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Mail 297 February 16 - 22, 2004






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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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Monday  February 16, 2004

Washington's Birthday is February 22.

As usual, there was considerable mail over the weekend. Begin with that. We'll have more here later.







This week:


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Tuesday, February 17, 2004




One of the giants of American cardiology died today.  I was fortunate to have met Dr. Bruce; indeed I was given his office after he decided to step down from his emeritus position.  He was kind enough to give me several of his books, slides and anatomical models and spent hours struggling to teach me some cardiology.  This brief article doesn’t even begin to touch his contribution to American Cardiology.  There are thousands of cardiologists who owe a huge debt to Bob Bruce.  He changed the face of modern medicine and we cardiologists stand on his shoulders!


Cardiac treadmill test developer dies at 87



Wire reports
Feb. 16, 2004 12:00 AM

SEATTLE - Dr. Robert Bruce, the University of Washington cardiologist who developed the treadmill test used worldwide to diagnose heart disease, died Thursday following a bout with leukemia and spinal stenosis, his family said. He was 87.
The test he developed in the early 1960s is called the "Bruce Protocol." The test can reveal problems hidden when the heart is at rest. 
In many cases, the test allows doctors to rule out heart disease, helping avoid unnecessary, expensive and invasive procedures, said Dr. Richard Page, head of the UW Division of Cardiology.  Bruce's first studies, published in 1949, analyzed the minute-to-minute changes in respiratory and circulatory function of normal adults who took a single-stage treadmill test.   He wrote that the test could detect signs of angina pectoris, chest pain due to coronary artery disease; a previous heart attack; and ventricular aneurysm, a bulging in the heart's ventricle. Today Bruce's test has been modified by newer technology, including the use of ultrasounds and radioactive materials to present more accurate pictures of the heart.

Bruce earned his medical degree from the University of Rochester in 1943.

Bruce went on to become the University of Washington's first director of cardiology in 1950, a position he held until his retirement in 1982.



Dear Jerry: Your Chaos Manor story in Dr. Dobb's Journal, March 2004 tells of a Los Angeles city employee being forced to work with hard drives bearing the derogatory labels of "master" and "slave". To console the employee, may I suggest that the drives be renamed "husband" and "wife". Easily recognizable and definitely non-derogatory, but I am not sure if it would be legal to install a third drive.



Hello, Apropos the possibility that MS has total control over FAT I have a box somewhere in storage that states DR-DOS on it, from about ten, or twelve years ago. That was certainly FAT, and not MS owned. Currently, according to this site, then version eight is due. There are links to well-known companies here, too: Regards, Paul Paul Dickins, BSc MCP

The exact terms of the settlement with Digital Research are not known other than that Gary Kildall got a lot of money and Microsoft can never sue the owner of DRDOS for "look and feel".


This article  is an analysis of SCO as an investment vehicle. In the end, she uses a very bland, seemingly mgt oriented analysis to basically say don't invest in them.

There is a flood of responses from my fellow linux advocates.

What is really interesting is the way that the computer folks interpreted (or misinterpreted) what she said in the talkbacks.

I think she was far too easy on SCO mgt (although I heartily agree with the don't invest sentiment) but at least she used the same 'kid gloves' in her many responses to the talkbacks. Rarely have I seen an author respond as much as she did (or as politely as she did.)


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint


Reuters McCain prods US Air Force to explain doctored data 

Air Force experts there provided them with data that showed significantly lower levels of decay on the aging planes than officials in Washington had been claiming as part of their drive to win approval for the $27.6 billion lease deal.

The congressional aides were shown slides indicating that six of nine major components had been replaced in less than 2 percent of the 82 aircraft surveyed during a 30-month period starting Oct. 1, 1999.

But the Air Force deleted this data -- which undercut the argument about the urgent need to begin replacing tankers -- when a copy of the presentation was given to the committee, providing it only after McCain threatened a subpoena.


And you are astonished?

From Roland:

That didn't take long.

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Christopher Carboni <>
> Date: February 16, 2004 6:39:17 AM PST
> To:
> Subject: Exploit based on leaked code released.
>> From securitytracker
> Microsoft Internet Explorer Integer Overflow in Processing Bitmap
> Files Lets Remote Users Execute Arbitrary Code <snip>

Indeed it didn't




Dear Dr. Pournelle,

First, congratulations on The Prince! I've just finished it, and loved having all of the Falkenberg's Legion tales collected in one volume. Any chance on that happening with the 1st Empire stories?

Also, just wanted to thank you for many hours of reading pleasure over the last thirty years. I've been a big fan since The Mote was first published (I still reread it and Lucifer's Hammer almost yearly). Many more years of success and (hopefully) satisfaction with your writing.

Best regards,

Bob Beiseigel

Which is the kind of letter authors like to get...  Thanks for the kind words.


Now a group of letters on DOSBOX, VDM, and getting stuff to run in DOS.

Subject: Slow DosBox


About slow DosBox:

It seems you're having the same problem I had - I was about to throw dosbox away :-)

1. Go to the DosBox menu and open the DosBox.conf file.

2. Search for the line containing "cycles=" and change the value to 15000. The default value of 2500 seems to be for a 1GHz or lower machine.

3. Try again.

4. For more info, go to the DosBox menu, open and read the Readme file.

Interesting parts:

Special keys - for increasing/decreasing dosbox speed/cpu usage.

How to run resource-demanding games:

-> open task manager and look at the cpu usage.

-> Keep pressing control-f12 (more cpu usage) until the cpu goes to 100% - note that I couldn't do it on my 3.0Ghz cpu: after a while, increasing the cycles values seems to have no effect in cpu usage and the game seems not to increase in velocity.


DosBox.conf file: C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.61\dosbox.conf Readme file: "C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.61\README.txt"


Carlos Costa e Silva

Well I tried many of those remedies, but there were complications. For one, things don't seem to close down properly, at least not every time, and you must reset to get rid of some kind of residual stubs. Or at least I did. And things do seem to work a little better on slightly older hardware. It's important that your BIOS is updated, but updating BIOS can cause problems with some of the legacy programs and hardware simulators and the like. Changing the config is a good idea if you have fast modern hardware. Thanks!


Clearly some are better at this than me. But I do learn...

I probably spend more time than is healthy getting new machines to run ye olde junk. Here are a few things that might help you out a bit...

First off, you probably shouldn't be copying executables in order to run them with VDMSound. This isn't necessary. If you get PIF creation problems because the source executable is on a read-only device, then bring up a console window, type "dosdrv" and then run the program from the command line ("d:install" or whatever). Of course, DOSDRV is good for that command session, only.

Secondly, I've had similar problems with deleting files that are supposedly in use on an XP machine. This seems to be an XP/NTFS 5.0 problem. The simplest solution to deal with these files is to use an NTFS-enabled boot disk and just delete the file that way. I use this program:

Thirdly, DOSBOX can run quite fast on modern machines, but you have to remember that it's default speed is rather low. Hit control F12 a few times until the program reaches a decent speed.

If you're really suck and fed up with all of this, go and grab a demo copy of VMWare, which is a full-fledged commercial PC emulator. As a professional developer, I can't live without it, but it also runs ancient games quite nicely. It's a rather expensive program if that's all that you intend to use if for, however.

Finally, be sure to take a look a the "Very Old Games On New Systems" (VOGONS - ha!) message boards for help/information on getting specific titles working.

