran on Iraq and Joanne Dow's statements:

I was thinking about what Joanne Dow said. It seems to me that she operates on certain assumptions that are clearly wrong. And she's not alone. First she thinks that Arab/Moslem terrorism is a strategic threat comparable to some of the big strategic threats we've faced in the past, say in the Cold War. I think that's nonsense. Second, that they're implacable: that they're out to get us no matter what we do. Again, wrong. Third - although this isn't entirely clear - that Iraq had something to do with this trend, maybe had something to do with the attack on the US. I don't that that's at all true either. Fourth, that we're going to achieve something in Iraq valuable to the US - presumably a free, stable, and friendly state. I don't think there's much chance of that.

Here's my picture, which has the merit of fitting the facts I know and having half-way decent predictive value. I'd say that our support of Israel, along with being in their face in Saudi Arabia, was what motivated Al Qaeda's arracks on the US. I mean, they're not attacking Japan or Swizterland. I've seen lots of columnists talk about the _real_ reasons that these people don't like us, but those who are so sure about such things never seem to actually know anything about the Middle East, about Islam, or about Moslem history. Funny how that works. Second, although there was pretty widespread disagreement and dislike of the US in the Arab and Moslem world, only a tiny fraction, way out on the edge of the political/emotional bell curve, ended up doing anything concrete against us. As for those people who deeply dislike us and do nothing - well, they don't matter, do they? So saying ' they all hate us anyhow" is foolishness: the degree matters. Acts matter.

The roots of that tiny fraction seem mostly to have been in certain kinds of Islamic fundamentalism, particularly out of Saudi Arabia. Baathist Iraq was of course the place that none of them came from: that kind of fundamentalism was violently suppressed by the Baathists, who were secular, unreligious 'modernizer' types.

So, how did invading Iraq help the US deal with Arab/Islamic terrorism? Well, of course it didn't. It is easer for a Wahabi bomb-thrower to operate in American-occupied Iraq than it was under Saddam. Not that it is perfect for them - they do better in Pakistan. What our invasion _did_ do was severely radicalize much of the Moslem world, convince hundreds of millions of people that we are out to crush their civilization, and, incidentally, substantially increase that dangerous fraction, the folks who are willing to die or risk death to hurt us.

 Look at the Pew opinion polls: opinion has turned very dramatically against us in the Arab and Moslem world , so much so that some cooperative governments are now in danger of being overthrown. - such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan*. Enough that recruitment to anti-US terrorist groups has gone up - up a lot - not down. And of course we've alienating a lot of people in the rest of the world as well.

But aren't those fanatics somehow the products of oppressive, undemocratic governments? Nope - the most oppressive governments of the Middle East, Baathist Syria and Iraq, didn't generate any at all. Or, more exactly, they'd already killed such people, at Hama for example.

So is this a 'war of civilizations'? Not quite yet, but we're doing out utmost to make it one.

So, what national purpose, what interest of the US was furthered by our invasion of Iraq? None. No reasonable informed person ever thought that they were any kind of military threat to the US, through terrorism or any other route. That was all nonsense. It's not clear to me whether the Fools at the Top believed in it, but it was obviously false. This is what Zinni was talking about - cleared for everything, recent head of Centcom and very familiar with the Middle East - he hears Cheney saying insane crap about the Iraqi Peril and he doesn't know what to make of it. Neither did I.

But what about building a democracy in Iraq, one that will be the first Arab democracy, an inspiration to its neighbors, yada yada yada? Well, that's nonsense - ain't going to happen. For one thing, the _other_ first Arab democracy, Lebanon, wasn't contagious at all. Second, we can learn a few lessons from history about the preconditions for a free society, and unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Iraq comes up short on every single one. Parenthetically, I love hearing Rumsfeld compare today's Iraq to the early US. We were probably the richest people in the world, had been the benignly neglected colony of the freest country in the world, had a tradition of rule of law and individual rights, had a broadly based economy where wealth came from work rather than a hole in the ground, had a proto-ruling-class steeped in the history of Greece and Rome, were practically all British-descended Protestants (as opposed to deep ethnic and religious splits), were ruling ourselves rather than having occupiers tell us of the merits of democracy - except for a few minor details like these, we were _exactly_ like Iraq today.

