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Mail 294 January 26 - February 1, 2004






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Monday  January 26, 2004

This is one view:

I’m sorry, but that is absurd. You are saying that one blemish is enough to end the US Republic? Then it died the day it was born, because it extended participating citizenship to while males only. It permitted slavery to continue for decades. These are not singular blemishes, but vast and fundamental errors designed into your (imperfect) republic from the very start. Lincoln, during the Civil War and FDR during WWII, disregarded the Constitution in various ways. Lincoln, for example, suspended habeas corpus among other things so ending the Republic, by your implied definition; but he did not, he saved it.

In any case, your apparently perfectionist vision of what constitutes a republic has never been achieved anywhere or anytime— certainly not in Rome, which both as republic and empire subsisted on slavery. You’re confusing perfection of intent with perfection of result. Nothing human is ever perfect in result, hence by your own perfectionist criterion, a republic would be impossible.

You’re continuing to generalise from the particular.

Don’t panic

James Mangles

On that I have replied in View.

And we have

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

After reading the story on travel insider, I found this in the local paper. I thought the contrast was interesting. Shouldn't different stimuli elicit different reactions?

What good are they? What did they take her into custody for, pointing out how stupid the whole dog and pony show is?

The moral: If you get past the TSA with WMD, for heaven's sake, don't tell anyone. and in all cases; kowtow.

Patrick Hoage

I think you have identified the moral properly. The intent of the law is said to be to make us more secure, but its effect is to make us use more gasoline because we drive rather than fly and avoid airports.

And again it is The Old Issue.


Of course there is considerable doubt that the incident of the diabetic abused by TSA was true. I list a few doubters:


The TSA horror story from the Travel Insider Forum that you referenced Saturday does not ring true to me...I am quite skeptical.

I'm a diabetic, and can attest that TSA folks (clumsy and irritating and ineffective as they may be) know how to recognize diabetic medications. I'm a Type 2, and while a Type 1 (what they used to call Juvenile Onset Diabetes) may be different, his tale of woe seems unrealistic.

Given that he has remained anonymous, and that there have been other similar unsubstantiated tales in that forum, which I read occasionally, I think I'd withhold judgment on this one. I smell an aura of troll about this tale.

While I am no fan of the TSA as it is functioning (why can't they simply make up their mind how to screen shoes?), it has improved somewhat since they got rid of the non-english speaking screeners that were a regular feature at San Jose. Actually, I've not had a really painful experience since the TSA boys took over. Certainly a costly bureaucracy which we will pay for forever, but in my experience they are generally less arrogant than we had before with contract screeners.


Bill Beeman San Jose, CA



Regarding the story about the diabetic detained by the TSA:

I refuse to believe this story without more concrete supporting evidence. The fact that the story was posted anonymously raises my suspicions - perhaps this individual was indeed hassled by the TSA, but he may have left some salient parts of the story out.

We haven't gotten to the point where some good press coverage won't protect the innocent from official retribution; there is simply no reason for us to be reading this as an anonymous post on some obscure web page if the facts are as he has laid them out.

In general I share your misgivings about the direction the country is going, but there's no reason to get excited about every unsubstantiated rumor, especially in an election year.

Eric Baumgartner

Agreed: I don't believe it without further evidence. The horror is that we cannot simply say "The FBI wouldn't act that way. It cannot possibly be true. Go troll elsewhere."



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

I certainly find it credible. Think about the behavior of the police chief in Peoria. Think about how postal service supervisors so "manage" their employees that we all understand what "going postal" means. Think about how angry everybody in the whole country has been getting.

Many issues that you talk about, that no one in our legislature or in our executive branch will fix, are making people angry. They listen to angry "shock jocks" and to Rush Limbaugh. And the ones who are too dumb and surly to sublimate their anger, well they take it out on the rest of us.

Don't append my name to this. If you publish it, regular readers will recognize the style, but I won't be the target of any retribution.

And finally Mr Woosley:

Let's review the bidding.

The supposed respondent was, in order of revelation:

(a) owner of an expensive new camera (b) in a wheelchair (hum, at what point these days does a patient boarding in a wheelchair have the personal chair colletect and taken to baggage and an airline chair supplied?) (c) diabetic and travelling with clearly marked medications (d) mistreated by TSA agents and ignored by regular police security forces for two hours in a holding area (e) despite travelling with clearly marked medications, his proteatations were ignored by all until he went into diabetic shock. EMTs called and and he was revived but not left under any other medical observation. (f) at this point, the FBI joins him knowing he had been in diabetic shock and continue the mistreatment. (g) an attempt was made to force him to sign paperwork acknowledging that his Miranda rights had been read to him while clearly non compos mentos (h) photophoiric (i) fingerprints collected AT AIRPORT and not at police station (j) at this point we learn that the respondent was a physician with identification. Claims said identification was presumed to be faked depsite being positively identified by airline personnel. (k) claims also to have a police department identification. (WHY?) (l) claims also to have a state of New York explosives certification/license (WHY?) (m) and last, but not least, this story is stuck on a web BBS and hasn't been picked up by any news media.

Incidentally, he's writing from the JAX Hilton, so he's apparently in Jacksonville, FL, but that is apparently his destination airport; he doesn't mention the airport he departed from, which is the one he should be identifying.

I may be wrong, but this story just screams HOAX at me. I have trouble buying that any TSA official would be seriously uncourteous to a handicapped passenger. Even if the superiors who were called over to the secondary inspection station hadn't seen what was going on, the whole incident would have been visible to the other 3 or 4 TSA agents at that check point. But even stipulated that the TSA contact happened as stated, I've never known of an FBI agent who would be discourteous to an obviously nondangerous person, even if that person is a suspect. Or say "You're ID is obviously phony" instead of, "We're sorry, sir, but we DO have to verify all identification." And this set of credentials is completely not credible. Can there be more than one diabetic, photophoric, wheelchair bound physician who has retained an active explosive license in the US? Can there be even one?

Jim Woosley

As I say, I tend to doubt the authenticity of that particular story. I do not doubt the trend it points to.

AND SEE BELOW on the source of the story



I don't know if the story about the diabetic man is true or not. I've heard that story or one like it before. Perhaps it was the same man; perhaps not. I ask myself, though, why don't politicians respond? Why don't the CEO's of US airlines respond? They must know that fear of the "monsters at the gates" is keeping a number of people from flying.

I think it is the George H. W. Bush effect. Remember when George-1 encountered the barcode scanner and didn't know what it was? People shopped for him in those days, and had for a long time. Imagine--the President and Vice President of the US treated like royalty. It's like that for Senators, Congressmen, Governors and airline executives.

