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Mail 293 January 26 - February 1, 2004






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This week:


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Monday  January 19, 2004

You may begin with the weekend mail, which was extensive.

Regarding Dick Feynman and the Quantum Paradox


I believe this is the book you were referring to:

QED - Quantum Electrodynamics by Richard Feynmann, A Review by Bobby Matherne Review at 

Frankly, I've not read it, though back in grad school I read part or all of some of his other books, including his texts Quantum Electrodynamics and Photon-Hadron Interactions, and of course "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and "What Do YOU Care What Other People Think," the two tomes I give any prospective girlfriends who wonder what they're getting into. (winks) (And which I note are visible on the bookcase from where I'm setting, next to "Requium" and "Grumbles from the Grave.")

I must confess that, off the top of my head, I can't think of ANY popularization which I can recommend which addresses the more abstract elements of quantum mechanics. (That said, I HAVE but have not had time to read "Entanglement," which surely qualifies.) Sounds like another project...


by the way...

a search on Feynman at turned up 169 hits, about 100 of books in print, and maybe 80 of those were written directly by or about Feynman (including the tapes of many of his lectures).

A search on quantum mechanics turned up 719 hits. Persons interested in a more mathematical introduction to the subject for not much money might consider the classic text by Pauling and Wilson (available in a Dover Edition), the re-release of Dirac's Lectures on Quantum Mechanics. There are also several other classic texts now in Dover editions, including David Bohm's, and the classic (but incredibly intense) text by Messiah is now available in an economy one-volume 1152 pp paperback. ($23 from BN online, and available in their larger stores). I'm also partial to the text available as Volume 3 of the Landau and Lifshitz Course on Theoretical Physics, which is probably the best single volume in the course.

Jim Woosley


Once Again the Language Debates

Dr. Pournelle:

Your "language wars" discussion had a number of "Why Pascal is not my favorite language" replies from C advocates. I wonder if the real battle is not Pascal vs C but Lisp vs everything else?

While C is used in other places, it is connected to Unix, and the definitive word on Unix, saying things we are not allowed to say in mixed company, is found here (Unix Haters Handbook): 

Ok, if Unix and by association C is hated in some quarters, was there a Golden Age of Computing that the barbarian hordes of Unix and C had displaced? Some say it was the PDP-10 TOPS-10 operating system, a particularly user-friendly and flexible command-line system. Others point to Lisp and Lisp Machines. The notion is that Lisp Machines used Lisp all the way from the application program to the OS down to the very hardware, it was all very graphical and highly interactive, the debugger was always available and could monitor, evaluate, or repair anything by the user writing some more Lisp code. The Lisp Machine went the way of the dinosaur because it was expensive, artificial intelligence was oversold to investors, and Unix/C workstations were much cheaper, and even if Unix workstations lacked all of the runtime type checking, symbolic debugging, and handholding, developers felt they could hack together faster-running code much more cheaply in hardware and about equal in programmer time.

If the above is the view of the Lisp community towards C, the view of the C community towards Lisp advocates is outlined here: 

I am pretty much a Turbo Pascal-Delphi person with some C++ experience, but my only exposure to Lisp was in a university course in the 1970's -- pre Lisp Machine and pre Common Lisp where Lisp was an interpreted language lacking all of the extensions that allowed one to do real work with it. Was Lisp catching on in the timeline of an Alternate Universe in which software would have become robust, bug-free, and powerful?

Paul Milenkovic Madison, Wisconsin

Minsky would certainly agree with you. I found LISP unsuitable for me because it encouraged me to build programs that worked but which I couldn't understand after I had devised them.

And good news from Zurich

Dear Jerry,

Greetings from Merry Olde England ... I read your Chaos Manor piece in Dr DobbsFeb 2004 and you reviewed Pascal and C and the need for code security/strong typing ... given the insecurity of programs written without the benefit strong typing and range checking etc

Help is at hand again from ETH Zurich in the form of the Zonnon project

Zonnon is the next language in the Pascal, Modula 2, Oberon family ...

The first compiler is for the .NET platform, it runs either in Visual Studio or on its own Borland-Pascal-like environment

The web site is at  and the contact is Prof Jurg Gutknecht (co-designer of Oberon with Prof Wirth)

Have a look at the Zonnon Language Report which is only 40 or so pages long and the Zonnon Builder User Guide (.NET) which is about 20 pages

BTW Microsoft know all about this and have cooperated strongly

So now everyone has a strongly typed, object oriented , modular language that also supports Activities (concurrency) for .NET ! It also has an object model based on composition rather than traditional inheritance, very interesting. And all this interoperable with the old clunky, semantically challenged, unreliable C and C++ legacy code: deep joy. Zonnon is a kindred spirit with C#, but much smaller and simpler, but still adequate for the job.

A small foot in the door, but at least there is now hope !! Please help us to tell the world ...

Best Wishes Brian Kirk Zonnon Language Report Co-Editor

PS Zonnon runs lite, without overbyte

PPS Let me know if you'd like an article on Zonnon for Dr Dobbs

I am the wrong one to ask as I am not an acquisitions editor but I have forwarded your letter. But this is very good news, and I will look into it.


Ron Paul is no more a conservative than I am. He's a libertarian in sheep's clothing.

If you don't believe that, just look at his voting record.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

No matter. I mean perhaps it matters, but what he says is correct.

 American political conservatism has a very strong libertarian streak, particularly as regards the federal government. We are inclined to give a great deal more power to state and local government than would libertarians on the theory that this is consent of the governed. And we have more tendency to look to the Common Law and its derivatives, something libertarians don't look at often.

 Maximizing liberty isn't a matter of abolishing laws as the anarchists would have it: that generally leads to disorder. Government isn't just a necessary evil, it is a positive good; but as Franklin said, it is also a dangerous friend and a fearful master. The Revolution wasn't about "the rights of man" but "the rights of free Englishmen"; a somewhat different thing.

 What we have in Washington today is not conservative in any sense that I understand the word. I don't think of imperialism as conservative. My views are much closer to those of Adams and Madison: "Federalists" but unlike Hamilton they had no desire to abolish the states, but rather a tendency to see them as bulwarks of liberty by distributing power.  Breaking power into chunks promotes liberty.

 Power can never be abolished and this is the failure of libertarians. Because they are self-governing and mostly see other people that way, libertarians think government far less necessary than it is; and of course in the hands of people like David Friedman all kinds of mechanisms for harnessing voluntary action to build free societies can be devised. David is an old friend and I enjoy speaking with him, and I wouldn't at all mind living on an island with you and him and people who think as you and he do under the kind of government you want; but I don't live on such an island.

 My difference with the libertarians is that history teaches me that there are things which are the natural province of government. One of those is control of appetites: whether it is religious truth or metaphor, Man is fallen, and seeks to become the arbiter of what is good and what is evil: and they will choose according to their appetites rather than their wisdom if not restrained.

"To secure these rights" governments are instituted among men. Governments then expand to fill the area you will let them have; and the only remedy I know is to break that power structure into chunks and give each chunk power within a limited district. That way people can choose the form of abuse they want to endure.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that some people really want to run other people's lives for them. The trick is to harness those busybodies into doing something good like being the public dog catcher, before they induce a lot of followers to put them in more powerful places. Security of life and property are taken for granted by most of us; some who have traveled to other lands know just how rare that ordered liberty can be and how difficult it is to attain. The rule of law in American didn't spring from the swollen brains of the Framers: they inherited the common law and it was up to them to implement a system that would keep it. They did that extraordinarily well, although some regretted that there was no element of monarchy and hereditary aristocracy to give an interest in preserving the new structure to some who might have the power to do it. And of course over the years the people threw away most of the republic that was built in 1787. So it goes.