So, why should I support this war? Frankly, whoever set it up makes the Rosenbergs look like pikers.

Gregory Cochran

And see next week=


Received this from my uncle. While I can't vouch for its authenticity, but he has access to suitable channels for it to be legitimate. I cleaned up the forwarding markers ("> ") but made no other changes.

--Gary Pavek

------- Begin forwarded message -------

Subject: Facts Rarely Reported About Progress in Iraq

From the Commanding Officer at MWSS-171 to his Marines.

Marines and Sailors,

As we approach the end of the year I think it is important to share a few thoughts about what you've accomplished, directly in some cases, and indirectly in many others. I am speaking about what the Bush Administration and each of you has contributed by wearing the uniform, because the fact that you wear the uniform contributes 100% to the capability of the nation to send a few onto the field to execute national policy. As you read about these achievements you are a part of I would call your attention to two things:

1. This is good news that hasn't been "judged" fit to print or report on TV.

2. It is much easier to point out the errors a man makes when he makes the tough decisions, rarely is the positive as aggressively pursued.

Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1...

... the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty.

... over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.

... nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning.

... the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.

... on Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts-exceeding the prewar average.

... all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.

... by October 1, Coalition forces had rehab-ed over 1,500 schools - 500 more than scheduled.

... teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.

... all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.

... doctors salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.

... pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.

... the Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccinations to Iraq's children.

... a Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of weed-choked canals which now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.

... we have restored over three-quarters of prewar telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production.

... there are 4,900 full-service telephone connections. We expect 50,000 by year-end.

... the wheels of commerce are turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns.

... 95 percent of all prewar bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily.

... Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.

... the central bank is fully independent.

...Iraq has one of the worlds most growth-oriented investment and banking laws.

...Iraq has a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years.

... satellite TV dishes are legal.

... foreign journalists aren't on 10-day visas paying mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for "minders" and other government spies.

... there IS no Ministry of Information.

... there are more than 170 newspapers.

... you can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner.

... foreign journalists (and everyone else) are free to come and go.

... a nation that had not one single element - legislative, judicial or executive - of a representative government, now does.

... in Baghdad alone residents have selected 88 advisory councils. Baghdad's first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council elected its new chairman.

... today in Iraq chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country.

... 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraq's history, run the day-to-day business of government.

... the Iraqi government regularly participates in international events. Since July the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF and, today, the Islamic Conference Summit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced that it is reopening over 30 Iraqi embassies around the world.

... Shia religious festivals that were all but banned, aren't.

... for the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam.

... the Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of a strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.

... Uday and Queasy are dead - and no longer feeding innocent Iraqis to the zoo lions, raping the young daughters of local leaders to force cooperation, torturing Iraq's soccer players for losing games, or murdering critics.

... children aren't imprisoned or murdered when their parents disagree with the government.

... political opponents aren't imprisoned, tortured, executed, maimed, or are forced to watch their families die for disagreeing with Saddam.

... millions of longsuffering Iraqis no longer live in perpetual terror.

... Saudis will hold municipal elections.

...Qataris reforming education to give more choices to parents.

...Jordanis accelerating market economic reforms.

... the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time to an Iranian-a Muslim woman who speaks out with courage for human rights, for democracy and for peace.

... Saddam is gone.

... Iraq is free.

... President Bush has not faltered or failed.

... Yet, little or none of this information has been published by the Press corps that prides itself on bringing you all the news that's important. Iraq under US lead control has come further in six months than Germany did in seven years or Japan did in nine years following WWII. Military deaths from fanatic Nazi's, and Japanese numbered in the thousands and continued for over three years after WWII victory was declared. It took the US over four months to clear away the twin tower debris, let alone attempt to build something else in its place.

Now, take into account that Congress fought President Bush on every aspect of his handling of this country's war and the post-war reconstruction; and that they continue to claim on a daily basis on national TV that this conflict has been a failure.

Taking everything into consideration, even the unfortunate loss of our brothers and sisters in this conflict, do you think anyone else in the world could have accomplished as much as the United States and the Bush administration in so short a period of time?