VIP's never worry about getting harassed by the TSA, so they don't know what an issue it is. VIP's don't worry about getting threatened with 15 years in prison for a mild joke. They don't get it.

My prediction: the first man to wake up and make an issue of this, to promise to make the TSA less abusive, that man will win the Presidency.

I suppose it would be too much to expect him to look at the BATF and FBI while he is at it, but the TSA would make a fine political issue. The question is, are any of the dunderheads in office and/or aspiring to office aware enough to see the issue?


And on that I can agree entirely. And this ought to be enough on this one for a while.


On the young lady who made a joke:

At the risk of running this particular subject into the ground I was able to find out some more information; this was a joke and it seems like all the TSA people involved realized that it was. If that is truly the case then the authorities definitely over-reacted. It dovetails with another issue you have discussed on your site; the large number of laws on the books.

On the one hand there are way too many laws; enough to make anybody a lawbreaker if the authorities are being picky enough. On the other hand how would you codify a response to somebody that makes a joke about a bomb in a suitcase at an airport. It would be nice to be able to rely on common sense on the part of the authorities but not very realistic. Or we can pass a law that makes a joke like this a misdemeanor and not a felony, but then we have another law to add to the bookshelves of existing laws.

I am not trying to be sarcastic here, I really am curious if you see a solution that solves both parts of the issue.

Regards Ed Campbell

You say it well, but I believe the answer is inherent in the way you pose the problem.


On the Costs of Iraq

Subject: Cochrane and the costs of Iraq

Dr. Pournelle: $50 to $60 billion a year seems like a huge amount of money for incremental costs of military occupation (not counting reconstruction costs). Assuming things like salaries, benefits, the price of existing equipment (or equipment we would have procured anyway), and all the other overhead of a "standing Army/Navy/Air Force" isn't included, what the heck are we spending $5 billion a month on? Shipping MREs and ammo all the way to Iraq? Combat pay? New vehicles and helicopters to replace the ones that get blown up? We aren't expending cruise missiles. We aren't flying hundreds of sorties off aircraft carriers. We aren't dropping hundreds of fancy bombs. Where is that money actually going? I honestly can't think of any incremental costs that should account for that much money, and would appreciate being clued in by people who know more about this than I do. "Poorly accounted for" seems to me to be the understatement of the year.

Tom Brosz

=But see below


Where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Subject: I believe this to be the most likely scenario.



From interviews with Iraqi scientists and other sources, he said, his team learned that sometime around 1997 and 1998, Iraq plunged into what he called a "vortex of corruption," when government activities began to spin out of control because an increasingly isolated and fantasy-riven Saddam Hussein had insisted on personally authorizing major projects without input from others.

After the onset of this "dark ages," Dr. Kay said, Iraqi scientists realized they could go directly to Mr. Hussein and present fanciful plans for weapons programs, and receive approval and large amounts of money. Whatever was left of an effective weapons capability, he said, was largely subsumed into corrupt money-raising schemes by scientists skilled in the arts of lying and surviving in a fevered police state.

"The whole thing shifted from directed programs to a corrupted process," Dr. Kay said. "The regime was no longer in control; it was like a death spiral. Saddam was self-directing projects that were not vetted by anyone else. The scientists were able to fake programs."

In interviews after he was captured, Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, told Dr. Kay that Mr. Hussein had become increasingly divorced from reality during the last two years of his rule. Mr. Hussein would send Mr. Aziz manuscripts of novels he was writing, even as the American-led coalition was gearing up for war, Dr. Kay said.

-------- Roland Dobbins

Saddam thought he had some...

On the Real State of the Union:

Because with the exception of a few sites, yours among them, it really doesn't do my blood pressure any good. With apologies to Gibbon, my latest candidates to document the Decline and Fall of the United States:

We have a Scottish family who will likely be denied a visa due to 2 8-year-old parking tickets: <  >

Man, do I feel safer. No more Scottish terrorists can get into the US.

Next we have an instance of a house sold for failure to pay, not property taxes, but, wait for it...homeowner's association dues totaling $120. Appraised value of $258,000, sold for $70,000. And yes, it is sold, and the new owner wants the old ones out. < >

And I thought the last one I sent, about the farm that was sold in spite of attempts to pay the property taxes was bad. Oh, and did I mention that the "late charges" and "collections fees" have ballooned the original debt to $1,952 in basically a year? I'll leave the interest rate calc as an exercise for the reader.

Now here is a bit of good news about MikeRoweSoft: <
story.asp?id=7EDC54B6-19FB-43D0-8692-226487D3EB64  >

Now, I think it's great that this is being settled in a fairly reasonable manner (well, at least after Microsoft--no relation--was held up to considerable public ridicule. But it points up a problem with trademarks in the US--if one is not legally vicious in defending a trademark, it's very easy to lose it. Remember, Aspirin is a brand name in some countries, but not here.

For the record, all of these links came via WorldNet Daily (< >.

As a possibly interesting sociological note, I've been telling these stories my Dad, a WWII vet who doesn't "do" the Internet. His best comment is "This isn't the country I fought for."

-------- Bill Seward, KG4SAQ

Well I expected Microsoft to figure out that it wasn't worth the fight. The homeowner story is local, upsetting but endurable. And don't you feel safer knowing them scots scofflaws won't be coming here?


The Chicken Flu


Would some scientist tell us how humans seem to be getting the Chicken influenza virus? The news stories do not say just how it is being transmitted.

So, is it from handling a live bird with feathers and guts?

Is it from eating meat? Is it from eating eggs?

Is it from mouth to beak contact?

I am certainly willing to give up the first and last method, but wish to hold out as long as possible on the middle two!


Bruce Kebbekus Oak Harbor, WA

I have my opinions but I prefer facts: anyone KNOW? No speculations, please. (And see below)


Is this the smoking gun?

This one is going to leave some people VERY embarrassed. 

It seems that the US Army just captured a high-ranking al-Qaida member *AND* the #2 Ansal al Islam member.

In Iraq.

Where there wasn't supposed to be any al-Qaida activity.

With any luck, these two "gentlemen" (and I use the term very loosely, as they say) will be persuaded to, in the vernacular, sing like canaries.

--John R. Strohm

And when did they arrive? Also see below


Vigilante War on Spam

In the best American business tradition, the high-tech industry isn't waiting around to see how effective the new national anti-spam law proves to be. Instead, they're sharing their resources to try to find new ways to get rid of spam.

The most recent example is the ISP Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, known as MAAWG. Founded earlier this month and led by e-mail software provider OpenWave Systems Inc., the group will devote its time and resources to coming up with legal and technological ways to block spam. Though the problem is vast and decentralized, the cast of characters suggests that some top tech minds will be hard at work here; participating companies include Adelphia Communications, Bell Canada, BellSouth and Cox Communications.