 Incidentally, I am frequently asked for examples of democracies failing when the people discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.  California this week had a poll: 60% would rather "raise taxes" than "cut services"; but if you look in detail, they would rather raise taxes they don't pay, and not cut services they receive: this is known as voting oneself largess from the public treasury. It's politics as usual except that California is bankrupt, businesses are leaving, and raising taxes on "the rich" will simply send more people who have anything at all to lose out to Nevada or Arizona or Texas.

 Ah well.

 But again let me say: on national policy the libertarian and conservative views are often indistinguishable: leave the matters to the states and get the feds out of it. Abortion, education, and a great many other matters would be far better done by the states although you and I would probably disagree as to which way was "better" in some issues. But we would both be more likely to live under laws to our liking.

And see tomorrow's view

Also see below




Following came in last night after I went to bed. It also went to Mr. Thompson who sent me another warning which I saw as the first thing this morning.

Subject: WORM_BAGEL_A ( priority one)  

-------- Roland Dobbins

Subject: More on WORM_BAGEL_A (priority one) 

-------- Roland Dobbins


The Space Issue



Here's an interesting British-based website on Project NERVA.


Interesting indeed but it breaks my heart to look at it.


Two Freedom Stories


Stories like this -  - make my blood boil. Here's a guy at a basketball game, sees a fight and is videotaping it with his camcorder. A man "grabbed him from the front" and demanded his camera. Out guy uses profanity, a mark of ill breeding common in today's young. At this point, one could say the man who grabbed him was guilty of simple assault and attempted theft. In fact, one might charge him with "strong arm robbery."

But the assailant and would-be thief turns out to be the chief of police, and gets away with his crime. Furthermore, he apparently steals the guy's videotape while giving him back his camcorder. "Evidence." OK, but where's the due process of law? The warrant? The court order?

And where does the chief of police get off charging this man with anything at all? The chief didn't identify himself as police or show his badge. Had he done so, our guy - - a soldier on leave from Iraq - - almost certainly would have refrained from his profanity, though he might rightly have demanded a court order. After all, what would people have thought of the police confiscating the Rodney King video?

The chief owes the soldier an apology. Also, they owe him a copy of his tape. Perhaps an independent lab could do it, under legal supervision.

We need our police to exercise their lawful authority. But this plain-clothes stuff can go too far. Perhaps the chief might consider wearing the same uniform as his officers? If it's good enough for our military, perhaps it's good enough for police.


But we were born free.

The remedy for this is local control of these monsters: that police chief should have an exciting new career in managing a Macdonalds. But perhaps Peoria doesn't care.

My guess, incidentally, is that a simple request might have got a better result. But if you go to Peoria, you know what to expect now.

If you ever go to Peoria, better walk just right, well you better not have a camera, better not watch a fight, Chief Stenson will grab you, gonna take you by the hand, say anything about it, well you're sugarland bound...

Tell Freedom---

< >

This sort of thing would certainly discourage me from bothering to come to the US to consult.

-- Harry Erwin, Ph.D. One-time chief engineer for a corps-level air and ground operations command and control system...

Well we were born free, but privileges are privileges and what we thought were rights turn out to be privileges. The Imperium giveth, the Imperium taketh away. But we are not allowed to say Blessed be the Imperium lest we offend someone.

Have a nice day.







This week:


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Tuesday, January 20, 2004 

Dr Pournelle,

Revolution &  Rights

The Revolution wasn't about "the rights of man" but "the rights of free Englishmen"; a somewhat different thing.

Did anyone ever explain this distinction to Thomas Paine, I wonder?

Jim Mangles

No; but then Paine wasn't at the Convention of 1787. There had been revolutions before and after, and many tracts were written during them. Paine's words fitted well in the French affair that began in 1789 and sort of ended with the Coronation of Napoleon I, but the Framers in 1787 had different ideas.

We have a holiday today honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King for, among other things, practicing civil disobedience to make the moral point that all of us are *EQUAL* under God and the law should treat us as such.

The bar monopoly and legal system are punishing Judge Roy Moore for, among other things, practicing civil disobedience to make the moral point that all of us are equal *UNDER GOD* and the law should remember that fact.

Joseph Story and John Marshall are rolling over in their graves.

Steve Setzer


All you Need to Know about Government and Bureaucracy:

** Pythagorean theorem: ............................. 24 words.
** Lord's prayer: ................................... 66 words.
** Archimedes' Principle: ........................... 67 words.
** 10 Commandments: ................................. 179 words.
** Gettysburg address: .............................. 286 words.
** Declaration of Independence: ................... 1,300 words.
** US Government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words.

bill mackintosh





Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Do you think I am being slightly paranoid, in finding the timing of the announcement of the cessation of service to Hubble a little suspect? Almost immediately upon the President's announcement of a plan for more extensive manned presence in space, the announcement is made that Hubble will be basically abandoned.

While the ultimate reasoning for the decision is perhaps sound, given the expense of the Shuttle, the timing is interesting because this is perhaps _the_ major project that could be counted on to stir up opposition in those corners of the planetary and stellar sciences community that are already somewhat anti-manned flight. I note that they made a point of specifically linking this decision to the new manned space initiative.

Could this perhaps have been a 'softball' tossed to individuals such as Dr. Park?

Jack Smith

Of course it was NASA politics as usual. The right way to keep Hubble is to develop small manned spacecraft that can fly at tens of millions per mission; but keeping the standing army employed is NASA's major goal. This, they hope, will give Shuttle a few more years of life after all.

Subject: One Clever Spam (Mail, Jan. 18, 2004):

If Paul really liked it, he can read more - the chunk of text is from L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz:

Jon Barrett

Well, yes -- I thought that obvious, and I guess I should not have, given that a lot of people know the Oz stories only from the movies.



   Thought you would be interested in this


Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 1:11 AM
To: ABS Working Group
Subject: this document will make you grouchy

 “Q3 2003 DoubleClick DARTmail data attests to the continued

effectiveness of email as a marketing vehicle. Despite an

increasingly difficult email delivery environment, delivery rates for

legitimate marketers are up in almost all categories.


 (well maybe 1.7% of us like you….)



And something I missed putting up a few days ago:


Robot scientist outperforms humans in lab 


It needs discussion but there are some interesting implications. Some kinds of  science can benefit from automation. Edison said 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration...







This week:


read book now



Historians caution that democracies decline when citizens vote themselves largess from the public treasury. I had assumed that this was directed at the poor citizens. But I live in the golden era of the uber lobbyist, so I have to rethink my class prejudice.

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

Democracy is the rule of the middle class. When the middle class is corrupted by the fruits of democracy, the democracy itself will not long endure. Or at least history says this. 

Dutch race policy 'a 30-year failure' By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Hague (Filed: 20/01/2004)

Holland's 30-year experiment in trying to create a tolerant, multicultural society has failed and led to ethnic ghettos and sink schools, according to an official parliamentary report.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of Dutch-born members of immigrant families import their spouse from their "home" country, mostly Turkey or Morocco, perpetuating a fast-growing Muslim subculture in large cities.