These are things worth writing about. Get the word out. Write to someone you think may be able to influence our Congress or the press to tell the story. Above all, be proud that you are a part of this historical precedent.

God Bless you all. Have a great Holiday.

Semper Fidelis,


Re: The list of facts recited by a commander as forwarded by Gary Pavek's uncle.

The commanding officer recited a slew of facts that describe why things are looking up in Iraq. But when I choke on one of them, it makes me suspicious of the whole list.

>on Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts-exceeding the prewar average.

So, on a carefully chosen day, power exceeded the prewar average. This is not a rolling average to rolling average comparison (fair), nor a peak to peak comparison (fair). It is an attempt to show us a number that would always be higher than the average, compared to the average of another period. This kind of manipulation for image is so far off the "fair math" spectrum that it makes me immediately suspicious of the rest of his numbers. We see them cheat on one number, how can we tell if they are cheating on the others?

Greg Goss



Subject: About Ralsky...

What about going after the companies who use spammers? Some might say that those companies don't know how the spammers operate, even if it's illegally. I say that's crap. If we were to start slapping fines on the companies who hire the spammers, I'll bet we'll see a reduction in spam. Maybe start listing those companies that use spam and organize boycotts?

Rob Madison

All right by me!





This week:


read book now


Saturday, January 3, 2003

And from north of the border:

I am not an American (IANAA ?) but here is some Canadian perspective on some of your recent mail...

I am not surprised by the comments about radicalism in Israeli universities. Friends of mine who took social sciences courses in Canada reported the same bias masquerading as "intellectual freedom". The democratic initiative was greater, though. You had to agree with the lowly grad student marker, not just the professors; and in the various University of Toronto departments, the NDP (Socialist party) point of view was the "party line". From what I heard, the same was true in much of Canada. Social science people in University are paid to be self-indulgent in a way very few would be in the commercial world. It is a convenient refuge, and following Sturgeon's corollary, probably 90% of the people are not intellectually fit to be there.

I had read years ago the comment that the Arab-Israeli conflict's dirty secret is that it is fueled by water. The best settlements on the occupied territories are in fact sitting on the best aquifers, supplying Israel with a lot of its water. Ditto for the Sea of Galilee, and hence Israel's extreme reluctance to return the Golan. Discussion of water seems to be significantly absent from "peace negotiations".

I do have to wonder about the letter from the US commander to his men... One of the great things about the US Military has been its extreme absence from politics. The letter could have been phrased without bringing Washington politics into it. After all, anyone could phrase a letter listing all the bad and stupid things accomplished (you have several negative comments in your Emails). Would a commander who dragged Bush's name into a negative letter have escaped criticism from his superiors? Hmmm...

From my perspective - yes, Iraq is better off without Sadam; but the cost to American prestige in the rest of the world is high. Canada made a point of saying - "We respectfully disagree with you, but we won't publicly criticize you. We will send extra troops to Afghanistan instead, since we agree with that foreign initiative." In return, we were lumped in with the Russians, the Germans, and (horrors!) le French, as too much of a menace to national security to be allowed to bid on Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

"He who is not with me is against me..." - That might work if you are Almighty, but it isn't any way to do diplomacy in a complex interdependent world. Mr. Bush has lost much of the sympathy and cooperation he gained all over the world after September 11th - I hope in the end he does end up with something worthwhile to show for his actions.

Maurice Daniels




Dr. Pournelle:

I found the following article very interesting: 

The bit about finding a job that can't be exported is interesting, and I never really thought about it that way before. Like he says, it goes against everything our parents tried to teach us about our futures. Lord knows contractors in my neck of the woods are working full time.

When I was young, there were two viable tracks for a kid's education: college, and trade school. While parents obviously preferred their kids to go to college, there was no real stigma to trade school, at least where I was brought up. I don't know if there is still this kind of option today. If so, I don't hear much about it.

It may be that the wave of the future will be high-tech employees that have a good trade skill as well, with high-tech occupying that niche of "you'd better have something to fall back on" that art school used to occupy.

In this context I am thinking of skilled trades, not just burger-flippers, in case that isn't clear. The best demand would be for skills that took a few years of either training or apprenticeship, not something you could be trained for in two days.