Its goals center around the idea of developing standard practices and an ISP code of conduct and list of best practices that would reduce e-mail abuse, not only for spam but for denial-of-service attacks, worms and viruses and other "undesired content."

Openwave executive Omar Tellez said that the motive stems from the companies' desires to block spam without paying exorbitantly for the server space that many kinds of spam blocking software require to analyze the content of incoming e-mail.

The MAAWG approach might wind up being eclipsed, however. Heavyweight e-mail competitors Microsoft, Yahoo and America Online announced a collaboration to exterminate the spam problem last spring and say they are close to announcing the details of their "trusted sender" initiative. The idea is to devise a caller ID-style system that would let people's e-mail accounts accept legitimate bulk e-mail (like this tech policy e-letter for example) while turning away messages of unknown origin.

The "trusted sender" idea is not new -- Yahoo and the Email Service Provider Coalition are making their own explorations in this area.

And Microsoft researchers are pondering whether bulk mailers should be required to make tiny payments for every mail sent. Microsoft in a historical frame of mind calls it the Penny Black Project. Then there's the similar "hashcash" experiment that affixes a virtual stamp to every e-mail that a discriminating recipient can trust. It's something spammers can use as much as any other e-mail sender, but theoretically would slow their operation down so much that it would cripple their computer hardware in a mass mailing.

A number of spam experts see these methods as preferable to the spam "blacklists," compilations of Internet addresses that are known to be spam sources. Blacklists are effective spam blockers, but if someone ends up on one of them by accident it's virtually impossible to get back off.

One of the reasons that technology companies are banding together this way is because of mounting evidence that legal remedies won't cure the diease, said Ray Everett-Church, counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email.

"People were waiting to see Congress step up to bat. They took their swing and hit a foul ball. Now it's up to those who have been dealing with the spam issue thus far to redouble their efforts and to figure out what more they can do, because the home run they were hoping Congress might hit didn't materialize," Everett-Church said.

-- By David McGuire, Staff Writer

On the Rule of Law

Subject: A Nation Article in Support of Martha Stewart

Who would have believed...

< >

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

In fact who would have believed that she is to be prosecuted over something that wasn't a crime to begin with? But deference to the authorities is important and if they can bring her down, the intimidation factor is very great, and they can expect more docility in future. As they got after Waco.


Hardball tactics backfire on Boeing

Mitch Daniels, then President Bush (news - web sites)'s budget director and now the Republican candidate for Indiana governor, thought the tanker deal violated government accounting rules.

"The central problem was that the tankers were not on [the] Defense Department's wish list until somebody [at Boeing] came up with this idea," an administration source said.

Faced with Daniels' objections, Boeing did what only a handful of American businesses can do: It went over Daniels' head and straight to Bush. Through a series of meetings among the president and his staff and key members of Congress--including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)--Boeing applied enough pressure at the top to push its contract through in May.


Ah well. Business as usual.







This week:


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Tuesday,  January 27, 2004


Found this on the BBC:

America an "empire in denial?" 


Well, what should we call it? Republics govern by consent of the governed. Whatever we are, I hope we learn to be competent at it.

Dean is a fool.

"Embedding smart cards into uniform IDs was necessary to thwart "cyberterrorism" and identity theft, Dean claimed. "We must move to smarter license cards that carry secure digital information that can be universally read at vital checkpoints," Dean said in March 2002, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "Issuing such a card would have little effect on the privacy of Americans." 


Dean also suggested that computer makers such as Apple Computer, Dell, Gateway and Sony should be required to include an ID card reader in PCs--and Americans would have to insert their uniform IDs into the reader before they could log on. "One state's smart-card driver's license must be identifiable by another state's card reader," Dean said. "It must also be easily commercialized by the private sector and included in all PCs over time--making the Internet safer and more secure." "


" The presidential hopeful offered few details about his radical proposal. "On the Internet, this card will confirm all the information required to gain access to a state (government) network--while also barring anyone who isn't legal age from entering an adult chat room, making the Internet safer for our children, or prevent adults from entering a children's chat room and preying on our kids...Many new computer systems are being created with card reader technology. Older computers can add this feature for very little money," Dean said."

 I think his *real* agenda is becoming very clear....

Andy G

Well now, I wouldn't say, that...

On expendables:

SUBJECT: Expensive expendibles

Dr. P,

If Mr. Brosz has doubts about the incremental costs for sustained operations in Iraq, I can offer a few of numbers which will undoubtedly shock the good taxpaying citizens who read this.

It may seem incomprehensible, but the Army's bookkeepers estimate that it costs $100 to drive a Bradley fighting vehicle a kilometer, just to pay for parts and fuel. While that may seem like a lot, it is still much more economical than sending an Abrams out -- those unstoppable dreadnaughts cost some $300 to cruise that same kilometer. Peacetime training tries to keep the costs low by using simulators instead, but we can't simulate an occupation force.

Note that these amounts do not include anybody doing any shooting. If your little sojourn through the Iraqi countryside involves expending munitions, the costs go way up. Tank barrels have to be replaced after 300-500 rounds, at a cost of #10,000 per barrel (and that's after recycling the barrels). With per-round costs varying from a quarter (for each 5.56mm rifle round) up to several thousand dollars (for a tank main gun round or TOW missile), all those bullet-pocked walls should be appreciated as the high-cost redecoration projects they are -- and that doesn't even cover the cost of maintaining all those not-inexpensive HMMVs after their infra-red suppressive paint has gotten chipped by incoming rounds.

Wars, as always, are more expensive than the taxpayers are led to believe.


Bill Clardy

p.s. I found it somewhat ironic that the link to the Dallas news story about the woman reporting a gun in her luggage produced the following message: "[an error occurred while processing this directive]"

=And see below======================


al-Qaida in Iraq!!!

Why would anyone be surprised or claim a state sponsorship of al-Qaidi based on the presence of al-Qaida in a Middle Eastern country where there hasn't been functioning government in 9 months and where al-Qaidi had been publicly urged to become active by their leadership (subsequent to the demise of the Iraqi state)?

This is logically equivalent to claiming U.S. or German sponsorship for al-Qaidi because they live, work and train in the U.S. and Germany. I don't find it inconceivable ( or even unlikely) that Saddam failed to aggressively combat al-Qaida or even had limited contacts with them (the same could be said of any number of intelligence services (even non-Muslim), I'm sure). I do find it absurdly unlikely (absent substantive public evidence) that he controlled or supported this movement in any particularly substantive way which would distinguish him from other Muslim governments. I think it far more likely that he would have felt it necessary to try to infiltrate and otherwise keep tabs on such a movement.