The 2,500-page all-party report by the Dutch parliament was the establishment's tentative answer to the critique of Pim Fortuyn, the shaven-headed firebrand who warned that Holland's easy-going way of life was threatened by militant Islam and over-crowding. He was assassinated by an environmental activist two years ago.



Feeling Safer already

Hi Jerry,

I've been a fan and reader of your columns since the mid-80's in Byte and still going in the online version. I've never written you, but now I had to. Regarding this (I quote you in your last column):

'On the other side, freedom itself is under assault from those convinced that we must trade liberty for safety. Add to that the tendency of petty officials to flaunt their authority, like the TSA officers at the airport who refused a college student permission to bring her pet tropical fish on board in a plastic bag, and it's hard to see where that trend will stop either.'

It recently went even further: a British girl has been jailed for having a joke with TSA officers! (see:  ) For me, this is going much to far. Being form a rather liberal country (Belgium), I really can't understand this. Some people - or nations - are getting way to serious. What she did - trying to get a smile on the face of these people - is something I also would do without hesitating. I like to have people smile, even if they are officials. And they usually appreciate it. So this could have been me. Frightening. We are indeed loosing our liberty for safety. And I thank you for pointing it out.

Regards, Johan Fontaine Brugges, Belgium (which might explain any faults against propper English ;-) )

We also have this :

Dr. Pournelle,

This is the sort of thing that used to happen in communist China: 

How do reasonable Americans view this?

Best regards,

Andrew Duffin

Are there any reasonable Americans left?

These petty tyrants are concerned with their own dignity. And the police "had no choice". But after we send her away for 15 years, perhaps others will properly kowtow to these humorless creatures. As if what they do were more than window dressing to begin with: we are not safer for their efforts, and they know it, and they know that the intelligent among us know it.

And where is the outrage? Or even the simple humanity? The lady in question was no threat to anyone, as could easily have been determined by searching her baggage; but in fact they already knew that. So what is being accomplished here? Why, the rules are being obeyed!


Perhaps I will write a fantasy in which the Brits have some spine and send the SAS to rescue the girl from durance vile. "Cheers, Samantha, the Army's here."

This from 

"HOMELAND INSECURITY Study: Airport safety no better since 9-11 Report says problem lies in unaccountable, inflexible bureaucracy

Posted: January 21, 2004 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2004

A new study conducted by an aviation-security firm concludes federal efforts to safeguard airports, planes and the flying public have left the U.S. just as vulnerable to terrorism now as it was before September 11..."

Of course, this does not take into account the _passengers'_ input as to whether _they_ would allow another 9-11-01 style hijacking... Of course the "Thousands Standing Around" improves nothing as regards air travel security. Of course the bureaucracy is inflexible, obscurantist and obdurate in its petty persecution of pet fish, elderly heroes (recall the MoH incident... ) and nursing mothers. It's the nature of petty bureaucrats who are unaccountable to their putative masters (now become their subjects).

Of course.

And of course the report is wrong in its conclusion that air tavel is no more secure, given the fact that no doubt there is little chance of a 9-11-01 style hijack succeeding, at least not until the "Thousands Standing Around" decide that all passengers must be handcuffed and shackled before departure (when the ability to use one's hands and feet are outlawed, only outlaws will have lockpicks... <heh>).

It's enough to make one long for the (mythical?) days when lawmakers actually read the Constitution without snickering.

David W Needham

A servant when he is master...

It's worth 15 years in jail to say so. But we were born free.

And see below




I've just finished reading your excellent Dr. Dobb's column, PDC and The Some, and there's one tiny point I'd like to nitpick. You correctly state that buffer overflow problems disappear with compilers that use strong type and range checking. However, dynamically typed languages such as Smalltalk, Python, Ruby and Perl are also immune to buffer overflows, simply because it's not possible to directly access the memory.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Quicksilver, by the way. Thanks for the recommendation.

-- Andrew Eland (

Oh I quite agree. There's more ways to -- but no, I had best not finish that old joke of ted Sturgeon's. There are many ways to accomplish the goals. But I enjoyed being able to say "I told you so" about C.

Subject OSX Dock

Good morning!

In response to the earlier discussion of the Mac OS X dock. I've been using OS X for a couple of years now and I don't think I've ever put a document into the dock. The way I've used it, and seen others use it, is as a place to put your (shortcuts to) applications and perhaps folders rather than documents. (Documents appear there temporarily when minimized, but that's a different case then is being discussed I believe).

The idea is that it serves much the same function as the Windows "start" menu, that is to give the user a quick way to get to the programs they most often use. When you pull something off the dock it does go "poof" while the Start menu places the shortcut on your desktop instead - both are probably rare events for most users who keep these tools fairly static from day to day. Which behavior is "better" is likely a matter of personal preference and is unlikely to be the deciding factor in choice of operating system. I would imagine that if you're savvy enough to be pulling stuff on and off your shortcut bar then you're able to deal with the user interface used in any case.

The good news is that we at the moment have more UI and OS choice then ever so folks have the chance to pick what suits their needs....

Best regards,

Michael Kubler Keflavik, Iceland

Indeed, as I use the tray in Windows XP. As the chap said, the Dock is a good selling point -- I thought I would really like it when Dan showed it to me on his Powerbook -- but it turns out in practice to be a little less useful than I had imagined. Still, it's a clever features.

Subject: An Aussie view

Steve Seltzer


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The trip home from Korea on Friday went very well; the journey through LAX was surprisingly swift and, dare I say, efficient. Leaving Seoul at 8:30 PM and arriving in Los Angeles at 2:05PM, both on Friday, will likely constitute my only experience with time travel; but it gives my children something to giggle about.

My only personal experience with the Green Party was to have human excrement thrown at me and curses and threats screamed at me in german and english by Greens in Giessen in 1985. They did so simply because I was employed by the US Army and they were employed by the KGB. While I abhor the treatment of gentleman as mentioned in the article and agree that it is a bureaucratic and imperialistic nightmare, I must point out that the European progenitors of the US Green Party were willing Soviet dupes and were vocally dedicated to the destruction of the United States. If you look around at the doings of modern European Greens you will find nothing has changed. The Green's "values include nonviolence, social justice, etc." made me want to laugh and gag by turns. The Greens may not deserve to have their liberties stomped on by the Imperium, but they really should change their name if they want to be taken seriously by the American people.

Yours Truly,

Frank Luxem

Agreed on all counts


Subject: New gizmo - use external Serial ATA hotswap drives on IDE controllers

Allows easy quick backup and cloning to external hot-swappable Serial ATA drives from older machines with IDE controllers. 

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

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

And those drives are getting cheaper all the time...

Subject: South Korean POW Discharged From Army

Hi Jerry,

The subject says it all. What's amazing is that it took 50 years for him to escape.

- Paul


Subject: FYI-Another Internet Scam

If you receive an email from WOMC Support captioned "A User is researching you at our website." just delete it! Please read more below: 

and a similar scam from Word-of-Mouth.Org:


To make it worse, my son Frank used to do business as "Word of Mouth Productions". But this ain't him.


I have to disagree with Mr Duffin. Making Bomb jokes in an airport is something I would hesitate to do. I think a 15 year sentence is a bit much. I do NOT think it would be out of order to do a strip search or something to get the message across we are serious about this.

But no jail sentence unless they really found something.