Tom Brosz

It takes a while for him to get to the point, but yes: learning a trade can often be a better "profession" than becoming a "professional". Back in the 60's in the heyday of aerospace, when engineers were offered jobs at 10% more than their present salary quite often -- I came to California because Boeing gave me 10% for getting a PhD and then Aerospace offered me 25% more: General Oldfield, my boss at Boeing and one good man, said "Take it you idiot. I can't match it and I'd rather you worked for them thinking well of Boeing than have you working for me and wishing you were somewhere else" -- even in those days, it was a tossup. If you were smart enough to make foreman in the production lines, and started right out of high school: add the four or five years of wages you get working instead of going to college; add the seniority; deduct the cost of your education; take an average career for someone smart enough to have finished engineering school; and it was pretty close as to which would make the most money over a lifetime career. Now sure, an engineer had a better chance to be president of the company than a production line worker promoted to foreman, but some people did get pretty high in management starting at the line.

Of course in those days production line work was in demand too.

But do the same analysis now, and assume you went to a trade school to become a plumber or electrician, factor in the chance that your college-grad job will be exported to India while they aren't going to send a house to India to be wired -- and compare lifetime wages. You might be astonished.


Joel Rosenberg recently referenced Kim du Toit in a recent Mail submission but didn't include a link. I think it worth mentioning because I find that much of my feelings about Africa are confirmed by his first-hand experience.

Eric Pobirs


The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 6, 1989, >Delta to Zsa Zsa: Get Off the Plane, Daaahlink >Police Escort Actress Off Jet After She Lets Dogs Loose in Cabin

Before 9/11, before TSA, before the girl with the fish, there was Zsa Zsa, slugging airline employees for not allowing her to uncage her dogs in an airliner. I had always mistaken this martyr for freedom as a spoiled brat.

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

But surely the fish was caged? And the cases are a bit different? Zsa Zsa was being unreasonable. I am not entirely convinced that a Beta in a plastic bag was either threatening or inconvenient to anyone.


A Program to recover lost files:

I helped out a friend today, and we found out about a new program called Recover My Files. I thought you and your readers might like to hear about this.

He was setting up a new computer, and needed the files off the old computer. He had a little Windows network going with the old computer (Win98) sharing files, and the new computer (WinXP) connected. He was all set to copy the My Documents folder, with pretty much every important file on the computer, when something happened, and the folder was just gone.

I believe I know what happened. I think his finger slipped, and he drag-and-dropped the folder onto itself; the Win98 network server code handled this badly and blew away the folder. I think I remember this happening to me once.

Of course, when Windows saw that My Documents was missing, it re-created it, with a few default files!

Anyway, we hooked up the hard drive to a computer at my home and used Norton Utilities to try to recover the files. A long, boring search with Norton Disk Editor showed us that the directory wasn't just floating around somewhere, deleted; it must have been overwritten. When Windows re-created My Documents, it probably created the new one on top of the old one.

So, any unerase utility that works only by finding the deleted file entry in a directory was not going to work. We needed a utility that could scour the hard disk, digging up deleted files not associated with any directories, and piecing them together as well as possible.

The one we found is called Recover My Files.

You download it, and install it -- not on the same hard disk as the missing files, please! The download is free. You tell the program which drive has the deleted files, and what type of files you want to recover: Word files, Excel spreadsheets, JPEG images, text files, whatever. Then it cranks through all the deleted data on the drive, and it recovers any files it can that match what you specified. It took a bit over two hours on my computer to check the whole 10GB drive. When it can, it recovers the filename and directory path of the file, and otherwise it just recovers the file. You preview the files, to see what it recovered. Then you can pay for the program, to get it to unlock and allow you to actually recover the files.

It costs $70, and you can run it before you pay to verify that it will help you; I'd call that a very good deal.

Interestingly, the $70 is for you to use it on your computer. If you are a computer consultant and would like a license to use it on other people's computers in your work, you can buy it with a "commercial" license for $300.

Note that this sort of recovery has no way to know which files you want to stay deleted, and which ones you care about; it dredges them *all* up. Then you get to sift through them all. Really, keeping good backups is easier than recovering from a disaster.

Because this program is a free download, and free to distribute, I'm adding it to my bag of tricks. If anyone ever needs my help recovering files so lost their directory doesn't exist anymore, this is what I'll recommend.