Ben Pedersen


The Honeypot

The al-Qaeda and Anwar members probably entered Iraq after the war began, maybe after the fall of Baghdad.

Doesn't matter. One effect of the war, intended or not, was to turn Iraq into a "honeypot" to attract al-Qaeda and other organizations. Iraq is much better territory to find, capture and/or kill in than Afghanistan. "If you can see it, you can kill it".

Moreover, the population in Iraq appears to be at least as helpful, possibly more helpful, in tracking down foreign-born terrorists than the Afghans.

(1) Overthrow repressive government (2) Leave enough chaos to attract al-Qaeda (3) Use humint and other means to find and kill al-Qaeda members (4) Repeat as necessary

In fighting a decentralized enemy that is not a nation state, this may be an effective approach. Costly, but effective.

Steve Setzer


On Bird Flu Transmission: how is it transmitted?

Dr, Pournelle,

They don't know ....

Click here: BBC NEWS | Health | Medical notes | Avian flu

The assumption is that it somehow jumps from human to bird via close contact. Weither this involves getting sneezed on by the birds, contact with their excrement, eating bird sushi or some local color dish I'd likely not eat anyway other practices that I don't want to think about is unclear  The above article doesn't even warn people from infected areas...only to avoid contact with live chickens and their guano...

The fear is that it will combine with a human flu strain and we'll end up with 1918 all over again.

Of the 18 people infected in China in '97 6 died a rather disturbing percentage. However; 18 is a very small number of people indicating that this is rather overhyped.

In the meantime if you are giving CPR to a are wrong.

Ken Talton,



I’m not a virologist and most of my contact with chicken occurs in grocery stores, but as I understand it, your correspondent isn’t in great danger from chickens, any odd habits notwithstanding! He may be in danger from other humans.

Chickens may well serve as a reservoir for an influenza virus. People come into contact with the chickens and carry the virus out into the population. As I read the literature, there may be airborne transmission from chickens, although the articles don’t specify exactly how transmission occurred between the birds and the people. If enough people get the virus…Zap, pandemic if conditions are “right”. As an example, in March of 2003, an outbreak of avian influenza type A (H5N1) occurred at an egg farm in Connecticut egg farm. Chickens quarantined and no pandemic resulted. The same strain killed 3 people in a single family in Hong Kong. No pandemic.

In contrast, the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic killed 40 million people worldwide in 6 months. It was thought that it was caused by a hemagglutinin (a type of protein which can be found bound onto the surface on the virus) from a bird, but that has recently been disproved.

Just a few minor editorial comments…influenza A virus is known to be found in chickens, ducks, whales, horses, and seals…thus your correspondent should probably avoid intimate contacts with any of these creatures!

Finally, it isn’t 1918 any more (I sincerely hope those aren’t famous last words….grin) and the dangers are probably less now than then. (They weren’t great in any event)

Oh, I do get influenza shots every year!


Thank you, Dr. Huth


Subject: The end of education.  

------ 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."


Subject: God's Eye

Just in case you haven't seen this:

Carrington Dixon

But at least we now know how to solve NASA's problems:

Hello Dr. Pournelle:
A friend sent this to me, and though I am not a big fan of the goofy "office humor" emails which seem to take up most of the bandwidth at work, I though of your friends at NASA, when I got this:

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that, "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

However, in today's government and in big corporations, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride horses.
5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.
10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
And of course my all time favorite...........
13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory

Neal Pritchett



More on the TSA incident:

Hello, Dr Pournelle

I've been a fan of your writing since - well, more years ago than probably either of us care to remember. Suffice it to say I was reading your early work in fresh first editions. :) Furthermore, I don't only think you can write a ripping good yarn, but I also wholeheartedly endorse your world-view and your cares/concerns about some of the problems in society today.

You can imagine, therefore, my surprise and also my delight that my own humble website attracted your attention and resulted in your brief mention of one of the posts in my user forum (at the bottom of your page  ).

I have probably not handled this matter well myself, and so thought I'd at least privately convey to you some more of what I understand the reality of this situation to be.

I received an email from one of my weekly newsletter subscribers on Friday morning, 16 January. The man isn't well known to me, but he has been a reader for perhaps two years.

In this email he basically recounted the story that now spans several of the messages in my user forum. It was sent to me as a reply to my weekly newsletter, that goes out every Thursday night, and I assumed (ouch!) either that he was sending this same message to dozens of other potential media outlets, or that my newsletter had struck a responsive chord and encouraged him to vent to me. Each week I have a part of my newsletter 'This Week's Security Horror Story', where I focus on the most outrageous of the indignities foisted on our passive citizenry under the illusion of making us more safe (but, ooops, I'm running the risk of going off-topic!) and it was reasonable to think that he was volunteering his own story as a candidate for the following week. (If you have some extra bandwidth, you might enjoy the newsletter yourself; on the other hand, you probably get much of the information already from other sources.)

His story was lengthy and couldn't easily be summarised to a short paragraph, so I edited it some and stuck it on the public forum. Because he hadn't given his permission, I left his name and other identifiers off the message. I sent a short note back to him expressing sympathy, and telling him I was posting an anonymized version on the forum. I heard no more from him.

After your mention and the intense interest in this that followed, I sent him another email on Sunday afternoon, but as best I can tell he has not replied to me. Maybe he is still traveling out of town, and maybe, unlike me, he isn't a compulsive email junkie. Or maybe anything else. Who knows.

As to his veracity, all I can say is that he does exist and is who he says he is. His email was sent through a webmail program, which tends to confirm that he was away from home, and his email server and ISP is based in the city he claims to live in (Reno, NV). Furthermore, using that wonderful tool - Google - a search on his name and email confirms his identity and location. It also confirms he is a doctor, and that he served as an ANGLICO Marine in the Korean war, and now is active in their association. As I suspect you agree, Marines tend to tell the truth, and 'once a Marine, always a Marine'.

So, we know the guy is who he says he is, and was probably out of town when he said he was. As for what happened when he went through Reno airport, we of course none of us know the truth about that. Some people have said, either on your site or mine, that maybe he was rude and abusive. And others have cast doubt on the severity of his illness. But - and I'm sure you agree - any rudeness on his part is absolutely no excuse for what followed. And even if one tenth of his story holds true, how is it that people on both our sites are ignoring that element of the story and instead focusing on calling the guy a liar?

I found the original message from this man horrifying, but unsurprising. I've heard countless others, all too similar, both passed privately to me, and aired in the mass media. It had the sad ring of truth to it, as did the white hot indignation that I edited down from his original message. But what I found both horrifying and also surprising (if not terrifying) was the misdirection of outrage by others who read his story - outrage directed at the doctor, not at the people that may or may not have done some of the things he said.