To date, I haven't found a single program that I haven't been able to get working on my main machine (P4 3.2gig). Of course, the real question is if the view is worth the climb, but then I expect that you know the answer to that better than I...


Ed Armstrong

Thanks. What I managed to do was get most everything running in the Windows 95 Compatibility mode in Windows XP Professional; it takes tweaking, and in the case of RR Tycoon it takes updating the game itself. That probably goes in the column since it has some wider interest. The important thing is to update RR Tycoon to "Deluxe" and then get the "Slumfix" patch for that; this will run nicely in Windows 95 mode under XP Professional. Sound is a bit of a problem, but not a terrible one.

Dr. Pournelle,

I've had better luck either booting win98 into dos mode or, after ensuring my soundcard has it's soundblaster dos mode emulation driver installed, using a plain old win98 command prompt window. You really just need a soundcard "dos driver" or soundblaster emulator that hooks irq 5 or 7 (7 is often printer port), and a line in your autoexec.bat to the effect of "set BLASTER A220 I5 D3 T4", listing the IRQ, address range, and DMA channel being used by the soundcard dos emulator.

In fact, that one line, "set blaster..." may be the key to your sound problem when trying the game under a plain old command prompt window. I have mine remarked out along with the line above it which loads the dos mode driver (in my case so yours may have been disabled or not installed too.

Have you considered trying dosemu on a linux machine? With all the hardware you have lying around, it might be worthwhile to put a basic no-frills linux box together so you can try stuff. It might not even take as much time as you've spent chasing dosbox around in circles.

If you try a linux box and dosemu, or even just dos 6.0, you could use whatever cheap/old hardware you have lying around. A basic linux installation with no fancy X-windows fluffery will work just fine on low-end pentiums. I remember how pleased I was about 8 years ago that my 386 with 16 meg ram would run the fvwm X-windows manager better than a pentium 133 with 32 meg ram would run win95.

Any old motherboard, 386 or higher cpu, at least 32 meg memory, 2 gig hard drive, any cdrom drive, floppy drive, basic soundblaster 16 or equivalent soundcard, the cheapest network card you can find, and just about any old video card would form the basis of a nicely responding command-prompt linux installation, and X-windows will also run just fine if you don't use KDE or GNOME. I used to like fvwm (feeble virtual windows manager) because it was simple and quick, but twm (The Windows Manager?) works too.

Even command prompt linux installations have menu driven setup scripts so you don't need to whack about with the configuration files themselves. Some of those scripts (like XConfigurator) have been around for a decade because they still work just fine.

I think Slackware still offers installation options for such a basic setup. Then get the dosemu package if it wasn't available as an installation option, and see what happens.

Sean Long

I own a couple of Linux boxes which others are using: I'll have to collect one of them, or build one or convert one of the Windows machines. Getting some Linux systems including a mail server running is one of the next projects at Chaos Manor.



We had mail about the Iraq dilemma -- he would call it a mess or even a disaster -- from Greg Cochran last week. Discussion continues.

Last week Mr. Montgomery said in reply to Cochran

Subj: Iraq: why did Bush attack?

Guess I must be an idiot, or suffering neo-Jacobin delusions.

Cochran replies

Poverty is only one of the two fundamental incapabilities. The other is Iraqi incompetence.

"Sanctions were collapsing". Uh, how? Iraq was not exporting significant oil outside the oil-for-food program, nor were there major end-runs under way.

"As long as the US opposed his expansionist ambitions, the US was a target. " I certainly would not call you an idiot, or a neo-Jacobin. More a thing from another world. How could _anyone_ believe that Saddam was spoiling for a fight with the US? He'd lose and he knew it. We have thousands of nuclear weapons, we have the world's dominant air force, one so potent that Iraq never managed to knock a _single_ plane during years of no-fly, we'd just shown what JDAMs can do in Afghanistan.. I won't even try to explain what what we would be capable of if someone really pissed us off... So you think that Saddam was not deterred from attacking the US. You're not an idiot - you're just plain crazy.

And you are not alone. Many people seem to think that 9-11 changed the world - that we now have to realize that every little country that hates us - there are a lot - could suddenly go kamikaze and hurt us somewhat - and end up becoming a glowing heap of radioactive slag, Well, it's not impossible, any more than the Navy attacking the Army is impossible , but it's not very likely - so unlikely that there is not much point in worrying about it. Countries have return addresses, you dig? Moreover, any policy implementing a quest for perfect safety had better be perfectly safe itself - obvious, right? - and I guarantee that a policy of preemptive war is not safe. Particularly preemptive war based on pure stupidity. Come, can't you see in that policy some chance of net harm to the United States? - a chance far greater than some small country deciding that it's a good day to die?

9-11 did not make Iraq or Syria or Iran any more likely to go kamikaze than they had been the day before. Nobody worried about it before, and they were correct.

The policy we had, no-fly and a few troops in Kuwait, worked just fine. It cost peanuts, and it didn't radicalize hundreds of millions of Moslems and alienate Europe. You suggest that the only alternative to invading Iraq was to leave the Gulf entirely. Why? I can think of many possibilities - continuing the existing policy may not have been the optimal choice in the space of all possible strategies but it wasn't bad, certainly a million times better than the one we picked.

"he was an evil man with the resources and demonstrated intention to do our interests grave harm. " Utter nonsense. Evil yes, resources, zip. Intent to attack us given the consequences, also zip.

If you wanted to, you could get equally excited about Fidel - evil as anything, a real enemy of the US ( but weak as a kitten and a death-fearer). But you're not, because you haven't emotionally committed yourself to that particular piece of stupidity, haven't had tons of propaganda ladled into your skull on that subject. No dead soldiers who mustn't have died in vain. Castro is more heavily involved in Venezuela than Saddam was involved anywhere - so, don't we need to occupy Cuba till the end of time?

As for the argument that the government would just have spent the money some other way, so in a sense nothing really costs anything: That one makes me mad. Here you're not just being crazy, but being dishonest. Crazy people can be interesting and even fun, but liars I have no use for. Of course you know that is not true.

On these issues my thought is similar to that of Howard Zinni, or the Army War College. or Brent Scowcroft, or Zbigniew Brezinzki.

And I forgot to mention something: sure, we have an incompetent ruling class, but then we have an incompetent electorate.

Gregory Cochran

 And I return to my concern, what do we do now? I don't think we ought to have gone into Iraq, and that debate remains important as long as principles remain important: that is, I believe we need to understand the place of the United States in this world, and what we can and cannot accomplish.

If we are a Republic we must ignore a lot of evil outside our country and concentrate on fixing our own problems, making us the city on a hill, the example to follow; and if we get ambitious about exporting our system or showing others directly how they ought to act, there is no shortage of places close to home where we have responsibilities either geopolitical (Monroe Doctrine, you know) or have assumed responsibilities by intervention (Haiti comes to mind: we have occupied that country about 30 years off and on).

If we are to be a Republic we should act toward the rest of the world as I think the Federal Government ought to act toward the District of Columbia: don't send the judges and their marshals out to fix Kansas City schools until the DC schools are so splendid that everyone wants to have schools like that -- at which point the marshals are probably not needed. If Congress with all its sovereign power over the District, and all its resources, cannot fix the DC school and police departments, then why in God's Name do we think it can fix Kansas City or Los Angeles? And, I would say, if the US can't get its own house in such order as to be the envy of much of the world, should we try to export our happiness on the points of our bayonets?

But if we are to be an Empire, then perhaps we are good enough at home, and we have obligations to our Imperial subjects and potential subjects.