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Sounds interesting and I'll bookmark it so we can find it if we need it. As you say, backup is better than recovery. Given the cost of cheap utility computers, you can have a "box of drives" backup system for about what their "commercial" license would cost...

But see below before you go buy the program


Subject: With a tongue bigger than an elephant's in his cheek

IowaHawk explains: Why I Am A Democrat

Eric Pobirs


Dear Dr. Pournelle: Reading the commentaries on the value of a traditional trade education reminds me of the fact that engineering schools used to teach their students both theory and practice. A graduate engineer was not just a slide-rule-slinger, but a pretty good machinist or electrician as well. This sort of thing died out after World War II - the academic ground that an engineer had to cover had grown to absorb all available time - but perhaps it is time for the full-service engineering education to make a comeback.

V/R: Mike McDaniel United States International Muzzle-Loading Team

In fact when I ran my lab at Boeing many years ago, engineers were restricted by union rules to using screwdriver, pliers, and a voltmeter; any other tool had to be wielded by a union technician. Most engineers were capable of running most of the machinery in the lab, though.


Subject: BCS Calculations

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Happy New Year to you and your family, to Sable, and to your readers.

25% of the BCS rankings are determined based on rankings developed by "computer" models. The other 75% comes from (1) the average of the USAToday/ESPN Coaches Poll and the AP Media Poll; (2) a ranking based on schedule strength [opponents' W/L ratio and those opponents' opponents' W/L]; and (3) Bonuses based upon "quality wins". For more details how these other 75% are calculated, see Sports Fans of America [ ].

All of these methods produce what might be called a "relative ranking score", not an ordinal ranking. Sorting on the RRS, with the lowest score considered best, results in the ordinal rankings. Which is why 3 (or more) digit calculations are necessary. Since there are 117 Division I-A football programs, a little bit better than 2-digit accuracy is needed to calculate a unique ranking.

According to the site linked above, there are seven "computer" models used for the computer portion of the BCS: Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, New York Times, Jeff Sagarin, and the Peter Wolfe rankings. The overall "computer ranking" for a school is the average of the six best rankings from the seven computer models.

Anderson & Hester has a home page here [ ]. I couldn't find any details of the A-H algorithm.

Richard Billingsley publishes the College Football Resource Center [  ] A loose explanation of his algorithm is found here [  ].

The Colley Matrix by Wes Colley of the University of Virginia is a purely mathematical, statistical approach. If all teams were equal, they'd all get a score of 0.5 on a 0.0 to 1.0 scale. Winning moves a team up the scale, losing moves the team down. By arbitrarily deciding to just ignore games versus D1-AA, NAIA, D-2, or D-3 schools, a matrix of 117 schools by 117 rankings (variables) is obtained. Solving this system of linear equations (by, e.g., Gauss-Jordan elimination or Cholesky decompostion) yields a unique set of rankings which, when sorted, provide the ordinal rankings that the rest of the BCS system requires. The formal paper is in pdf (  ).

Kenneth Massey has a web page here [ ] , and a loose explanation of his algorithm here [  ].

For whatever reasons, I can't find much detail about the New York Times Computer Rankings.

Peter Wolfe explains his rating system here [  ].

A good page of links to various polls and power rankings is here [  ].


One of the reasons that none of these methods provide details on statistical validation is that there is no way to do so. At best, one method (say, Colley's) can be compared to another, and a measure of agreement, one to the other, can be calculated. There is not, and never will be, a method of objectively stating that one athletic team is "better", unequivocably, than another. Conventional wisdom (i.e., the consensus of the sportwriters of the day) had the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates ranked lower than the New York Yankees. But timely home runs by Hal Smith and Bill Mazeroski resulted in the Pirates being the 1960 Major League Baseball Champions, and not the Yankees.

Note that even a playoff system (advocated by those that insist there must be one national champion in D1-A football) will not solve the problem. In a 4 team playoff, the number 5 and 6 teams have a gripe... in a 16 team playoff, the gripes are from the teams "ranked" 17-20, etc.