I fear I'm speaking to the converted when I write this to you! If you have some remaining energy on this topic, you might care to edit my comments above and pass them on.

Lastly, you might be interested to know that 1357 people clicked over from your site to mine. :)

Respectful best wishes, and thanks to you for holding the banner of our freedom proudly on high, and fighting the good fight

David M Rowell.

Even more interesting. I found the story implausible but not impossible: that is, most of the TSA people are smilingly polite (that one can smile and smile and be a villain...) and the FBI even more so, always careful to say 'sir' in a tone that makes that almost an insult.

But the true horror to me is that it MIGHT be true; that we can't just so, no, that couldn't have happened, if it had the TSA guy and the FBI guy would be in big trouble.

Thanks for the kind words.


More on Free Trade:  [URL added but not important]

"At a conference devoted to the virtues of free trade, it was hard to find anybody who called for governments to restrict the flow of jobs across borders. But Michael Powell, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission warned, "It's one of those developments that if it happens too quickly, you'll inevitably get a political reaction."

The fears are exacerbated by the rise of China, one of the prime destinations for jobs moving out of the United States and Europe. Goldman Sachs issued a study here that predicted the Chinese economy would overtake that of Germany within a decade, and the American economy by 2041.

A senior Chinese official drew silence at a dinner last week when he asked Americans at the conference how their country planned to finance its economy when both blue-collar manufacturing and white-collar service jobs were leaving the country."

Even the Chinese understand the 64,000$ question.

ash ['Perhaps we could start by referring to it as 'Open Trade'.']

And from Dan


You may find this article on the whole Indian outsourcing and H1-B visa issues in America interesting to read. It tries to talk about the effects of free trade from a perspective of the people it affects both positively and negatively which is something I know you have mentioned about before when free trade is discussed. However I tend to disagree with its conclusion that American programmers are going to have to transition to some new kind of industry that comes up. I mean, really, what comes after the knowledge worker? Pure R&D? Perhaps becoming a unionized plumber as a backup plan in case all else fails isn't such a bad idea still? 

And once again I'd like to point out UC Davis Professor Norm Matloff's Congressional testimony regarding this issue along with other findings of his that can be found at his site here: 

One aspect of the Wired article that I found interesting was the observation that when this country went from a farming economy to a factory economy it took about 80 years to accomplish so the transition was spread out. From factory to computer/knowledge economy it took 40 years which was still somewhat spread out. However with this current transition from computers/knowledge workers to the next phase (which begs the question of what is next?) its only taken 20 years, which means for many of us, myself included this has been rather disruptive to our lives and ability to contribute to the economy in a useful and productive way. Office jobs were once thought of as safe, we now know they aren't safe at all. People my age not to mention those who were around when all of this mess with computers started both have the same question: How are we going to make a living? This I feel is the central crux of the problem.

Combine these issues with the looming threat of robotics in the next 20-30 years and I see a real crisis in how our economy of today is going to be anywhere close to functional. Services job are easy to automate once you have a good enough robot.

Just what jobs are safe? I don't have a really good answer to this as it depends on how good the technology is and the state of the so-called "free market" (note: Indian workers can get work visas in the US however India is protectionist in that American's are not allowed to get work visas in India).

Just some food for thought...

- -Dan S.

The only safe jobs are hands-on: auto mechanics, plumbers, Maytag repairmen, air conditioning repairmen...  Any "intellectual" job can be exported. Any manufacturing job can be exported. Almost all "service" jobs other than courtesy clerks in grocery stores and that sort of thing can be exported, or much of it can (even bill collector phone calls for American Express are now made by young ladies in Bangalore, India, as are many unsolicited sales telephone calls).

If you want to be safe, do something hands-on. And of course Macdonald's always needs smart supervisors.

Welcome to the New World Economy.

And see below


I always suspect articles that omit key pieces of fact. What was omitted from the Nation article was that Martha Stewart owned a seat on the NYSE, and might be held more accountable on that respect. However, otherwise the article was informative. Public dislike of Martha Stewart might lead to a scapegoating based on fame itself: mob rule as jurisprudence? Shall we begin burning witches again? Have we ever really stopped? It is a strange world.

Russ Newsom

Owned a seat? Are you sure? This is not something I know...

"Remember when George-1 encountered the barcode scanner and didn't know what it was??

Ah, nope. It never happened. Another media/urban myth. What happened in reality was that he was at a trade show and there was a system (RFID?) that allowed an entire shopping cart to be scanned without removing the items. He thought that that was pretty amazing. So from that the media screams that he is "out of touch". Well, I also think that a system like that is pretty amazing. Am I now out of touch?

Gene Horr

I thought I remembered it was something like that. Still, being out of touch with the world is a common failing for the aristocracy. How did the old anarchist song go?

In the Palace, the king is sleeping,
In the Palace, the king is sleeping,
Let us hope he sleeps too long...  







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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You wrote:

Frederick the Great said that the burghers in the towns and the peasants in the fields should neither know nor care when the state was at war.

He also said that the United States could never survive. I wonder if he wasn't right on both counts? It is never wise to gainsay Fredrick.

also this: Peel-And-Stick Armor May Save Soldiers' Lives 

And in James Dunnigan's opinion; There are Ten Wars You Should Worry About 

About the diabetic doctor with the explosive license, there were several comments that it wasn't believable because he chose to remain anonymous. The moderator of the site who posted it said that he knew who the writer was and granted his wish to remain anonymous but that he believed it. On the other hand, not having heard anything else about it in any other media after three days leads me to downgrade the believability. The gripping hand is, that things have deteriorated to the point where people of good will can be in doubt about the credibility of the story.

Patrick Hoage


On safe jobs:

I would also add "Defense" work to the list. DoD related work that requires a clearance is limited to US Citizens. Unlikely to be exported and in this day and age we need all the brain power we can get.

Scott Kitterman


" The only safe jobs are hands-on: auto mechanics, plumbers, Maytag repairmen, air conditioning repairmen... Any "intellectual" job can be exported. Any manufacturing job can be exported."

Yes, but as more and more of our consumer goods become commoditized, we choose to throw them away when they break and buy new ones. I've done this already with several appliances (nix the Maytag man). With computer diagnostics and increasingly reliable engines and drive trains, there will be a need for fewer and fewer auto mechanics. You didn't mention construction workers, but even there, advancing technology has drastically decreased the number of people required to build a house or an office building. Even these "safe" jobs can be replaced by technology and automation.

Certainly there will always be a need for some manual labor, but I don't see any clear limits on the ability of technology to replace these people.