Brice Yokem

But precisely. She was a bad girl, not a criminal terrorist. And think of all the costs involved here, for no purpose whatever.

But petty tyrants must be served. Kowtow. Knock that head on the floor. I wonder what they would do if someone did just that, a full kowtow to them?

And see view, and also see below


Subject: Revolution 2.1.

------- Roland Dobbin


Dr Pournelle,

(It’s what my mother told me)

Remember now! If you can’t say nice things about Mr Bin Laden, don’t say anything at all—,,2-2004022176,00.html 

Political correctness reaches a new depth of imbecility. Why am I not surprised?

Jim Mangles

Great Ghu!!


And more really really good news about the Empire 

Fort Stewart to increase its deploying units by 66 percent

By Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Triggs

• Printer-friendly version • E-mail this article • E-mail Alerts

(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles on Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker's focus areas. This one discusses "Modularity.")

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 20, 2004) - "It's like breaking China," said the commanding general who has proposed to make his division larger, diversify his brigades and turn all his Soldiers into riflemen.

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., seized Baghdad and helped in the stabilization of Fallujah. They know what tactics work against an unconventional enemy, and what vulnerabilities make American troops targets.

Their task now is to turn their three brigades into five rapidly deployable "brigade units of action" that are able to plug into any division and independently fight a high intensity conflict.

"The chief told me that he wants five maneuver brigades ... to respond to all the needs of combatant commanders when a crisis occurs, and he said that he wants it to happen ASAP," said Maj. Gen. William Webster, 3rd Inf. Div. commanding general, referring to instructions given to him by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.

Part of Schoomaker's instruction was to see if the reorganization could take place using existing resources within the division. However, the proposal on the table now would cause the division to get larger by about 2,000 to 3,000 troops, said Webster. The brigade numbers would stay the same, but combat troops would decrease by about 10 to 15 percent, he added.

-- swb

GOD, GUNS & GUTS-Keep All 3!!!


I have long suspected that the Tuskegee study of syphilis has been misrepresented (racist genocide!).


Indeed, one of the most astonishing facts about the disease (at least to those of us who are not medical scientists, or who naively associate syphilis with the demise and devastation of Frederick Nietzsche) is that, after the early stages of infection, the vast majority of people who have untreated syphilis either remain asymptomatic all of their lives or else spontaneously recover from the disease. For most people, a syphilis infection is either a self-limiting or self-correcting disease, and in the 1930s the degree to which doing something (a year of protoplasmic arsenic poisoning) was better than doing nothing at all was at the very least uncertain, and was thus a matter of urgent medical and scientific concern


=And in fact the treatments were often worse than the disease, one of the things the study was intended to look into...

Reminds me of the Salve of War: it was to be applied to the weapon that wounded your comrade. And it wouldn't work if you let the doctors get hold of your buddy, so friends went after the weapon that wounded you and applied the salve and hid you from the medicos and kept you out of the hospital and by God you had a better chance...


Subject: Charlie. 

------ Roland Dobbins

"A moment's thought would have saved us from these follies. But thought is a painful process, and a moment is a long time."

-- A.E. Houseman

Good Grief!!



Subject: Heads Must Roll

Really good investigative bit on the 9 reasons we didn't send in our Special Forces after Alquaeda before 9/11.

Interestingly CLINTON had asked about it but was talked out of doing so according to this.

Click Here: Check out "Showstoppers"

Best, Ken Talton


Dr. Pournelle,

Two webloggers I read on a regular basis posted commentary on an article in the Weekly Standard about the lack of Special Operations against al-Qaeda between the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the WTC.  I thought I would pass this on.

Donald Sensing is a former Artillery officer who serves now as a Methodist minister in Tennessee.  Citizen Smash first came to my attention while he was in Kuwait ensuring the port remained safe during the conflict;  his site then was entitled "Live From the Sandbox."  They have somewhat differing opinions on the article, but it's another example of bureaucratic lethargy.

And before you ask: no, I'm not surprised. (grin)


Bruce Jones






Are we safer yet?


Well, with these people on the job, sure we are. Don't try to learn to fly.


Everyone could benefit when these are made standard equipment....




And on a more serious note, NASA

Dr. Jerry,

Jack Smith said: While the ultimate reasoning for the decision is perhaps sound, given the expense of the Shuttle, the timing is interesting because this is perhaps _the_ major project that could be counted on to stir up opposition in those corners of the planetary and stellar sciences community that are already somewhat anti-manned flight. I note that they made a point of specifically linking this decision to the new manned space initiative.

The assorted NYT articles on the Hubble indicated that they were abandoning Hubble servicing because a shuttle could not service the Hubble AND reach the space station from that orbit if something went wrong. 

"Periodic service calls by shuttle astronauts repaired a series of early problems and have continually refurbished the telescope and kept it at the fore of cosmic research. The mission next year would have left the telescope in good shape to continue working through the end of the decade, when NASA plans to bring it down. But the service missions are expensive, more than $500 million each.

More important, NASA officials say, after the Columbia catastrophe a year ago, the missions are also considered dangerous. The shuttles do not carry enough fuel to reach the space station in case of trouble."

[There is also this: ed=1   (Link leads to a registration page I do not intend to bother with)

"The right way to do Mars is to design a coherent set of hardware that can do Mars," he said. Along the way, a Moon mission employing some of the Mars equipment might be a worthwhile test.

and this: 

As an old cynic, I'm determined not to get excited about all this. We've been here before. In fact I've spent my whole life waiting for the Great Leap Outward, only to be disappointed. Now under the best of circumstances I'm destined to be part of the left-behind generation. President Bush and the NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, have been too clever to tell us when the rockets will finally push off to Mars, or at what ultimate cost. I don't expect to be around.]

[Me:] Which means 200 million in upgrades goes to waste, but also requires they develop and launch a new vehicle (500 million?) to provide the boosters neccessary to de-orbit the Hubble into the Pacific. We are back to the post-Challenger safety fetish. 

has a reprint of a UPI 'insider' (friendly to whomever the insider was, and the administration plan) story on how they came up with this plan:

"Due to NASA's budget constraints, it was obvious there was no way to keep the shuttle fleet flying and develop the CEV quickly enough to launch it while the shuttle fleet was still operational. The soonest a CEV could launch to the moon was perhaps 2013. NASA needed to retire the shuttle as soon as possible, so it was decided to terminate the program in 2010, when ISS assembly was completed.

This action would leave a three-year gap, however, wherein NASA would depend on Soyuz spacecraft. The things to be bartered for such a capability have yet to be identified. In essence, O'Keefe was willing to make another leap over a period of uncertainty based on the success he had been able to achieve during the current, similar period of unknowns."

So, I've thought about it, and I conclude that this plan sucks. Lemme review:

We go to the moon. We take two steps backwards and embrace the Shuttle and LEO (no blame for Nixon here). In fact, we make the decision to more or less abandon Skylab and all the Apollo stuff for another space station in the future after the Shuttle works.

We finally get the shuttle flying but we do not follow up to it in the '80s, we systematically cut back NASA funding, without deleting the agency, and then we have the Challenger accident. We piddle around for a year or two and Bush the Elder comes up with the Slow Plan to Mars. The Shuttle goes way someday and maybe we'll build another system but nothing really changes.

Clinton comes in, we take another two steps backward, abandon the Slow Plan to Mars and go for an International Space Station and keep everything else the same, while slowly reducing the NASA budget without dumping the agency.