I guess the USAFA professor was trying to stretch an analogy, in order to make the point that apples and oranges can only be compared by converting them both to a common metric. The metric can be dollars, enemy casualties, utils, pfennigs, or smiles from my daughter, but how do we compare the value of sunny days in Los Angeles to snowy days in Pocahontas County WV?


Dave, KQ3T


I guess I should have made it more clear in my squib on this subject that I understand there is no way to evaluate the computer models, other than what we used to call "face validity": look at the test or item or analysis and see if it looks reasonable.

Now with some things like IQ tests, where we have other means of validation (later GPA, various other measures of success in life), face validity isn't terribly useful: using the statistical dragnet to determine the utility of the item is much better. But when what you are "predicting" is something as vague as who's number one in college football, face validity is all there is -- and if they don't show what their models do, we have no reason whatever to pay the slightest attention to their calculations. And that's a true if the professor is a USAFA political scientist or a Notre Dame coach. Actually, a model developed by mathematicians in collaboration with a Notre Dame coach might be useful: it would depend on the model, and the prejudices of the coach, no?

My point was that three decimal place accuracy in "computer models" in which what's modeled isn't explained is very silly, and if the professors at the Air Force Academy don't know this, then I fear for the country. It's the kind of stuff McNamara used to love. But computer models aren't inherently smarter than experts.

To repeat: the value of systems analysis is to make explicit the factors on which your decisions rest. It's not to relieve you of the responsibility for deciding.








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 4, 2003

I will not disagree that it is easier to write bug ridden and insecure code in C than in many other languages.

Aside from that pretty much everything you wrote about the contest between C and Pascal was wrong.

Pascal compilers are typically recursive descent because it is an easy way to write a compiler - many C compilers are also written that way. Recursive descent compilers tend to be inherently slower than other ways of compiling code. Regardless, design and performance issues related to the compiler have little to do with the underlying language - and next to nothing in comparing C and Pascal. Virtually all modern compilers are written in there own language.

C succeeded as a systems programming language and eventually an applications programming language because Pascal failed. Until after it was irrelevant Pascal was simply unsuitable as a tool to accomplish useful tasks. While it is true that more modern Pascals and its successor Modula II have addressed all the early flaws and ommisions that made, at the time that it mattered they did not.

While it is generally easier to write a faster C compiler which generates faster executing code, after you get past the first implementation there is no fundamental reason why a well written C compiler should outperform a well written Pascal compiler either in execution speed or code generation.

In truth Pascal and C are among the most similar of programing languages. Fortran, Cobol, APL, and Lisp are radically different from C and Pascal. It is pretty trivial to translate between them, and the GNU Pascal compiler converts Pascal to C before compiling it.

While Pascal and subsequently Modula II lost the language war to C in one sense, strong type checking has become the norm - modern C compilers have as rigorous type checking as Pascal ever had.

The assertion that C programmers needed to "simulate the compiler in your head" is just plain squirrelly. There is little way that all but a few small percentage of programmers have the slightest idea how a compiler is processing their code whether it is doing so in C or Pascal.

It is possible that compile time type checking might catch a few more bugs or potential security holes. Compile time range checking will only pick up on the most glaringly obvious bugs - and should be the norm for any software development project anyway. What you need to catch buffer overflow exploits is runtime range checking - either implemented by the compiler or by the programmer, and that has a performance cost.

I will not disagree that a significant percentage of the security vulnerabilities we see today are the result of poor programming and are inescusable. One of the issues of the past decade at least has been code re-use. Write and test debug your buffer handling once and then re-use it everywhere. It is glaringly obvious that Microsoft not only suffers from Not Invented Here, but Not invented in this division, or unit or cubicle. The Current NT codebase has at least three completely different replication systems, and three single instance file stores. If Microsoft can not figure out how to avoid duplication of effort at the gross and massive scale, how can we expect they can manage to develop and share a single buffer handling system. Further even in the few instances that Microsoft has developed shared code - code they expect the rest of us to use too, they can not seem to get it properly tested and debugged, well know string handling problems have existed in several Microsoft String handling libraries - for many years.