-josh -- Joshua Vanderberg

Replaced by technology and automation has the advantage of leaving the job and the revenue in this country. Exporting the job exports the money and the capability. I have a long quote from Karl Marx on this trend that I'll put up another time.

It's a hell of a ride, and we're still on the first ramp.


Hunting Taliban

The Taliban hasn't gone away and the 10th Mountain Division is now on its second tour hunting them. The 10th has abandoned big "search and cordon operations" in exchange for smaller operations that tempt the Taliban to come out in the open and fight. Both sides have learned how to fight the other, but a lot more Taliban are dying than Americans.

The big change is the American Army now has a core of Afghan "scouts" -- officially the Afghan Militia Forces (AMF) - working to help them in the hunt.

All in all it looks like an updated plot of a Hollywood Western with M-16s, AK's and attack helicopters, with maybe with a dash of the Spanish civil war thrown in for spice.

Trent Telenko

=I could write stories about that...


You all should find this of interest.

Rummy really is a class act, however much the General officer "perfumed princes" hate him. 

Rummy declined honor as ‘Person of the Year’ The Time cover that didn’t appear

It isn’t often that someone turns down an offer to be Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” especially when that someone is as important as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But that’s what Rumsfeld did when he learned that Time was planning to honor him in its year-end issue last month.

Rumsfeld told guests at a holiday party that in this year of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military deserved the honor more than he did, which is why Army Sgts. Marquette Whiteside and Ronald Buxton and Spc. Billie Grimes turned up on Time’s Dec. 29 cover. <snip>



Dr. Pournelle,

The version of the story I saw on Time's "person of the year" tv special was that Rumsfeld did not know he was a front-runner for person of the year, however as he logically assumed he would be a candidate he pre-emptively put himself out of the running by suggesting the "American Soldier" would make a fine candidate. He had not been contacted by Time nor had any final decision been made.

Sean Long

No data. Telenko's reference indicates otherwise.


Dear Jerry:

Just out of curiosity do you know how many police officers are killed in the line of duty in the United States every year? And how that number might compare on a per capita basis with what is happening in Iraq? How about losses of Occupation troops the first year after WW2?

So I'm not misunderstood any death is a tragic loss and incredibly painful for family and loved ones. But if we (well, you, actually) are going to get bent out of shape by statistics it makes sense to me to put those stats in some sort of realistic context and perspective.

All the best--

Tim Loeb

I would not describe my view as "bent out of shape." However, we do have an obligation to soldiers sent overseas to make their deaths count. The US Army is not the Legion. It does not have the philosophy of "You have become Legionnaires in order to die, and the Legion will send you where you can die." Perhaps we ought to have a Legion: indeed, if we are going to remain in the Empire business we will probably need one. But the troops over there now are to uphold and defend the Constitution, and I for one think it important that we use them that way.

I have myself pointed out that young men are about as safe in Baghdad as they are on the highway outside Camp Pendleton (an observation that is no longer true, but was when I said it) and a young black trooper was about as safe in Baghdad as in South Central Los Angeles (again no longer true). I can be realistic about casualties. As to occupation troops after WW 2, I think not many, and most of those in traffic accidents.

(See below for actual numbers)


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Considering the squabble currently over music downloads, piracy and the like; I find it VERY interesting to read the exchange found here:
archives2/archives2mail/mail86.html#moredvd  from now 4 years ago. I did not realize your site dealt in prophecy ;)

Keep up the good work Dr P!

Bart Prine

Pundits (well, I don't like the word, but people call me that) usually deal in prophecy. We tend to ignore the ones that don't come out right...


The St. Louis Public Library has prepared a virtual exhibit of over 1200 images from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Go to  and click on "Visit 1904 Online".

Bob Delaney



Subject: Warspying.

---- Roland Dobbins



From: Chris Morton

To: Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Subject: Docility

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I have to take issue with you regarding post-Waco "docility" of the public. In fact, I'd say it was quite the opposite.

If you look at Waco and the German razing of the Warsaw Ghetto you find significant parallels, in particular the fact that in both cases the aggressors were initially repulsed and suffered humiliating routs. Both only prevailed through the use of overwhelming military force. Both suffered considerable hits to their morale and air of superiority.

Rather than cause people to be "docile", instead the Waco debacle led to broadbased scrutiny of the BATF and it's dubious history, from its frequent resort to entrapment and unlawful use of force, to its involvement in organized racist activity (the "Good Old Boys Roundup"). They were so threatened by the publication of John Ross's novel "Unintended Consequences" (in which a successful guerrilla war is fought against the BATF), that they were reputed to have unlawfully threatened those who sold it at gunshows. Black agents successfully won a multi-million dollar settlement against the agency for institutional discrimination and racial harassment.

Congressional hearings and news reports aired their dirty laundry despite the best efforts of defenders like Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The result was their becoming a laughingstock, even to the media which generally supports them. Media properties as diverse as "Beavis and Butthead" and the Canadian science fiction series "Lexx" portrayed the BATF as corrupt and violent buffoons. BATF agents had to be removed from the investigation of alleged racist burnings of Black churches because of their involvement in the "Good Old Boys Roundup". One of the weekly national newsmagazines did a feature story detailing the stygian depths of morale in the organization.

Is the BATFE (it's new Homeland security title) still corrupt, criminal and racist? Probably. Have there been any more Wacos? No. The reason is undoubtedly that bullies don't like victims who fight back, either with guns or lawsuits.

O, I agree entirely with your final sentence, and with most of your analysis.

But: Waco was disastrous in many ways. Some of the victims are still in jail. Congress, the Grand Inquest of the Nation, did not do much. The FBI Hostage Rescue Team got promotions, and while a couple of the top dogs had their promotions rescinded, most of the good marks remained for most of the participants. The posse comitatus act was ignored and successfully: nothing whatever has been done to inquire about that. And Lon Horiuchi is still armed and dangerous and available on call.

Yes, there were a few healthful benefits; but not enough.


Subject: " . . . as African as anyone."

---- Roland Dobbins

When I was a young man in Memphis, I was told I was a Communist because I believed that the law ought to be colorblind. Now I am considered a hopeless reactionary for holding the same view. I have changed many of my opinions over my lifetime but my reading of "the equal protection of the laws" has not changed. We need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all races the equal protection of the laws, and this time we really mean it...


Colonel Haynes on space and prizes:

Jerry: I agree heartily that prizes to be awarded after accomplishment are already a well proven method, based on the Spirit of St Louis, the Kremer prize and now, the X-Prize.

The Nobels have hatched untold new technology and knowledge, and the examples in sport go back to the Romans.

Both the examples you propose will be cheap at those prices, and unlike the disgusting NASA fiascos, will cost nothing until a proven success.