Back in his original screed Monty says it is but a dream to think that the money spent on imperial war could have been spent at home on energy independence and such like. To which I can only say, perhaps, but someone has to dream. If those of us who remember the old republic do not say what we ought to do, then it certainly will never be done.

Despair is a sin.

From the blindingly obvious department:

BBC Reports "US school diplomas 'losing value'" 

David P.

-- A random thought for the day:

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers What they really hate is lousy programmers. - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

And I have this from a somewhat influential Jewish friend in another conference. It's timely: I don't give his name not because I think he would mind but I haven't been able to make contact:

The front page of today's New York Times carried an interesting story, appended below, about the current goings on in unfortunate Haiti, and the moves afoot by portions of the populace to replace the current leader, a U.S.-installed Jeffersonian Democrat, with a new and improved 2004-model Jeffersonian Democrat.

I also append the very recent op-ed by Max Boot, a leading neocon ideologue of America's worldwide imperial crusade for Jeffersonian Democracy. Boot argues quite plausibly that the ongoing problems in Haiti are largely due to Bill Clinton's unwillingness to commit himself to a long-term American occupation of that island, and urges our current leaders to certainly avoid making that same mistake in Iraq.

Considering that America has occupied Haiti off and on for something like twenty years over the last century, I have little doubt that raising that total to a solid thirty would transform Haitian political life into a "diversified" version of New England's traditional town meetings.

As one early indicator of this likelihood, the Times story reveals that the main Haitian opposition group, which had long styled itself "the Cannibal Army," has now told reporters it henceforth wishes to be known as the "Artibonite Resistance Front," presumably in hopes of raising its chances of attracting financial and political patronage from our National Endowment for Democracy or various neocon media organs. Given the ideological and ethnic roots of those currently controlling American foreign policy, I suspect that once an effective PR firm is hired---perhaps Benador Associates---the name will soon be changed once again, either to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or perhaps the Star of David Legion.

Since that the ongoing dispute between these different factions of Haitian Jeffersonian Democrats is attaining a somewhat bitter tinge, marked by nasty anonymous leaks to political reporters and also by random disembowlments, the recent Open Borders Immigration Proposal of our neocon masters demonstrates their strikingly timely wisdom. I have little doubt that at least one million or more Haitians will soon determine that Florida would currently be a more congenial home to Jeffersonian Democrats than disputatious Haiti, and quickly act on that inclination.

Furthermore, given the closely-divided Florida electorate I suspect that we can also discern the notoriously shrewd hand of Karl Rove behind these events. As the neocons have repeatedly dmonstrated, America is a "propositional nation," so we should soon expect President Bush to propose---to resounding cheers from WSJ Editorial Page and the Weekly Standard---that all of those hundreds of thousands of Haitians who reach the welcoming Florida Coast have merely to declare themselves loyal veterans of the Cannibal Army---oops! the Jeffersonian Democratic Movement---in order to be granted immediate American citizenship and sufferage, just in time for the important November vote.

Tom DeLay can quickly hammer the necessary legislation through Congress and all those---whether Democrat or Republican---who raise nagging doubts will have conveniently unmasked themselves as both nativists and racists, two for the price of one.


"Chaos Becomes a Way of Life in a Rebel-Held Haitian City" Lydia Polgreen, New York Times February 16, 2004, FRONT PAGE


On virus management:

I've begun recommending to ISPs and other clients that they simply drop, at their email gateway, all emails containing ".pif", ".bat", and ".scr" attachments. I'm even considering adding ".exe" to that list.

I'd like comments from others as to whether that's overboard. I think not, and here's my reasoning:

* Most newer viruses just spread themselves via email, Windows vulnerabilities or both, without attaching to any useful document or program

* Many vulnerabilities depend on tricking users into running executable programs out of the email in one way or another

* People rarely send ".exe" files, and almost never the other types, intentionally

* Anyone who truly does need to send a ".exe" can archive it in a zip file, which will not start the virus up even when it is unarchived.

* Dropping all messages with executable attachments means you won't get caught by the lag time between release of a new virus and release of AV definitions

* I will bet anyone that a review of an ISP's email logs would show that over 95% of all messages containing an executable attachment are in fact viruses with no meaningful data in the message.

Am I just crazy, or could administrators save themselves a lot of headache without much new pain just by dropping email messages with these at the gateway, without even scanning them? That wa

Steve Setzer

I pretty well do that; zip is ubiquitous and serves for sending exe and other executable files.

Subject: Wasn't there a Valentine's day?


National Guard in dire straits, in one way, in Iraq:,3604,1145210,00.html, and isn't this a leap year? Run away, boys, on the 29th of this month.

And, on another tack: which also contains this article I read in the current issue of the Economist:, the reality of being a part-time soldier for the Empire

Paul Dickins, BSc MCP IT+

Non, je n'ai rien oublié - Lévis Bouliane
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt - Virgil
There coming up the drive was the worst Catholic since Genghis Khan - Spike Milligan, philosopher
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds . . . - Shakespeare, Sonnet 116


Hi Jerry, Here is something on the subject I posted on another forum in response to the following news item:

"Indiana Rail Road expects to...[Spend big bux upgrading their physical plant-ed.]... A new Lincolnland Agri-Energy ethanol plant, which will use 15 million bushels of corn to process 40 million gallons of alcohol, is expected to generate traffic."

15 million bushels of corn contain 5.9 trillion BTU of energy. 40 million Gal of alcohol contain only 4 trillion BTU.

It also takes around 100 billion BTU to distill that much ethanol(to 95% purity-I won't venture a guess as to how much it takes to get it any purer than that) plus the energy needed to pump and treat the necessary water, and maintain the fermentation. Also you need to take into account the energy needed to transport the corn, harvest the corn, till the earth, and produce the fertilizers and pesticides to grow the corn.

In the long run, we're probably better off planting Kudzu and burning it to generate electricity.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- "Bureaucrats count the day as wasted in which they have not, in the name of adherence to rules, blighted a life." --Dr. J.E. Pournelle

Facts are stubborn things...

And something else to worry about...

From: Chris Morton
To: Dr. Jerry Pournelle
Subject: French Imperialism <

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? WHAT are they? Voodoo fetishes?

I'm torn.

Should we respond to this blatant violation of the Monroe Doctrine by destroying all French military assets in the Western Hemisphere, or merely by dumping thousands of ex-Iraqi AK47s on Haiti?

Of course, the last time the French attempted to invade Haiti they were trounced by people wielding machetes.

= See Greg Cochran below






This week:


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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Much to do today. I have a lot of interesting mail which I am sorting but the business of life gets in the way. Also I want to start a new novel. Thus it remains short shrift time; but there is much of interest here.

For the moment, here's a pointer to an interesting article:

February 17, 2004

Firebrand Theater 

Daniel Pipes as a cool medium Tim Cavanaugh

"We totally support Mr. Pipes' right to speak on campus," says Lisa Stampnitzki, of the student group Tzedek, an affiliate of Berkeley Hillel, "but as a Jewish group we're very concerned that Hillel has chosen to sponsor him, due to the fact that he has made many anti-Muslim statements and also the fact that his organization is clamping down on academic freedom. We're concerned that Hillel's sponsorship would lend the appearance that the Jewish community supports his views."