NOW we're going to dump the Shuttle (ok, I'm fine with that) and replace it with something else, eventually, after we sorta finish the ISS. Meaning the ISS won't be a complete waste, merely mostly a waste. And we dump the Hubble.

Keeping in mind here, that the '67 budget for NASA was 6 billion, or 0.9% of GNP, which works out to something like 100 billion dollars in a modern budget. (1969 was equivalent to about 60 billion.) Figures not exact. Modern NASA budgets have run around 20 billion.

In the interval, we're going to re-develop duplicates of the Gemini and Apollo technologies, except on a smaller budget. (Same function, same basic idea, completely different but similar design. Clean room development, another words.) We may or may not finish some kind of orbiter (I cannot tell). We'll ditch the ISS and (I have to presume) replace it with another space station (again, on a small but perhaps somewhat increased budget). In 2020 or so, we're supposed to build a 'scientific base', (an *international* science base), which I translate as 'rinky-dink'. (That is, we landed on the moon when I was two, and we'll return with a coupla guys when I'm 53.) I expect we'll have to get a licence from the Chinese.

Then, sometime later, we'll send a coupla guys to Mars, maybe Russian equipment, maybe Russians.

BESIDES the fact that seems like basically a crib from the elder Bush administration (which we seem to be reliving, on a blow-by-blow basis), it seems to be so vague as to be unimplementable. We're not going to spend serious money until after Bush is gone (at which point evidently a miracle will occur), the money we do spend will duplicate money we've already spent, and we're in the hole right now for some ungodly amount of money, and in the meantime we're going be spending even more. I guess we'll finance the plan by cutting social security benefits...given that we'll all be older it seems like an idea which will be about popular as a child molester at a Girl Scout camp.

We know how to build Saturn rockets, and we know how to build Titans. We know how to make Apollo capsules and Gemini capsules. We mostly know how to convert the shuttle launch system to an unmanned cargo hauler (way more useful than the shuttle), since we have the tank, the boosters and the engines. Granted, we'd have to change things, but we don't have to design it, we just have to build it. Instead, we're going to spend a decade sitting on our hands, and hoping that a future Congress will see the light. (Which I guess is a virtue for the current administration as the are free not to actually do anything.) Developing new vehicles is out, since we've settled a capsule design.

I am not against giving it to the Navy (quite the opposite), but I don't know that they can do that much more for the same amount of money.

I am not against prizes. If I was doing it, I'd fund a large number of prizes, each prize covering a small step forward. Hell, I'd do both the Navy and the prizes and make it like the Manhatten project or WWII aircraft design. Multiple designs from multiple sources, and you go with whatever works.

(I don't see where SDI, or missile defense or space weapons even features into this...I don't really see how it can. Maybe as a somewhere over the rainbow idea.)

Instead, we're going to spend juuussssttt enough money to keep NASA going, and keep NASA in the way of the private people, but not enough to make the beauracracy work. And we're not exactly lighting a fire under their butts either.

So I figure eight steps backwards, and 4 * 1/2 steps forward puts us six steps back from the moon, and an eternity away from Mars.

It's a de jure 'vision' but it reads like de facto winding up orders for NASA, and de facto winding up orders for the United States in space. (Given everything else going on, maybe de facto winding up orders for the US period.)

Therefore I conclude the plan sucks swamp water. Better not to have done anything and leave room for some other President to change things.

ash ['Perhaps I am overly bleak, but I don't think so.']








CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 22, 2004

Subject: Eric Eldred Act

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm curious about your thoughts on the Eric Eldred Act (also known as the Public Domain Enhancement Act). Details can be found at 

Essentially, this law allows copyrights to lapse after fifty years unless the copyright holder sends one dollar to the U.S. Copyright office and completes a form requesting an extension. I don't know much about copyright law but this seems like a reasonable compromise to me between those who want to protect their copyrights indefinitely and those who no longer have an interest in the copyright.

Thank you.

Cliff Mathews

I would have no objection. But then I didn't object to the old 26 with renewal for 26 system. I think the present system is unfair to the public.


You said [regarding the State of the Union speech]: "And I do note there were no more trumpets sounding: no more places to invade."

We may have at least one more...   

<snip> HAMBURG – The Iranian intelligence service was the initiator of the 11 September 2001 suicide-jet attacks on New York and Washington, according to a defector quoted Thursday by German police at the Hamburg terrorist trial. </snip>

More confirmation is needed, of course, but if the above is true, Iran should answer for it and answer severely.

Braxton S. Cook

Except of course we can't: we have the Army in Iraq and there is no way we could undertake another war with an armed power now.

You could make a pretty good case that if we had to invade someone over there, Iran was far more a dangerous enemy than a thoroughly deterred Saddam Hussein. The problem was that Iran would have been tough. Thousands of casualties, probably: certainly not the durchjeepen trip to Baghdad. Armored war in Iraqi terrain was simple and deadly: we could engage far out of their range to hit back, and we could see through sandstorms and all weather. Fewer places to hide.

Invading Iran is likely to be a real war, best done by supporting someone else; but the only possible someone else was Iraq.

Iran has sponsored many of the anti-Israeli attacks, and was behind a number of attacks on the US. Their ties to our enemies are easier to establish and demonstrate than Iraq's.

Of course we can also hope that the Iranian situation will better itself through domestic politics and modernization; but note that Iraq is already pretty modernized, to the extent that few Iraqis have any interest in harming the US (at least once we are no longer there), and they were governed by a thoroughly deterred dictator, and that didn't seem to let them avoid invasion. What Iran learned, I suspect, was that it's better to be strong, because giving in doesn't save you.

I don't know how easily Iran would fall. It would be tougher than Iraq if only because of the terrain. Persia has always been a tough nut to crack: the Arabs managed it, but only because Persia was splintered, exhausted from its fights with Byzantium, a boy king on the Peacock Throne, King of Kings who acted as if he were the honorary chairman of a council, not emperor; and of course once the Arabs took Persia and converted it to Islam, Persia furnished much of the fuel for the further expansion and much of the high civilization. I have not studied the situation but I do not think Iran would fall like a ripe fruit.

More on the silly girl who joked that she had a bomb in her luggage. We may as well thresh this out and be done with it.

Dear Jerry:

You wrote:

The point of self government is that it is efficient and cheap, and I for one can put up with people making bad jokes.

The oldest cliche about freedom of speech is that is does not give you the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, nor, I would think, joke about bombs in an airport.

But beyond that - and I come back to this time and again - air travel is a COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE, and those running the enterprise have the right to set whatever rules and regulations they wish. If Delta insists you paint your face green and hop on one foot to fly on their planes, guess what - those are THEIR planes and green shalt be thy face and one-legged thy hopping if you want to get on board: get used to it.

If you don't like it you can:

Try another carrier.

Buy your own plane.

Charter your own plane.


Take a bus.

Take a train.

Those are six perfectly reasonable alternatives. Less reasonable: walk, hitchhike, or cancel the trip entirely.

You can search the Constitution until the cows come home and you'll find no right to use other's property on your conditions.

It really bothers me when you equate rules & regulations existing in a commercial environment with some sort of loss of basic freedom. The lady in this case could stand on a street corner and say "I have a bomb" as a form of protest with some protection under the First Amendment but in this circumstance she gave up that right when she knowingly and voluntarily entered into a contract with the carrier by buying a ticket and thus agreeing to the terms and conditions set therein.