Regardless of your diatribe on C and Pascal, or on compiler type and range checking, the fundamental security problems with NT and its progeny - W2K XP, longhorn - and they are much better than Windows 9X and its progeny, are that Microsoft really and truly does not understand most of the principles of secure software design. A particularly galling problem since NT has a superior security system incorporated by design - despite the fact that it goes largely unused or deliberately circumvented by Microsoft. A massive effort would be needed to fix things. Much better testing and broader reuse of thoroughly tested routines would be a big step. But there is allot more to secure systems design than compiler options. the W32 API is insecure by design. Fixing it would break an enormous amount of existing software. Even fixing bugs in the W32 codebase would break allot of existing software from Microsoft and others. Microsoft has no concept of layered security. Secure design starts with the assumption that your code is going to be cracked and addresses limiting the damages by design. One of the problems with all the Microsoft exploits is that once you gain a toe hold inside any NT service you usually have total control of the system. Properly written systems software grants you only limited privileges AFTER you have busted its doors down and corrupted its soul. Way too much Microsoft software relies on "features" allowing anonymous code to be transfered from a remote system and executed on your computer with full privileges. Almost no one else in the world considers this a good idea.

Re-writing the NT codebase in Modula II would not solve the fundamental design problems, and it probably would introduce as many new buffer overflows as it closed - at least so long as the some people were writing the code.

David H. Lynch Jr.d


I suspect that both Kernighan and Wirth would be astonished to find that C and Pascal are highly similar, and if there is strong type checking in modern C compilers that must be rather recent.

And it may be squirrelly to say that programmers simulate the compiler in their heads as a means of testing for potential bugs, but in that case some of the best known C programmers must be squirrels, since I didn't make up that phrase, I got it from the people at Digital Research quite a few years ago. 

It may be that using languages that look for logic flaws, out of range inputs, and unexpected type changes wouldn't result in better code so long as the programmers are the same, and thus only people who really understand what is going on can be programmers, but I suspect that letting the computer do a lot of the work is a better way to go.

Good languages force you to write programs that work as you expected them to. That was the whole point of the old language wars, and the efforts to prove programs, and even the military's move to ADA which was in fact a good idea badly executed.

See next week.


My friend looked through the files found by the "Recover My Files" utility. There were multiple copies of each file, of course; with most software, each time you hit the "Save" command it makes another copy on the disk. He was walking through the files, trying to find the most recent one, and this search led him to a discovery: the files were never actually deleted!

The reason that Norton Utilities wasn't able to find the deleted files is that they weren't deleted, just hidden. Windows had moved the whole "My Documents" folder to "C:\IDAPI\My Documents", and then created a new "My Documents". By the way, while we were prowling around with Norton Disk Editor trying to find files to undelete, we found four deleted files: "Shortcut to My Documents.lnk", "Shortcut (2) to My Documents.lnk", and so on. All time-stamped with the time of the disaster. I'm really wondering what Win98 was trying to do! (A search for IDAPI on Google was not enlightening; it seems to have something to do with Borland databases.)

We both wish we had thought to search the whole disk to see if the files were just hidden, before my friend paid the $70 for the program. But the $70 wasn't exactly wasted, since the program did lead him to get all his files back. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Gosh, I could have told you that one. One of the things I don't care much for in the defaut arrangement of Windows is that "My Documents" stuff, with multiple instances of that file for different users. It's fine if a lot of people use the same PC, I don't encourage such silly practices to begin with.

The first thing I do in setting up a new computer is to make a root level directory called "WINWORD". I use that designation now as traditional; at one time it was in contrast to "Q&A" and a couple of other directories for documents created by different word processors, but now that Niven and I do everything in WORD that's what we use. Then there is a subdirectory under that for every project or book. I tell Word to look to WINWORD for files.

This works for me and doesn't lose files, and if I do have to log in as a different user I can still find things.

If you really must have multiple users and you don't want them to be able to see each other's work, Windows and its multiple user stuff will do that sort of (a savvy user logged as administrator can still find it all), but it's confusing to me, and I like my system better. And Windows seldom actually loses documents: if you can think of a file name or a unique phrase to search for, it will usually find them. I thought you'd tried all that and I rather eagerly awaited learning just what had happened...


Dear Jerry—

Back on December 10, you wrote

Who rules the East commands the heartland. Who rules the heartland commands the world island. Who rules the world island commands the world. Out-dated, and Mackinder probably knew it when he said it; after all the USSR ruled East Europe and the heartland, and couldn’t command the world.