She's referring to the controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, who is appearing at the University of California at Berkeley's 523-seat Pimentel Hall.  <snip>

Ash Valentine

I found I had read it all before I was through. I do not know Daniel Pipes. I consider Richard Pipes one of the brightest people I have ever met. I met Richard at a conference in Moscow in 1989 when the USSR was crumbling but that wasn't obvious. His "Survival is Not Enough" was at one time a very important book.


Subject: "Brain Fingerprinting"

-- Roland Dobbins


Here follows a long and interesting note on languages and why Microsoft does certain things the way it does:

Dear Jerry

What a joy to rediscover the path to Chaos Manner after it evaporated with the printed form of Byte Magazine into the mists of hyper-space. I am so pleased that DDJ now includes your column.

I particularly enjoyed your recent remarks about strongly typed languages. I could go further than you did and explain that the claimed efficiency benefit of poorly typed languages was itself an urban myth, and that for any given level of compiler technology, the more abstract the notation the better opportunity the compiler has for optimisation. I could, but I won't, as such an explanation would smack of reliving ancient language wars. Instead, I shall tell you a story.

Date: March 1994. Location: Zurich. Occasion: a conference known to its organisers as "Programming Languages and System Architecture" (Jurg Gutknecht (Ed.), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 3-540-57840-4) but known to everybody else as Niklaus Wirth's 60th birthday party.

A major pleasure of such conferences is listening to the formal sessions with, in this case, speakers such as Tony Hoare, Butler Lampson and the late Edsger Dijkstra. Minor pleasures include striking up conversations with people you do not come across in the everyday course of business. One lunch time I found myself sitting next to a quietly-spoken man from Microsoft. It turned out that he was a senior technical manager in the EXCEL team. "And before you ask," he said, "Let me explain why someone like me should be somewhere like this."

Here is his explanation as best as I can recall the words. After ten years the recollection is bound to be imperfect but, if he is reading this, I hope he finds my version catches the essence.

"As you probably know or can guess, EXCEL is written in C. We are thinking about C++, but it's mainly C now. So why is it worth me taking a week away from pressing production schedules, and traveling all the way to Zurich to spend time in the home of strongly-typed languages? The fact is that we would dearly like to rewrite our products in a language such as Oberon. We know that doing so would improve quality, speed production, reduce maintenance costs, and increase security, but we have a problem.

"Have you ever wondered why we distribute beta-releases of our products on such a massive scale? Everyone jokes that we are getting our customers to debug the code for us, but although the beta-releases do find bugs we usually reckon that alpha-releases have cleared must of our bugs away. What we are doing with beta-releases is rather different.

"The PC platform is a remarkable phenomenon. The uniformity of the 'PC Standard' across so many manufacturers and technologies seems almost too perfect to be true. Actually, it is too perfect to be true. The implementation of PCs and their supporting peripheral devices is much more uneven than it appears to be to most users. For example, we recently discovered, as a result of beta-testing, that a popular printer from a well-known manufacturer has a bug in its firmware that causes pie-charts from EXCEL to print incorrectly. What should Microsoft do in such a situation? Naturally, we informed the manufacturer, who we can expect to fix the problem in the next release of the firmware. But what do we do about the population of existing users, who are not going to trade in their printer for a new one for several years? The business answer is that our software must compensate for the firmware bug. Our customers would not keep buying our products if we did not do so. Have you ever wondered why our products are so bulky? It's not only function bloat. You would be surprised to learn how high a proportion of the code of a product such as EXCEL is devoted to such compensations. [My new chum did not tell me what the proportion was.]

"Now comes the problem. To compensate for such a firmware bug we must reach out, from deep inside the pie-printing algorithm, all the way to the printer driver. If we discover that the printer is type such-and-such from manufacturer this-or-that, we must paint the pie another way. To do the reaching out we must be able to break encapsulation, and that is the problem we have with strongly-typed languages. The very property of a strongly-typed language that would give us most benefit is the thing that we cannot exploit if we are to make the PC standard a reality. But be assured that we are still looking for ways to square this circle, and that is why I am here, listening."

Fast forward now to the appearance on the scene of C#. As we peruse the specification we feel relief that soon almost everyone will be programming with a strongly-typed language, whether for Microsoft or non-Microsoft platforms. We chuckle at the way that Anders Hejlsberg has derived the object model of C# by applying essentially the same transformation to Java as he applied to Pascal to derive Delphi. And then we hit the keyword 'unsafe'. What is it for? Java has been used to implement everything from operating systems to applets, and has shown that there is no need for an escape hatch such as this, just as Niklaus Wirth did with Modula. Then my thoughts return to Niklaus' birthday party, and I wonder if there is any connection between the inclusion of the unsafe construct in C# and the enunciation of a problem by a quietly-spoken gentleman in Zurich in 1994.

With regards

 Brian Shearing

I had very much wanted to go to that conference. I have always much enjoyed Niklaus Wirth, and one of my fondest memories was showing him Chaos Manor and some new programs he had not seen. I was astonished at the time to realize that if that was Wirth's 60th birthday we are of an age (actually he is younger than me but not by much).

There are a lot of places where you find you need to break encapsulation. For example, in debugging or testing, you almost certainly have to have access to private variables. Certain patterns (Visitor), aspect-oriented programming, policies, security all need that sort of access. So strong typing does limit you.

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

All Wirth compilers/programming systems had debug modes that allowed all that while in debug mode.



Subject: The rediscovery of phonics


The reference to scientists proposing a cure for dyslexia,,8122-1000267,00.html  By rediscovering old methods got me to thinking. For one thing, this is what Roberta did for years, and she was able to teach almost every one of her dyslexic criminal children to read.

The alphabet is a powerful tool because it maps to phonemes. It makes reading much easier to learn. I once read a study, for example, with Chinese children who were taught Pin Yin (the PRC's method of Romanizing the Mandarin language) instead of characters in their early school years. These kids learned to read as fast as kids in Europe, and their misspellings could be deciphered. That was in contrast to learning the characters, where if you make a mistake it can make what you're writing unintelligible.

I was taught phonetically with Dick and Jane in the mid-1950's in Southern California, which was then an educational wasteland where outmoded methods were used. I have no trouble seeing and pronouncing new words. My wife, OTOH, is 5 years younger than I and was educated in Syracuse, where the presence of the progressive Education Department at Syracuse University insured that modern teaching methods were used locally. She was taught what words look like, not how to sound them out. In essence, SU and its partners had reinvented millennia-old Chinese educational methods--methods that long kept all but a few people illiterate. Even today my wife has difficulty decoding new words.

It's heartening to see scientists returning to what works, but it's sad that educators have taken us on a fifty-tear educational detour. I guess they never looked at the data. It reminds me of how geologists would not accept Wegener's data about moving continents until they had a mechanism to explain it. I wonder what other data is being ignored?


This is one reason why I do NOT believe "peer review" is the best method for allocation of grant money. It's fine for the bulk of the money, but once Big Science gets determined that things are a certain way, they will allocate nothing to test hypotheses contrary to those views.

Now of course many "radical" views are sheer crackpottery. Martin Gardiner did us a big favor with Fad and Fallacies IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE by showing us what crackpots look like and how they act; but every now and then a crackpot turns out to be right, ie. wasn't a crackpot at all. Ignatz Semmelweiss is the best example I know but there have been others.

And when it comes to the Voodoo Sciences (usually called the "Social Sciences") it's generally worse. Big Education with its Big Unions is the worst offender here: you get hot new theories by generally second rate minds in University Departments of Education and they are applied by third raters, then passionately defended by everyone else in the union. It took real brain power to set reading back 5,000 years to ideographs: but in fact most of the teachers defending "look-say" had never heard of the Phonetic Alphabet in its historical context, and never understood why reading was widespread among the Phoenicians and later the Greeks while restricted to priestly classes in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphics for the hierarchy indeed!