I do NOT understand why you ignore this distinction - it seems to me to be at the very heart of the matter. Would you explain?

All the best--

Tim Loeb

Because the crime was artificial and they knew it.

Because the threatened punishment is inconsistent with any possible damage from the crime, and the crime itself is one of regulation violations.

Because she didn’t say “Bomb!” to cause a panic, and this is NOTHING like shouting fire in a crowded theater, and you know it as well as I do.

Because commercial activity is part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If the Airline had said “Off! You can’t fly after making that joke!” they would have the right to do so. Given a choice it is unlikely they would have done that, but the airline is the one with the rights here, not the public authorities.

That did not happen. Instead the public authorities hauled her off to the hoosegow.

I have not said she acted wisely, or that the public authorities and the airline owners do not have the right to discourage such silly behavior. But if you do not see that invoking the awful majesty of the law and threatening fifteen years in prison to a silly girl who made a bad joke is a travesty of freedom, then we are further gone than I thought.

If you have not the right to make a living, by the way, you haven't got one hell of a lot of right: and that's commercial. Property rights are as important as any other kind, and this distinction between "commercial" and  other rights is often carried very far indeed.

I doubt you find the phrase "get used to it" as offensive as I do, so I will say "nyah! nyah!" which is the same thing.

And see below, including Clark Myers on civil vs. criminal enforcement.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  January 23, 2004


At the moment, the US is spending a large amount of money attempting to protect against an extremely rare event with very limited consequences (even though horrific to those directly involved.) Almost certainly, as the security system is designed and executed by ordinary humans, the security measures will fail and the money will have been wasted.

Security is important, but 15 years ago when I was searched by an armed guard in a UK airport, the IRA were bombing British towns almost every week and air hijacks occurred almost every month. Flying today is much safer, not because some stupid rent-a-guard locks up a silly girl (after all she may have been the decoy) but because of the simple things such as locking doors and not allowing unaccompanied luggage on passenger flights.

If the aim of terrorists is to disrupt and terrify, they have succeeded. When a air security idiot is allowed to get away with claims that nailclippers are too dangerous to be allowed on a plane but still allow items such as belts and shoe laces (items that are trivially converted into ligatures) the authorities have lost control.

More and more, 1984 is turning out to be accurate in all but the date.

Geoff Lane

We have a situation in which we all of us can be jailed on whims, but it is all done in the name of protecting us. That is called trusting to arbitrary power, and it is the usual form of government: the citizens cannot be trusted with protecting their safety. That takes professionals. We have created an aristocracy, not yet of birth, although that usually follows the creation of an aristocracy.

Perhaps it was inevitable.

See also today's essay.

How can criminal enforcement - deprivation of rights under color of law - arise from a civil contract to fly and violation of conditions precedent to performance by the airline?

Surely if the passenger has agreed to perform in accordance with the carriers rules - then the remedy for failure to perform is purely civil and may for instance take the form of liquidated damages in the contract.

There are many such issues in commercial flight including adherence to rules on lost baggage and particularly to rules for damages on international flights which apply and which most passengers are unaware of. See e.g. the fuss on lost or damage checked articles which are in limbo between airlines and TSA. No doubt the passengers have all agreed to this limbo?

These may constitute a contract of adhesion but surely the exisiting contracts make no written provision for criminal enforcement. Particularly given that the passenger is not on notice, and in fact is denied notice, of some acts prohibited to the passenger and enforced by criminal law. The full list of what consititutes contraband for passengers is quite thoroughly concealed from passengers!

Clark Myers

Exactly. The airline had every right to deprive her of her ticket or at least to delay her flight as long as needed to be certain she was in fact joking. Jail for fifteen years is another matter.

I wanted to respond to something Tim Loeb wrote concerning the girl who joked about the bomb in the luggage.

This is the specific paragraph in question:

"But beyond that - and I come back to this time and again - air travel is a COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE, and those running the enterprise have the right to set whatever rules and regulations they wish. If Delta insists you paint your face green and hop on one foot to fly on their planes, guess what - those are THEIR planes and green shalt be thy face and one-legged thy hopping if you want to get on board: get used to it. "

Two points that need to be addressed here.

The first is that while a commercial enterprise has the right to set whatever rules it wants to people who want to use its services, it may not arrest people for breaking them -- it may only expel people from the premises or request that law enforcement arrest people for breaking the laws of the land. This woman was NOT arrested because she broke a rule at the airport, she was arrested for breaking a federal law. For that reason alone it DOES become a First Amendment issue -- whether it is a first amendment issue that favors her or the government has yet to be determined, but if you're being ARRESTED instead of being DENIED SERVICE then it is a legal, and not a commercial issue.

The second point is that the idea that we have no right to complain about the way a commercial enterprise runs its business is absolutely ridiculous. We are the customers, after all, and if we can organize enough to protest the way a company runs its business it is faced with the option of either changing or losing money. That is *supposed* to be the way an economy based on a free market works. Delta may require we paint our faces and hop on one leg to fly, but that doesn't mean we can't protest it -- and if we protest enough and refuse to fly Delta, they have a decision to make.

I'm not entirely sure where this idea came from, but a lot of companies have it, and it seems (sadly) that consumers are picking up on it too.

Regards, Christopher B. Wright (





But there are criminal enforcement laws now. The question is, should there be?

An exchange of letters:

Jerry, We've met briefly a couple of times over the years, the first time in 1974 at a book signing in Westwood. Larry corrected my copy. The possibility of arrest for joking about carrying a bomb at an airport is not new with the TSA. I remember signs posted at airports warning against making jokes about bombs almost thirty years ago. They also stated that if convicted, the prankster would be sentenced to a federal prison for a number of years and fined tens of thousands of dollars. There was a case where someone carrying a pocket knife was asked to identify the item (back when they weren't WMDs). He was arrested when he jokingly stated it was a neutron bomb.

 Shane Cook Sacramanto CA

I m


My point regarding signs posted in airports almost thirty years ago wasn't to defend the TSA's actions, but that the same stupidity has been around a long time. I thought it was overreaction then and my opinion hasn't changed. I thought it was stupid to joke about carrying a neutron bomb on board but missing a flight is probably sufficient punishment.

Shane Cook

 Sacramento CA

Ah. I misunderstood. Thanks.



Dr. Pournelle,

I have finished half of Lucifer's Hammer and just ran across this article on the US News and World Report site about an asteroid strike in the South Pacific around the year 1500. Very eerie... 

Maybe such strikes are more common than thought? I am beginning to worry.

Keep up the good work. -- Oliver Richter

Wow! Neat! I hadn't seen that!


Today's NASA JOKE 

<snip> NASA penalized the contractor that maintains and operates the space shuttle fleet $45.2 million for its role in the shuttle Columbia accident, according to a letter NASA released Thursday. [A] letter from a NASA official said the contractor was "an integral member" of the "team that reached flawed conclusions about the relative safety of Columbia and crew before and during the flight." </snip>

Does this mean NASA is going to also dock the pay of all NASA employees that worked on Columbia?

Braxton S. Cook

Sure they are

Regarding FRED, Mike Juergens wants it minuted:

 I still love the "Ministry of Culture and Morals" bit. Quite insightful, I think. :

and indeed I wish I'd said that and I probably will have within a week.