Good memory; an almost exact rendering of

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the World.

SIR HALFORD JOHN MACKINDER, Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction, p. 186 (1919).

Mackinder took the opposite view of Mahan, who essentially said ‘who controls the World Ocean commands the World Island’. I’m no expert, but it appears Mahan was (and still is) right, and Mackinder seems to have ignored the lessons of history. British sea power defeated Napoleon and contained an ascendant Russian Empire during the Great Game. Moreover, a combination of sea powers (UK, US) had just defeated Imperial Germany in 1918, only one year before Mackinder wrote his thesis wrongly attributing Eastern Europe or Eurasia as the key region to control. Victory by the 'Sea Power' US in the Cold War over the 'Heartland' Soviet Union certainly seems a continuation of the historical trend; the policy of Containment encircled the USSR with US allies along the 'Rimland' of Eurasia, an important factor that largely kept Russia from gaining access to the World Ocean (and its trade). And of course, air, nuclear, and space power were important new components in the geopolitical equation.

However, in his defence, ‘In 1943, he [Mackinder] repudiated his 1919 theory (the state that controls the Heartland will dominate the World Island).’ (Strategic Atlas, pg. 20)

Not sure if this means he became an advocate of Mahan, but the importance of sea power is put rather succinctly in the movie Lawrence of Arabia (from memory, so probably not exact).

Col. Brighton: ‘Britain is a small country. It’s small, but it’s great. And why is it great?’

Sherif Ali: ‘Because it has guns!’

Col. Brighton: ‘Because it has discipline!’

Prince Faisal: ‘Because it has a navy, and because of this, the British go where they please and strike where they please, and this makes Britain great.’

Lawrence: ‘Right!’


--John A. Anderson

Seven Pillars of Wisdom and all that...


Subject: fully reusable, ssto, hypersonic - and India is making it happen - link

why do I think we are going to wake up one morning and feel like the British after Suez?


Lawrence Caples



A Windows Story


I thought I would give you an update on the new laptop. It's been going now for 3 weeks with nary a glitch.

I have set it up on the wireless network here at the house, and will have it wireless at the office this week. (Have to wait on our IT department.)

So far the only frustration has been with an upgrade. This machine came with Windows XP Home. I picked up a copy of XP Professional for the laptop and my home machine. That's when this odyssey began.

On attempting to install the upgrade, it would start analyzing my system and then hang there. Well, it wouldn't be Microsoft without frustration, now would it? So after an hour and a half with Microsoft Help, it seems I have a bad disk. So, back to Best Buy to exchange the disk for another copy. Back to the office, install the new disk, and HURRAY! It works the first time.

But wait, did I mention that this is Microsoft and Microsoft means Frustration? Upon getting home to connect my laptop to the home wireless network, I run into yet another hurdle. The indicator light on my laptop that tells me I have a wireless network available isn't working. Hmmm, curious, as I have acces to the internet. So, hop onto HP's website, and see if I can track down the problem. Well, HP's website help is generally superb, but I can't seem to find what I am looking for. Well, no worries, I'll just give the m a jingle and talk to a real live human.

After negotiating the phone tree, I get a real live person. I describe the problem and am told the driver that engages that particular indicator light is missing. Well, I was pretty sure that that was the problem. Ok, so how do we fix the problem? Option number one: install the recovery disk, and start from scratch. This was not the option I was hoping for. Option number two: Try to find the driver and download it. To make a long story short, the driver for this exact machine wasn't available on the web site. I checked before calling the help desk. However, there is a similar driver for another machine. Download this driver, and voila'! It works like a champ!

I would never have thought to look at drivers for another machine. Thank goodness that HP's help desk was there. They did a good job. Too bad that the web site wasn't a little better organized. It would have saved me another hour on the phone. Oh well, lesson learned.

Hope you're having a wonderful New Year.

Chris Grantham

Ouch. Well, at least there's a happy ending. Thanks for all the kind words!



The English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator: 

Someone else slugged this "Your Worst Nightmare". It is amusing. I typed in "What is this all about?" and got . . . a 12-year-old AOLer response. Cute.


Alas more frightening than amusing. Ah well.




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