California was among the worst. I am sure Honig and his cohorts "meant well" but they imposed illiteracy on a generation, and ruined what had been an excellent school system. We have not recovered and will not recover in my lifetime from the attentions of these well meaning morons who insisted that the latest "scientific" fad be imposed and enforced in all the classrooms, and never quite understood why Catholic schools had higher literacy rates than the products of the much more expensive public schools.

Education is a Voodoo Science as are nearly all of Sociology and "Social Psychology" and "social science" in general, and the one thing you can be nearly certain of is that a PhD in the Voodoo Sciences will know neither real science nor real humanities: will know no history, and so far as science is concerned, will know mostly how to apply cookbook statistics without any understanding of statistical inference. The exceptions are rare.

Once Big Science, especially the Voodoo Sciences, gets off onto the wrong track, "peer review" sees to it that it stays there. Once again let me bring up Duesberg: he may be off his head, and his hypothesis that HIV is not the "cause" of AIDS but something associated with it may well be entirely wrong, or may be wrong in part (the real truth may be some kind of synergistic causation) or merely statistically wrong (certainly some cases of immune system collapse are brought about by more traditional stresses -- Senator Gann being one of the best examples -- and HIV is entirely incidental to that particular case). The point is that it would not cost much to do the crucial experiments Duesberg advocates -- but in a decade he hasn't been able to get funding. Now he may be a crackpot, but he wasn't always -- heck he discovered retroviruses to begin with -- and given the amounts being spent on AIDS research it wouldn't be out of place to put 1% of that into tests of alternate hypotheses generated by people whose opinions would be respected if they put forth almost anything but an alternate hypothesis. But it won't happen.

And Education "Research" is still the same, most of it being spent to justify the methods in use now; just as "peer review" of professionalism turns out to be unionized defense of really awful teachers who anyone with common sense wouldn't let within a mile of a classroom, as well as mismatched people -- some of those who would be excellent in teaching really young kids are awful when they have to do 4th grade and above where facts and knowledge of some real history and science are important, but the unions will defend their "right" to a job even if they are no good at it.

And I see you managed to push a button. I have work to do and I have said most of this before.


 The news from Iraq continues:

 We didn't create a transitional body. We created a junta-in-waiting. We may be shocked to learn one day who on the Governing Council has been cutting quiet deals with indigenous extremists. One thing is already as clear as a desert sky: The exiles we empowered are determined to rule Iraq, whatever the cost.


Such are the ways of Empire. The problem is that we don't quite understand: if you are to have Empire, you must have proconsuls. Lucius Clay in postwar Germany, or Macarthur in Japan, understood and never would have permitted such things. Empire requires imperials; at least competent empire requires competent imperials. If you don't care about being a competent empire you can try to pretend you are still using republican principles to impose government not derived from consent of the governed.

The truth is there is no such place as Iraq, but there is so much money in the ground that even those who don't belong in Iraq want part of it. How to divide those spoils? Federation might do it, but the control of the vast revenues must remain out of the hands of one man one vote. When the stakes are high enough, democracy comes apart.

Look at the US where politics is more and more about who shall get, and who shall pay. Democracy is rule of the middle class and unless most of those in it are middle class, it will always divide among the many who want and intend to take, and the few who want to keep what they have and get more.

And Iraq is not the only place we know of that has a ruling elite that will do literally anything to get, or to keep, power. And see below.


A Puzzlement:

From: Chris Morton
To: Dr. Jerry Pournelle
Subject Win98 Problem

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Here's a problem for which I have yet to find any solution. Maybe you or another reader can figure it out.

Today I noticed that I am unable to run telnet, msconfig or winipcfg from a DOS box on my Win98SE machine. Ping works.

These applications can be run by doing start -> run and entering the app name.

Norton Anti-Virus is up to date and says there are no viruses.

Any suggestions?


I can only say I can run them all from my Windows 98 system. I just tried. Run command and in the box enter program name. Works for me.

Dr. Pournelle:

Might I suggest that Chris Morton's problem could be due to a lost 'path'. From the DOS prompt, enter the command PATH . Then do a CD command for each folder/directory in the PATH statement. In each folder, do a DIR TELNET.* to see if that program is there. Repeat for each PATH statement. I'd bet that the program is not in any of the PATH folders.

If not found in the PATH folders, get back to the root (CD \ ), then use the DIR TELNET.* /S to search for the telnet program. If found, you can either copy the program to a folder in your PATH statement, or add that folder to your PATH command. If the program is not found, then you'll have to reinstall that file.

Rick Hellewell, Informaton Security Dude,

Path problems would have been my guess, too.


 Chris Morton says " Of course, the last time the French attempted to invade Haiti they were trounced by people wielding machetes. . " Untrue; they were defeated by yellow fever. In those days the French army was formidable - can you say "Austerlitz "? Can you say " Yorktown"?

Re Haiti: How come we're not hearing about spells of mass destruction? Don't we have to stop those zombie masters there, rather than fight them in the streets of LA?

Gregory Cochran

Yes I noticed that. Waterloo was a near run thing, "the nearest run thing you ever saw" according to Wellington. And that was the Emperor not in his form with troops hastily put back into service. Winter in Russia, Yellow Jack in Haiti...

Given my name I get a number of taunts. Normans are more Frenchified Danes than French, but once in a while...  Once in DC in the Congressional dining room someone, a staffer I think, said "I hate the French. Cowardly bunch. When I see a Frenchman I say Waterloo. What have you to say to that?"

To which I could only say "Hastings", although "Yorktown" would have done...

 Why You Should Use Zip files

Another, really important, reason why everyone should use .zip files for sending files through email:

If the mail gets slightly corrupted in transit, then when the recipient of the email tries to unzip, he or she will get an error message. Zip files are checksummed. Most files people send in email, including .exe files, will not provide a sensible error message; they will crash or fail in odd ways.

Zip files will catch data corruption before it can waste anyone's time. This is why I even use Zip to send already-compressed files (such as JPEG images). -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Dr. Pournelle:

Steve Setzer (in your Tuesday post) was wondering about ISP's filtering email attachments, blocking any type of executable. Although that can be done, let me tell you (and your readers) about my experiences with email filtering and executable blocking.

I am the security dude for a large local government agency. Our average daily mail load is about 45-50K messages per day (about 30-35% is spam, but that's another subject). We use the SurfControl email filter product ( to filter our mail.

Our defense against viruses is two-stage: all messages are scanned for known viruses (using the Network Associates/McAfee virus definitions). We also block any message with any type of executable attachment.

The advantage of this two-stage approach has been proven with the MyDoom virus outbreak (and today's "Bagel.B" virus). We started getting Bagel virus messages about 4am this morning (Tuesday). McAfee didn't update the virus dat files until about 9am this morning. By 10am (about) our mail filter got the virus dat file updates (it checks about once an hour). If we didn't have the executable blocking in place, a couple hundred viral messages would have made it inside. And, even with all the warnings we give to users, someone would have opened the attachment.

So, our two-stage virus checking is very important to our virus protection. But it does cause some problems.

It is common to get valid executables by mail. Patches for custom applications are one example. "Hiding" them inside a ZIP file won't work, since our filtering software (and most others) can look inside a ZIP for executables. (Many viruses like to hide inside ZIP files.) So, to make allowances for those situations, messages with executables are placed in a holding area. They are inspected manually (usually when a user complains about a missing message), and released if they are valid files. This process works pretty well.