I just wonder, has anyone compared the cost of 10 years of "No fly zones" with the cost of the Iraq war? Everytime we deploy a naval battle group you have deaths due to accidents. Has anyone compared these numbers with the current casualty list? Ten years is a lot of time to keep that much resources devoted to oversight of one country.

Just a thought



This is worth discussing. Live fire exercises are expensive, and of course keeping troops is expensive no matter where they are although they certainly cost more when deployed. And the bombing in Arabia would not have happened had then been there: and it cost us a lot.

The Cole is another charge to our overseas deployments.

Interesting: I don't have the numbers, but you make a good point.

Greg Cochran does have the numbers. See below.


This one stuck me like the proverbial ton when I read it. Sadly it seems be more true by the day. To say nothing of the fact that today's speed bumps become part of the voting Permanent Underclass and so their employment becomes "third-rail" sacrosanct.

"The "speed bump" solutions being implemented by government at all levels are as predictable as they are ineffective. The "speed bump" approach dictates that the guilty are never pursued nor punished. Instead, punishment is meted out, in the form of harassment, to everyone who didn't commit a crime! Again, all of us non-sheep need to find creative ways to continue pursuing our personal goals while maneuvering around the speed bumps." - John Farnam, Quips and Quotes, 11-7-01

J Nichols

Indeed. This is another one I wish I had said, and within a week I will have. The Speed Bump Solution...

A pair of letters:

I'd be interested to know what you think of this article. I realize that there's parts that you will violently disagree with (specifically the partisan political views), but I'm interested in knowing what you think about the basic premise with respect to immigration and American wealth-producing capability. 

-- Talin (

I answered:

>Would you say there's a difference between attracting educated people
and attracting those coming to go on welfare and social security or
take the bottom tier jobs?

The short answer: If my life's ambition were to live a live of idleness supported by the state, I don't think that the U.S. would be on the top of my list of countries to emigrate to.

The long answer is more complicated.

I should probably begin by saying that I am of two minds about welfare and social security. (Of course, as you probably know, I'm of two minds about almost anything political). On the one hand, I understand perfectly your oft-repeated maxim that "if you pay people to be poor, they will be". Certainly it is true in nature that any available exploitable niche will inevitably be exploited. One way of saying this might be "Nature abhors a free lunch" - i.e. any free lunches are quickly consumed or made non-free. I don't see anything morally degenerate in this state of affairs, merely one strategy for dealing with entropy.

On the other hand, that statement about paying people to be poor is very typical of the kind of statements that my libertarian friends make - very elegant in theory, makes perfect sense from a mechanistic / ideal-economical-actor point of view. However, my real-life sample points (of which there are admittedly few) seems to contradict the theory - the people that I have known who have been on welfare struggled mightily to get off of it as quickly as possible, and seem to be doing quite well for themselves now. However, I freely admit that the class of people that I associate with is highly selective and highly educated.

To quote a song by Canadian folksinger Stan Rogers, one which you'd probably like: "Well, I could have stayed to take the dole, but I'm not one of those...I like being free, and that makes me, an idiot I suppose." Clearly, the individual in the song is being motivated by something other than market values.

(Side note: Heinlein's statement about armed societies and politeness is a similar sort of ivory-tower statement - it's misleading, as it glosses over the fact that the underlying cultural moral values are the real wellspring of 'politeness', and without those, indiscriminately arming a society leads to brutal disaster.)

On the gripping hand, I think that there's probably hidden costs to poverty. I think that my own pocketbook is affected when there are sick people running around spreading disease, or when people are so desperately poor that they are forced to turn to drug dealing and theft in order to survive. It also affects me financially when children don't have enough nutrition or education to grow up smart and create the wealth that our country enjoys.

Of course, it also annoys me when my hard earned dollars are being wasted, or spent foolishly. But I don't mind spending a reasonable amount of money if it is wisely invested in our people. I'm not smart enough to calculate the optimal level of investment for the greatest rate of return (and that's before you factor things like compassion into account.)

As far as immigration goes, being a geek of the Internet era, I'm dogmatically convinced that open-ness is good for business. That the free flow of money thrives when there is a free flow of information. Even more, when there is freedom. I'm afraid to say that I believe this because it 'feels right', on the level of gut instinct, rather than based on a formal analysis. Of course, I have many anecdotes. But I don't have what you would call hard evidence.

For a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely. The difference between me and libertarians is that I take that seriously. There are helpless people. Some are ill and some are just futile. A proper society takes care of them.

But America for a long time did that without government. Tocqueville described this well, and that system lasted until politicians discovered there were votes in them there ills. Now we have the Federal government doing what ought to be done by neighbors, and the neighbors don't feel particularly guilty because it is no longer their job to look out for the elderly guy down the street. That's a job for some state or federal social worker. Are we better off for that?

We are not better off for letting the old man's house fall down, or letting people lie in the gutters; we are not better off for not taking care of the unfortunate. The problem is how to do it, for whom to do it, and what are the consequences of different ways of doing such things.

Most government "investments" turn out to be payments to government workers, who then use what's left over to try to address the original problems.

If you pay people to be poor, you will have people take the job. If you pay people to take care of the poor, that niche will be filled by people who will move mountains to see that the poor we will always have with us. But recognizing that isn't solving the problem, because the poor will always be with us, and while the poor of this nation in other states are not my problem, those in my neighborhood are -- and by extension those in Washington DC. But Washington DC is a perfect example, isn't it? Congress has ample Constitutional power to make Washington DC a paradise, make it have the best schools on earth, keep it clean and crime free, and God knows enough is spent on that, more per pupil than any other school system in the land I think (close if not top) -- and the result?

Of course there are costs associated with poverty, and many aren't hidden at all. For a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely.

But the devil is in the details. Look at Washington DC if you think throwing money at the problem is the solution.

For commentary on the actual article, see below.


Dr Pournelle,

Water on Mars

Apparently the ESA Mars Express Orbiter has detected clear spectroscopic evidence of H2O ice and CO2 ice at the Martian South Pole.

The significance of this for the prospects of Martian life and future manned expeditions cannot be overemphasised.

Mars Express has also produced some wonderful, highly detailed 3-D images of the planet.

Jim Mangles




It is not generally known that Keeshan was a Marine in WW II and a war hero. God rest this gentle soul.

'Captain Kangaroo,' Bob Keeshan, Dies at Age 76 (New York-WABC, January 23, 2004) ? Bob Keeshan, the television producer who created and ultimately became beloved children's personality Captain Kangaroo, has died. Keeshan, who was born in Lynbrook, Long Island, was 76.

Keeshan began his career by creating the character of Clarabell the Clown for the 'Howdy Doody Show.' He used that children's show experience to mold Captain Kangaroo, winning over generations of children and their parents through innovative approaches to interesting topics.

As the easy-going Captain with his big pockets and his bushy mustache, Keeshan lured children into close engagement with literature, science and especially music, adopting an approach which mixed pleasure and pedagogy.

Keeshan's approach represented a rejection of pressures towards the increased commercialization of children's programming as well as a toning-down of the high volume, slapstick style associated with earlier kid show hosts.

Keeshan was working as a receptionist at NBC-Radio's Manhattan office when Bob Smith started offering him small acting parts on his NBC-TV show, 'Triple B Ranch,' and then subsequently hired him as a special assistant for 'The Howdy Doody Show.'