I think the goals can be readily combined and assure achievement of all of the above, by offering a $10 billion prize for the first VTOL/SSTO that makes two successful flights to LEO in a week, each delivering a two metric ton payload.

That will reduce costs to LEO to a point where all the rest of our needs can be readily met, including the Lunar and Mars settlements.

I suggest we avoid the use of "colony", because of some bad associations.

Bill ==========

On Wednesday, January 21, 2004, at 08:25 AM, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

> The simplest way to engage private industry and the cheapest is to > announce a series of prizes to be paid when things are accomplished. > > $5 billion for the first company that sends the same ship to circular > orbit of at last 100 miles with 5,000 pounds of payload 12 times in 4 > months. > > $20 billion for the first company to put 31 Americans on the Moon and > keep them all alive and well there for 3 years and a day. > > Nothing to be paid until the goals are accomplished.


Dr Pournelle,

I was curious about this, and knew that if you didn't have the answer, you could at least point me in the right direction.

If the NAFTA agreement is sending so many jobs south of the border, why are so many people still streaming over the border? Now, I ask this in all seriousness, not to get anyone all in a tizzy. I am not in favor of sending jobs outside the US. Please don't misunderstand me on that account. I live in South Carolina, and can see the effects readily enough in the closing of the textile mills. It just seems that if the trend of sending jobs to Mexico continues, and the flood of immigration from Mexico continues, at what point does the cost of having products made in Mexico go up? When does a shortage of labor force the cost of labor to rise?

Chris Grantham

It's a double whammy on entry level and semi-skilled work. By not enforcing the immigration laws, a constant supply of people willing to work for subsistence wages is assured. That takes care of most entry-level jobs. Then when some skills are required so the price goes up, the job is shipped out of the country to people who pay no US income tax. Some of them do spend money in border towns, until the local Conasupa is geared up...


I have just been to your site and want to say thank you for the photos of Rome as well as you historical commentary. I did not know that the Rostra was made of captured prows nor that Cicero's remains had been so displayed. Thank You...S. Priest

We have a number of reports here. The photoessays of Rome and Paris can be found by looking at the Trip Reports page. They're not bad if I do say so...


On Chicken Flu


The current strain of Avian Flu in widespread occurrence throughout Asia may have been induced by mass poultry inoculation as reported, but additionally may mutate to more virulent strains with human inoculation. Some research (quoted below) exists which indicates the H5N1 strain has already passed the human to human transmissibility threshold, and hence may be more widespread than currently thought, though still within the confines of farm and market families. With this strain's high mortality in humans and birds and a further increase in virulence possible through mass human inoculations, the possibility of extreme human population loss becomes apparent. I recommend searches on Google for 'H5N1' and 'H9N2' and 'human variant' for genetic shift info. There are lots of research reports around on genetic drift and shift for avian and human variants available on Google.

No big rock from space or Army designer-bug here, just the potential for over 50% human mortality from one lil old flu! 'Lucifer's Sneeze'?!

Jim Turner, Burstall SK

An article in New Scientist today suggests that inoculation of chickens in post-1997 China, through a program to prevent wide ranging H5N1 infection, has caused this virulent strain of H5N1 to spread widely through illegal poultry trafficking.

"After 1997, when all the chickens in Hong Kong were destroyed after H5N1 bird flu killed six people, Chinese producers decided to take no chances, and started vaccinating birds with inactivated H5N1 virus... This may have been a mistake. If the vaccine is not a good match for the virus - as is the case with the H5N1 strain now sweeping Asia - it can still replicate but most animals do not show signs of disease. In this way, the intensive vaccination schemes in south China may have allowed the virus to spread widely without being spotted." 

The following paper suggests that innoculation may cause an increase in virulence by speeding up adaptation.

Neurovirulence in Mice of H5N1 Aleksandr S. Lipatov,1 Scott Krauss,1 Yi Guan,2 Malik Peiris,2 Jerold E. Rehg,3 Daniel R. Perez,1 and Robert G. Webster1,4* "Studies in mice revealed that inoculation of original isolates of H5N1/01 viruses of genotypes A, C, D, and E in mice resulted in the selection of highly pathogenic, neurotropic variants." "The random nature of these differences suggested that the viruses were heterogeneous and indicated that rapid selection of highly pathogenic variants was possible..." "It is of questionable validity to connect the pathogenicity of Hong Kong H5N1 viruses in mice with their potential pathogenicity in humans and other mammalian species. However, the rapidity of selection of neurotropic variants in mice raises concern about the possibility of a similarly rapid selection of variants that are pathogenic for other mammals."

This paper suggests that H5N1 may have been spread by close person to person contact in Hong Kong in 1997.

Antibody Response in Individuals Infected with Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Viruses and Detection of Anti-H5 Antibody among Household and Social Contacts Jacqueline M. Katz,1 Wilina Lim,4 C. Buxton Bridges,1 Thomas Rowe,1 Jean Hu-Primmer,1 Xiuhua Lu,1 Robert A. Abernathy,1 Matthew Clarke,2,a Laura Conn,3 Heston Kwong,4 Miranda Lee,4 Gareth Au,4 Y. Y. Ho,4 K. H. Mak,4 Nancy J. Cox,1 and Keiji Fukuda1 This study shows that previously healthy humans infected with influenza A (H5N1) virus mount a serum neutralizing antibody response to the avian virus with kinetics similar to those observed in a primary response to human influenza A viruses. The presence of H5-specific antibody has been used to detect evidence of infection in individuals exposed to H5N1-infected individuals. A seropositive family member who experienced close personal contact with an H5N1- infected child and had no history of poultry exposure provided evidence that human-to-human transmission of the avian virus was likely to have occurred. However, results of the tour group and coworker cohorts indicate that, unlike human influenza A H1N1 and H3N2 viruses, the avian H5N1 viruses are not readily transmitted from person to person in a social setting, even among a seronegative population. 


As seen here: 

Once upon a time, there was a SPC Schwarz stationed with the Army in the Balkans. SPC Schwarz was either very clever or very bored; but probably both, since he managed to attempt or be warned about 213 things he wasn't allowed to do. He collected those things into a hillarious list and posted them to the web. The site hadn't been updated in a couple of years and has since gone away; but the list is classic, so I saved it. A couple favorites: /2. My proper military title is 'Specialist Schwarz' not 'Princess Anastasia'./ and /191. Our Humvees cannot be assembled into a giant battle-robot.