If the ISP is blocking executables (even SCR or PIF files), we would have no way to get valid executables from our vendors and consultants. Although it seems like a good idea, it would put a crimp in a lot of business use of email.

A better solution for virus protection would be if all ISP's implemented a virus scanning process for their email. This would be a major expense just for the hardware (we have two pretty powerful Compaq servers running our email filtering), not to mention the software licensing and technical support. Even a single-phase protection (against known viruses) would be helpful in controlling the spread of viruses. It wouldn't protect against the "zero-day" problem, such as happened today with Bagel.B before the virus dats were released.

But anti-virus scanning at the ISP level would be a good start.

Regards, Rick Hellewell, Information Security Dude,

But: surely there is a way to prevent raw executables while allowing ZIP files?



I saw this article in Macleans Magazine and immediately thought of your musings re. the export of jobs to the Far East. The author, Donald Coxe, is a well respected economist/writer and I must say that I've bet my money on some of the things he has said, and made money doing so. I trust his thinking.

 Briefly, what he says is that the failure to cost stock options encourages the firing of workers and the export of jobs, because it shows an increase in productivity that jacks up the stock right away and the profit goes straight into management's pockets; it's a "multibillion dollar payff for mendacity and callousness in treatment of workers."



The article:

Column | DONALD COXE (C)copyright 2004


Stock options are the real reasons for many massive U.S. layoffs

AS DEMOCRATIC presidential candidates tell audiences daily, the U.S. economy since George W. Bush took office has had the greatest job losses since the Great Depression. Americans are growing increasingly anxious that as the economy roars back, workers aren't being called back. In the third-quarter of 2003, U.S. GDP grew at a blistering 8.2 per cent, but the employment numbers didn't budge.

Economists had been virtually unanimous that the government's employment report for December would show a big job gain. The average predicted by these economists was 150,000, but some optimists expected as many as 250,000 new jobs. The actual reported score: 1,000 new jobs in a workforce of 147 million. (Canada produced 53,000 jobs in the same month with an economy roughly one-eleventh the size.) This near- zero gain in what is probably the single most important economic statistic came despite Bush's tax cuts, a federal deficit that is running at an annual rate of about US$500 billion, and Alan Greenspan's desperation strategy of lending out Federal Reserve money at a mere one per cent. <snip>

Jobless recovery: about what Sir James Goldsmith predicted. Lots of profits, lots of money moving around. But...

And See Below



Subject: Russia plans new spaceship

Steven Dunn


A Mac Game:

Subject: Vega Strike

--- Roland Dobbins







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Onion has an interview with Arthur C. Clarke 

--Gary Pavek

Thanks. I recently had correspondence with Sir Arthur. He seems in good spirits and decent health.



I was a long-type paper Byte reader and fan of your column, and I've spent the evening going through old CDR disks with even older .PST files on - happily reminiscing. I clicked on a  link in one email from about 1998 (for some reason a lot of the emails have lot their dates, but I suspect they were imported from some other email system into Outlook at some point without enough care and attention - annoying, but I digress), and was glad to see your column still going strong.

In your most recent column (Column 283) on , I read;

"Plug a USB 2.0 device into a USB port. If you get the message that your device is connected but only at a lower speed, go to Device Manager, find the USB drivers, and uninstall each and every one of them until there are no more to uninstall. Now reset the system, and lo! it will find the proper USB 2.0 drivers and install them and Bob's your uncle." .... "It is baffling."

I use a slightly quicker (if no less baffling) way of doing this - it seems to be a quirk of a Windows XP and i875 chipset combination.

If you look in Device Manager after you've installed all drivers, if you have the problem you'll see an entry in Other Devices highlighted by a yellow warning symbol. This late in the evening I can't remember exactly what it's called, but it's fairly obviously the USB 2.0 hardware. Right-click on that device, Update Driver..., Install the software automatically is the default, click Next and voila! (I couldn't say Lo! to you) you have USB 2.0, no reboot required.

I have no doubt others will have told you about this, but I do have an ulterior motive for emailing you - do you have any plans for an autobiography? I really enjoy your writing style both in your novels and columns/articles, and from what I have read you have an enormously interesting story to tell - your involvements in fields such as the space program, computer technology and science fiction are rich with tales which currently are scattered though many places. A book written by Jerry Pournelle telling the story of Jerry Pournelle would be very, very exciting.


Dan Lawrance (a 31-year-old English IT consultant) dan @

Actually I did that, the first time, and it didn't seem to do the job, but perhaps I had other problems. After I scrubbed and started over, the procedure I described in the column worked. With luck they'll fix things so neither procedure will be needed in future.

Thanks for the kind words. One day I may to an autobiography, but I've got so many other things to do before I turn to memoirs...








CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  February 20, 2004


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                              
Date: Feb. 20, 2004   
                                                                      subject: noneducation
Dear Jerry:
        In discussing reading, you wrote:
        "California was among the worst. I am sure Honig and his cohorts 'meant well' but they imposed illiteracy on a generation, and ruined what had been an excellent school system. We have not recovered and will not recover in my lifetime from the attentions of these well meaning morons who insisted that the latest 'scientific' fad be imposed and enforced in all the classrooms, and never quite understood why Catholic schools had higher literacy rates than the products of the much more expensive public schools."
        I can't help but wonder if any of these people had any idea what science is?  When Rudolph Flesch wrote Why Johnny Can't Read, back in 1955, he looked for studies comparing phonetic and non-phonetic methods of teaching reading.  He found only one (1) study that could be interpreted to show superiority for non-phonetic methods, and that was dubious (very new readers read more total words correctly on a timed test if instructed non-phonetically than phonetically;  percentage of correct and incorrect words not given, so someone reading nineteen words correctly, with 100%  accuracy, then timing out, could get a lower score than someone reading twenty correctly, and forty incorrectly).
        That study was it.  All other studies Flesch could find said phonics worked better.  Jeanne S. Chall later surveyed the field, and found the same thing.  Three editions of Learning to Read: the Great Debate all concluded that the evidence was unambiguously on the side of phonics.
        Which leaves one wondering how these 'well meaning' people managed to get it wrong so consistently.

There were a couple of studies that showed that mature readers do not use phonics, but rather recognize words. Which is of course true: few of us "sound out" familiar words. That is a technique needed when encountering unfamiliar words. But those who know phonics have a reading vocabulary at least equal to their speaking vocabulary; those who don't know phonics may be able to use and understand words they can't read.

The transition from reading letter at a time to seeing whole words takes place pretty naturally, and the number who don't make that transition without help is small. The "whole word" methodologists turned this on its head, and acted as if failure to make that transition was the big problem in education. I am sure they "meant well" but mostly it was the arrogance of third rate minds following dicta from second rate professors who had no understanding of what "research" means, or any of the underlying assumptions of statistical research. This sophomoric reasoning -- I use the word literally -- is pretty standard in Colleges of Education.


Subject: Interesting Article

< > --

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

I can't vouch for its truth, but it is interesting.


Dr Pournele,

The great hollowing-out myth

...the creation of new jobs always overwhelms the destruction of old jobs by a huge margin. Between 1980 and 2002, America's population grew by 23.9%. The number of employed Americans, on the other hand, grew by 37.4%. Today, 138.6m Americans are in work, a near-record, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population...