Though Keeshan's initial responsibilities involved supervising props and talking to the children who were to be program guests, he was soon pulled on camera, bringing out prizes.

After appearing in clown garb on one episode to immense response, he took on the regular role of Clarabell, the mute clown who communicated by honking a horn.

Leaving the series in 1952, he played a succession of other clown characters, such as Corny, the host of WABC-TV's 'Time For Fun,' a noontime cartoon program, where he exerted pressure to remove from airplay cartoons he felt were too violent or perpetuated racial stereotyping.

While at WABC-TV, he played an Alpine toymaker on 'Tinker's Workshop,' an early morning program which served as the prototype for Captain Kangaroo.

The CBS network was searching for innovative new approaches to children's programming and approved the Kangaroo series submitted by Keeshan and long-time friend Jack Miller.

The series first aired in October 1955 and continued until 1985, making it the longest running children's series in network history. Keeshan not only vividly embodied the Captain, the friendly host of the Treasure House, but also played a central creative role on the daily series, supervising and actively contributing to the scripts and insuring the program's conformity to his conceptions of appropriate children's entertainment.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You wrote:

It is not generally known that Keeshan was a Marine in WW II and a war hero. God rest this gentle soul.

I have always believed this also. My mother told me this and it was one of the reasons (only one) I watched the Captain; he was a hero, in more ways than one.

After seeing the news of his death, I did a search and was well on the way to irate that few articles mentioned his service and those, only in passing. Yeah; he made a big name on TV but he was after all a war hero. Then I ran across these two and had to back off from my righteous wrath. 

Bob Keeshan never saw combat. I knew he was only 18 in '45 but I had figured a minority enlistment; not uncommon in those years. Wrong. He joined just before his 18th birthday and was likely not even out of boot camp when they dropped the bomb. Oh well. He was still a wonderful man and an excellent roll model, even if he didn't win a Navy Cross.

Patrick A. Hoage

I pay little attention to Snopes. Professional debunkers may have their place in this world, but this particular site is run by people have an agenda that is not mine, and as far as I can see, any story involving heroism is going to be a legend if they can help it.

The Marine Corps page is definitive, and I suppose I have been victim of a hoax. I can't imagine why anyone would want to make up such a story. Well, a day. Thank you for the correction. I prefer the legend, but we do try to get things straight here.

Dr. Pournelle:

It makes no difference to me whether Bob Keeshan was on Iwo Jima or not. In my opinion, anyone who enlisted in the Marines in 1945, when most people thought we would be invading Japan the hard way, is a war hero in my book.

Tom Brosz






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Saturday, January 24, 2004


Subject: FDIC scam

Ben Dover (yes, that's really his name) has a column about managing one's money and one's credit, etc. He sent out a special edition today that details a particularly nasty/ingenious bit of social engineering. The text of the scam message is here: 

The (real) FDIC's response to the scam is here: 

Notice that the link in the body of the scam-mail looks like a link to, but is in fact a link to the TCP/IP address "http: // www. fdic. gov &/#1; @" (I inserted spaces to de-fang the URL.)

WHOIS on the IP address reveals that the IP block is registered to an ISP in Karachi, Pakistan, not to the US government.

--Gary Pavek

Thank you. Is this not a terrorist act? And don't we have Special Operations forces to deal with such people? Or am I writing too early in the morning?

Ben Dover used to have a Sunday morning radio show, largely about advice on dealing with people who had defrauded you. I listened idly in the car sometimes since Roberta goes in to choir practice leaving me with an hour outside in the parking lot. It was pretty good, and I can't imagine why his live show has been replaced by reruns of Dr. Laura, but there it is.


Subject: Database idiocy.

-- Roland Dobbins

Proving again that we have one of the best legislatures money can buy. The law mostly benefits the Trial Lawyers Association. Why am I not astonished?


On Immigration


I have read with amazement and outrage the article suggested by Talin today, at  . Richard Florida's claim is that Republican conservatism, isolationism and anti-intellectualism have dissuaded intelligent, educated and creative people from migrating to the US. As a result, he says, we are losing our leadership in innovation and exporting the best jobs to nations with "progressive" (i.e., socialist) governments. This "shift has come about with the changing of the political guard in Washington, from the internationalist Bill Clinton to the aggressively unilateralist George W. Bush."

The truth is very different. In the 1960s, the immigration policy of the United States gave first preference to educated people who could look forward to good jobs here. Starting with LBJ, the Democrats engineered changes in immigration law to favor "diversity" over ability to contribute to the US economy. In practice, this meant that the unskilled became preferred as immigrants.

There was a good political reason for this change.

Richard Florida seems to believe that intelligent people must be liberals, but in fact most successful immigrants are conservative. Many well-educated immigrants (I was one of them) are drawn to this country because, with all its flaws, the United States is still the best place to be if you believe in individual liberty, capitalism, and freedom from interference by government busybodies. When these people become citizens, they are likely to vote Republican. Even if immigrants have no political opinions, the well-educated and creative ones come here because this is about the only country left where it is possible to become wealthy. Many of them have, in fact, done well, and these too vote Republican because they object to confiscation of their wealth by the government.

On the other hand, the unskilled, downtrodden poor who come here cannot survive without government handouts, so they are reliable Democrat voters. The Democrats are indeed the party of the poor -- which means that the party has a vested interest in maximizing the number of poor people in this country. Despite their best efforts to keep people in poverty (e.g., by converting our schools into liberal indoctrination centers instead of educational establishments that might help students succeed in life), many of the American poor have a pesky habit of moving up the economic ladder, and then voting Republican. Unskilled immigrants help replenish the supply of poor people.

This is just one more example of the Democrats sabotaging the national interest in order to increase their chances of election.


As I asked in my commentary: is there a difference between attracting people who have skills and need jobs, and inviting others?

The old US immigration laws in the Ellis Island days had a provision that no one remembers now: the head of the family had to be able to read and write his own language. (Her in some cases, but the law tended to favor intact families.) Exactly when this provision was added isn't clear, but it was important. And of course the frontiers were still open in those times.

Immigration policy is another of those matters we don't talk about much and we don't get to vote on.


Cochran on the war cost

< I just wonder, has anyone compared the cost of 10 years of "No fly zones" with the cost of the Iraq war? Everytime we deploy a naval battle group you have deaths due to accidents. Has anyone compared these numbers with the current casualty list? Ten years is a lot of time to keep that much resources devoted to oversight of one country. Just a thought



I have. No-fly cost about 1.5 billion a year. We are now spending at a rate over 50 times higher: we spend more in three months on our current policy than the previous policy cost in ten years. I have seen a number of people pose this question. They do not seem to have a very good feel for military and political costs.

Gregory Cochran

One may always rely on a physicist to get the numbers.

To be exact, the current Iraq costs ( running around 50-60 billion a year for occupation and around 20 billion for ' reconstruction' ) - are the _incremental_ costs. They are not the base costs of the divisions in question, but the cost of having them _in Iraq_. Some of those occupation costs seem poorly accounted for - about a quarter - and there has been some question about where that money is going.

Gregory Cochran

And to use the right units. Thank you. This adventure is even more expensive than I imagined and I thought it cost too much.

But see next week

Feeling safer already.

I wonder what Ed's opinion will be on this...


If this story is true, the Republic is gone. Can it be true?

This has generated a lot of mail and commentary. For mail go here. For my comments, see View.






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