Mike Z







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now



Once again, Greg Cochran has the numbers:

In response to Tim Loeb:

In the year 2000 51 US law enforcement officers, out of a total of approximately 834,000 were feloniously killed in the line of duty. Since the beginning of our invasion of Iraq we have lost a little over 500 KIA out of an occupying force of roughly 130,000. Considering also that we haven't been there a full year, being an American soldiers in Iraq is about 70 times more dangerous than being a cop. That's still not terribly dangerous - it's what a phase-I guerrilla war is like. It's about what I expected.

We lost nobody at all to resistance forces in the occupation of Japan - repeat, zero - and the total number of US soldiers lost to resistance forces in Germany after capitulation was probably around ten, possibly as low as zero, depending on your source. Obviously some deaths are ambiguous.

The idea that we faced guerrilla resistance in Germany comparable to that seen in Iraq was put out by the Administration and spread by sympathetic columnists and bloggers. It is false. It is, however, only a lie if they know much about history, and I have no reason to believe that they do.

Gregory Cochran




Penguin Flight 

Once the penguin appears and honks, click the mouse. Before the penguin passes through the strike zone, click again and the yeti will help the penguin fly. After the flag tells you your distance, click "OK" to restart.

One caveat -- it appears to wait until the mouse button is RELEASED to trigger the action. This has implications for one's swing.

My best flight so far was 316.4 feet. I also got a nose-down impact at 250.7 feet.

It seems like a really cruel thing to do to a penguin but it keeps coming back, and it seems really happy after a good flight!

--Gary Pavek

I managed 300.2 feet, and only 212 for a nosedown. You are a very cruel man for telling me about this. But then there was the elf flings Santa thing...


Dr Pournelle,


It is a truth seldom acknowledged by modern proponents of political correctness that this concept had its origins and first mass application in Nazi Germany;

The German word Gleichschaltung is a composite noun. Gleich means "equal"; Schaltung is derived from the verb schalten ("to switch"). It can be translated as "consolidation", "synchronization", or "phasing".

However, the term appears most commonly in a political sense to describe the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of total control and coordination of all aspects of society
/End quote

I am certain that modern political correctness is a far more insidious and far more dangerous threat to democratic government under the law (a republic, if you will) than occasional lapses such as the reputed problems of our putative diabetic explosive flying doctor. As I have already said, individual lapses are regrettable and require urgent correction, but do not of themselves amount to the collapse of the republic. On the other hand, any movement that is, consciously or unconsciously, capable of suppressing individualism and free thought is a truly dangerous development and once universally adhered to, does signal the end of liberty and democracy in all but name.

Jim Mangles

We are not much in disagreement.


 Nice Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today on the avian flu.  I think it accurate. 

Mark Huth



Subject: BATF & Mt. Carmel (Waco)


Re: Mr. Morton's analysis - at the time, there was a strong movement in Congress and elsewhere to disband the BATF because of mission redundancies with other agencies. One might suppose that had something to do with the PR-driven aspects of the raid. I've heard no more talk of disbanding since the corpses cooled. So, in addition to what you state, the mission of a federal agency to survive was achieved at the cost of stuffing several dozen citizens into body bags. There may be a lesson there in how far our civil masters are willing to go to preserve their perks.

-Scott Miller

They're still here, aren't they? And their flag flew proudly over the ashes at Waco.


Subj: Gas from hydrates - the demo 

"An international consortium of researchers and gas industry experts met in December in Tokyo to discuss results from an experimental drilling project conducted at the hydrate-rich well site known as Mallik, in the Mackenzie Delta of northern Canada."



On Saving Hubble

Dr Pournelle,

Hubble’s Troubles

It occurred to me today— if NASA can’t rescue Hubble because it’s too risky for the Shuttle to orbit now if it can’t get to the ISS in emergency— why not open Hubble’s rescue up to private competition, like the salvage companies that operate around the world’s oceans?

They say it costs over $500 million to orbit the Shuttle (I could make a strong case for saying it’s more like twice that price, but we’ll let that go for now...) So why not offer a prize of $500 million to the first private vehicle (manned or non-manned) that can take Hubble under ‘tow’ and safely place it in a ‘ISS-compatible’ orbit where it can be accessed by Shuttles or successor vehicles also able to reach the ISS? (Or perhaps even by a space ‘tug’ based at the ISS? I am aware of good reasons for not parking Hubble too close to ISS. I think at least 1,000 miles separation would be desirable.)

Further, why not offer an additional $500 million prize to a private company that can get Hubble into a ‘ISS-compatible’ orbit, repair and upgrade it as planned and then successfully put it back into operation,. And upon succeeding with all that there is a bonus— they become owners of Hubble, whose time they can then lease out to universities, observatories, even NASA? After all, NASA has effectively written it off; what do they have to lose?

(It has also just occurred to me that if I had the company  organisation and capital to do this and the prize was on offer, I reckon I could do the full job and make a handsome profit. It’s quite easy, at least in principle: use Russian launchers.)

Jim Mangles

Moving Hubble is a bigger job than you think, but your instincts here are sound.








This week:


read book now



I took the day off.





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, February 1, 2004


I post to you the whole copywrited article but you probably should excerpt. I have no idea how much longer this article will be available.


Honor Roll Is Suspended in Nashville State Privacy Laws Lead District to Abandon Awards -- and Others May Follow

By Matt Gouras Associated Press Sunday, January 25, 2004; Page A13

NASHVILLE, Jan. 24 -- The school honor roll, a time-honored system for rewarding A students, has become an apparent source of embarrassment for some underachievers.

As a result, all Nashville schools have stopped posting honor rolls, and some are also considering a ban on hanging good work in the hallways -- on the advice of school lawyers.

After a few parents complained that their children might be ridiculed for not making the list, lawyers for the Nashville school system warned that state privacy laws forbid releasing any academic information, good or bad, without permission.

Some schools have since put a stop to academic pep rallies. Others think they may have to cancel spelling bees. And now schools across the state may follow Nashville's lead.

The change has upset many parents who want their children to be recognized for hard work.

"This is as backward as it gets," said Miriam Mimms, who has a son at Meigs Magnet School and helps run the parent-teacher association. "There has to be a way to come back from the rigidity."

The problem appears unique to Tennessee, because most states follow federal student privacy guidelines, which allow the release of such things as honor rolls, U.S. Department of Education officials said. "It's the first time I've heard of schools doing that," said department spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

But Nashville school lawyers based their decision last month on a state privacy law dating to 1970 -- a law that is not always followed because no one challenged the honor-roll status quo.

School officials are developing permission slips to give parents of the Nashville district's 69,000 students the option of having their children's work recognized. They hope to get clearance before the next grading cycle -- in about six weeks at some schools.

Until then, school principals are left trying to figure out what they can and cannot do.

Sandy Johnson, chief instructional officer for the Nashville schools, says the restrictions go "far beyond the honor roll." <snip>

Well, well, well.






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