Trade protection will not save such jobs: if they do not go overseas, they are still at risk from automation..

Jim Mangles

I have never doubted that the best way to maximize economic return is unrestricted free marketing and free trade. I also think there may be more important things to life than cheaper underwear and track shoes.

Democracy is rule by the middle class. It requires that most of the people be middle class: those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. That requires some employment stability, especially for those on the left side of the bell curve.

Automation is going to eat most jobs over time. The trick is to get through those transitions without creating huge slums and destroying the whole notion of the rule of law. "A fair day's pay for a fair day's work" is probably not a very good description of laissez faire economics; but it is the kind of expectation that creates a society of ordered liberty. If it's pretty clear that nothing you can do will ensure you the kind of good life you thought you would have, you may rethink your priorities.

"Trade protection will not save such jobs" -- depends on the time scale. I am not concerned about saving the job of the buggy whip maker forever. I am concerned when a large and key industry that provides middle class employment to a lot of people vanishes very quickly leaving deserted villages in its wake. There needs to be a transition.

Reasonable tariff is a tax on imports, paid only by those who insist on imports. Make the tariff high enough and you will certainly protect shoddy goods and featherbedding -- not that a small degree of featherbedding is all that awful -- but you need not make the tariff that large. Large enough to provide some revenue while easing the transitions as industries collapse. I would in fact like to see serious modeling of an economy set to maximize tariff revenue while minimizing internal taxation: I have some guesses about where that would lead, and it probably doesn't work out, but it's worth looking at.**

The United States has all the goods it needs. Nothing is beyond the dreams of avarice, and thus there can never be "enough" but we already have an economy at levels that few predicted in the 50's (Herman Kahn did include the end of the Cold War and an ultra-boom in some of his scenarios, and except for science fiction writers he is I think the only one to look seriously at such matters). We have goods in plenty, and firms like "Overstock" make that clear. Things are in the saddle and ride mankind. Getting things and consuming them -- "Consume Mass Quantities!" -- obsesses many.

And perhaps that is a satisfying life. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind: let change and whirl rule, we can adapt, and we have so many lovely things in return. And perhaps so, and perhaps those of us fortunate enough to have been born out on the right hand side of the bell curve -- you, me, almost all the readers here, indeed almost everyone we spend much time with on any given day -- will do well and continue to thrive, adjusting to the whirl of change, living in a world over which we have no control, living lives of instability and unpredictability. And perhaps we can hold on as those who cannot fathom this world begin to see it as unpredictable and unstable, and come to know that a fair day's work will not get you a fair day's pay.

"The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever."

Burke lamented that those with the ability to rule do so, and pretend to be concerned for matters other than the acquisition of things and power; but they are not really so concerned. He saw that the Jacobins had another agenda.

For a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely.

I would rather see economic inefficiencies than disrupted lives. There are tradeoffs of course. Poor nations that have not enough to eat cannot afford to trade much efficiency for stability. I think that is not the principal problem of today's United States.

Today, we have raised our taxes to ludicrous levels so that corporations flee to such proud places as the Cayman Islands and Liechtenstein, and do so with some pride. I find that appalling, that companies leave the US for the protection of Liechtenstein.

Efficiency and automation have brought us pig and chicken factories. I find that appalling. With luck we can export those horrors to someone else's neighborhood. No one wants to live near them.

Perhaps that is what our great wealth and economic efficiency will give us: a way to export all our problems. Let China be covered with a pall you can see from space, and we will buy our goods from them, leaving the consequences over there. Over time, I make no doubt, automation will bring us more efficiency, and we will have no duty but to consume and vote. A few workaholics will continue to keep the machine running, and collect fabulous wealth in doing so. The rest will vote for a living.

The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.

And I suspect I ought not write about these things early in the morning.

And see below.


** It would not be easy to model, but the notion is, at what levels do tariffs bring in maximum revenue? High enough and the work at home gets so sloppy that people are forced to shop overseas. Higher than that and the tariff stifles internal commerce. Low enough and there's a lot of revenue because there's a lot of overseas trade: low tariff but make up the total revenue on volume.

It would be interesting to see a serious analysis of how to maximize tariff income, and how much internal taxation one might forego by doing that.


Dear Jerry,

Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski died few days ago. During the cold war he spied for USA giving information directly from the headquarters of the Warsaw Pact. Taken away from Warsaw to West Berlin as a "diplomatic post" in a van he avoided the fate of Gen. Pienkowski. Second to him, he was extremely important source of intelligence in those deciding times. He was given the American Citizenship and his officer rank was transferred to the National Guard; [he refused to accept the rank of the general]. Both his sons perished in America in dark circumstances; his death sentence in Poland was first reduced then annulled in 1997. English sources in Google:  Best regards, Stef


 Subject: Stratfor's Analysis of Chalabi

I get Stratfor's weekly mailing and thought it interesting that you had linked an article on Chalabi the same day I received Stratfor's analysis of Chalabi. Now I know more about him than I ever wanted to.... 

--Gary Pavek

Well but that's our chosen comrade don't you see...

Chalabis laughs in our face.;$sessionid

Greg Cochran



Feeling Safer Already:

Sometimes the TSA makes it too easy to scoff. (Hmm. If the TSA is "the Law", does that make me a... never mind.) 

I remember some book (one of Solzhenitsyn's, I think) that likened working for the KGB during the Stalin years to shoving people into the maw of a giant meat grinder (the gulag system). As long as there's always a fresh supply of people (convicted of various crimes against the State -- of which at least a few of them might actually have been guilty), everything is fine next to the meat grinder once you learn to ignore the victim's screaming and the splattering blood. But sometimes there is a lull the supply of people to be fed into the grinder, so the feeders have to grab one of their own and shove him/her into the maw.

I suspect that Mr. Bills would understand that analogy. But I imagine he really just wants his name cleared.

--Gary Pavek


link to the story about the black hole tearing a star apart:

-- Joe Zeff


Images of Venus:

Dr. Pournelle,

You may have already seen these, but your readers may have not... 


Bill Grigg










This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Subject: science fiction inventions

You appear several times..

Mark Huth

Yeah I do. But most of the stuff in Oath of Fealty was MINE, not Niven's. The book was written by both of us, and that's they way it should be credited, but if they are going to name just one of us...

As to implants for direct communication with computers, and later with each other, that's always been mine. And the scene they show from the book was written by me. Ah, well.

(All of that since corrected; see below)


Subject: Deja vu all over again


I tried  to tell people. Oh. Well.

Office of the Official Spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir In Pakistan

Suite # 11, Moeen Centre,

20 Abbot Rd., Lahore. Pakistan

Office No. 0426314103-4

Ph. No. 0300 441 6500

No.: PR04008

Date: 19th Feb 2004

PRESS RELEASE To fulfil American plan, Musharraf once again threatens his own people

Before initiating operation in the tribal area for the American interest, Musharraf is once again threatening people of American bombing and strikes to their nuclear instillations. While the reality is, that neither America nor India has the courage to attack Pakistan, unless, secretly our traitor rulers assure them of non-retaliation. Since September 11th, Musharraf’s policy constitutes of two basic points. Firstly, to impart fear of either America or India in the hearts of the people and secondly, to portray himself as someone who is forced to make decisions under the looming circumstances and has no better choice. Recently the humiliating investigation of the scientists and the public confession was justified using this very logic in an implicit manner. According to the ground reality, American forces are “stretched thin” as they are deployed in over a dozen countries and are practically engaged in war at two fronts. CNN and other western media have acknowledged this very fact. Therefore, at times we see America shopping for troops in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey and at others, pleading NATO countries such as Germany and France to send forces. Moreover, due to her unilateral policies, America is isolated internationally. In these circumstances, she does not have the capability to open another military front against a strong country like Pakistan, armed with nuclear and missile technology. In spite of being the strongest country in the Muslim world militarily, today Pakistan has become a fortress of sand due to the treacherous and cowardly rulers. Muslims should get rid of these rulers as soon as possible by establishing Khilafah and safeguard their assets.

Naveed Butt

The official Spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Pakistan







Hi Jerry

I've surmised, from your pages, that you appreciate good music. Also that you maintain an interest in mathematics and statistics.

I was, today, pointed toward a collection of such important musical scores that I feel they must immediately be publicized.

The Bayesian Song Book Home Page 

The song book itself 

The world must no longer be deprived of such masterpieces as "Bayesians in the Night", "P for Two" and that Broadway classic "There's No Theorem Like Bayes' Theorem".

--------------- Michael Smith, Senior Software Engineer



Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Part of the clip Mr. Mangles quoted, "...Today, 138.6m Americans are in work, a near-record, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population..."

I am one of the employed Americans. Of course, I am employed at less than half the wage I had prior to the recent economic troubles. I am (I can't remember where I heard this term) under-employed. I am making enough money so that I can go bankrupt slowly, something like being hung slowly.

I suppose I could train for a new field but I am over 50 and have already done this twice before. Having your chosen career go away three times is depressing.

As you said, "A fair day's pay for a fair day's work". In this instance, I take the first fair to mean, not just but some where between good and bad. I do not believe that 'Things' produce happiness but money is necessary in today's society. I do not expect cradle to grave security, but when it starts looking like the law of the jungle, it cannot be good for civilization.

I am almost ready for that man on horseback. I am sure that others already are looking for him. When enough do, he will appear and the Republic will then be buried and forgotten.

Patrick A. Hoage


Perhaps you shouldn't write about the topic so early in the morning, and perhaps I should be sleeping instead of reading. We seem, however, to have arrived at the same place. You're only a bit older than I, 70 vs. 56, so we are pretty much contemporaries.

There is a very difficult concept that seems to escape such brilliant men as Walter Williams. You have it. It has to do with the nature of a lovely, or lovable, country. We are not simple economic units. We have obligations to one another. Sometimes, loyalties may cross borders. I buy Bumblebee brand sardines, because they come from Poland. I have familial and political reasons for loving Poland. But usually, I look for US made stuff, because I care about my neighbors. I think that's important. It appears that you do, too.

Bill Dooley

I think I would rather pay a bit more for my sneakers and underwear and have a prosperous middle class blue collar workforce, loyal and patriotic and ready to serve the nation at need.


And on another topic

Dr Pournelle,

Uncovered: Trojans as Spam Robots

c't has gathered evidence that virus writers are selling the addresses of computers infected with trojans to spammers. The spammers use the infected systems to illegally distribute commercial e-mail messages -- without the knowledge of their owners. Furthermore, the network of trojans forms a powerful tool which the distributors of the viruses can use to, for example, launch distributed DoS attacks.

With the help of c't, a student of computer science has tracked down the authors of a computer virus. The editorial staff were able to establish contact with the virus distributors and buy IP addresses of infected machines. Because one of the virus distributors has been located in Great Britain, c't has passed on all information to Scotland Yard. By now, individuals in several countries have been arrested.

(c’t is a computer trade magazine published in Germany. The above is from their English-language edition.)

Jim Mangles


Subject: Public school programs for home-schooled kids

This seems like a good idea! 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Interesting experiment. If schools must entice students, they may find it necessary to reform a bit...





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, February 22, 2004

George Washington's Birthday

Cochran on Vlahos:

Greg Cochran sent me a note to the effect that he thought Vlahos was crazy. I asked for an expansion:

I'm not talking about the wisdom of suggested reforms for an Army involved in endless foreign war: Point is, there is no need for us to fight such a war.

"A forever war is what we have"

"But this is not a war about Iraq. This war is only beginning. America faces the prospect of continuing conflict in the Muslim World. Future conflict may look like what we have encountered in Iraq, but on a much greater scale. Future pre-emptive interventions already under active discussion by the Washington establishment include Syria -- an Iraqi "comparable" -- and Iran -- a conflict of incomparably greater magnitude. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are fragile and unstable, and Pakistan even more so. "

Crazy, like I said. We have no practical reason to be in any of those countries. We have no practical reason to be in Iraq. We have no practical reason to invade Syria or Iran. I mean, what is Syria going to do to us? Nothing. In fact we never _could_ have a practical reason to invade: synthetic oil from coal would be cheaper than Mideast oil paid for with war.

Every such intervention would be a burden on the US without any corresponding gain. Moreover, it ain't gonna happen: there's no public support for it.

What do I call someone who thinks that this is necessary and right? Crazy

Gregory Cochran

 I need to write a major essay in answer to the theory that "They're coming and it's better to fight them in Baghdad than in Boston."

It would encompass at least these points:

If they're coming, it won't be with traditional military; none of them can invade Turkey, much less the USA. Pakistan, the strongest of the lot, has been stalemated with India which is next door. How will any Arab country "come for us"? What will they bring to Boston?

Terror weapons? That argues that it is easier to stop terrorists in Baghdad than to prevent them from getting to Boston. It also argues that our presence in Baghdad will not cause more to want to come to Boston. Neither of those propositions is self-evident.

Surely it is cheaper to pay tens of billions for better intelligence systems --  technical, agents on the ground, silver bullets to buy traitors and informants -- than hundreds of billions in maintaining military forces overseas. I have not done a formal analysis of that statement but I am convinced it is true. For that matter it would have been cheaper to buy the Pakistani nuclear technologies put up for sale than to take them away from Libya.

And surely it is cheaper to keep special forces and have the ability to decapitate any regime we decide is a real threat; to keep a Navy and Air Force capable of obliterating any nuclear establishments we think are threats; and intelligence apparatus to find such things, than to send in the troops.

The blood price we will pay is, apparently, an American a day. That is the cost of Baghdad. During that time I know of no American killed in America. We have decided that 3,000 in 3 years is too many if they happen all at once, but 3 to 5 hundred a year is acceptable if the population at risk are the military. How many spies are we prepared to lose? I doubt we would lose one a day.

And when it comes to "coming after us", do not underestimate the cost of doing that. Getting people sophisticated enough to travel to the US and use US technology, yet determined enough to die for their cause, cannot be easy; one suspects that at least a few of the 19 on 911 didn't know the final outcome. Not that 911 is possible now that the rules have changed. Anyone taking over an airliner must know that the passengers will not submit so peacefully no matter how many throats are cut, passengers who resist will not face jail time if they survive (as they did prior to 911), and cockpit doors are not so easily opened as before.  It is a great deal easier to get someone to strap on a bomb and within a few hours go blow himself up at an Iraqi police office than to get him to travel for days before doing it.

And do not underestimate the "they're in our country" factor when it comes recruiting martyrs. It is far easier to persuade an Iraqi to go fight an occupier, or a Palestinian to go attack the Israelis, than to get the same people to go after the Great Satan across the water. I think we need little proof of that: once again, the casualties we have taken since 2001 have not been here.

All those factors need explication. One day I'll get to it. But it is not self evident to me that "they hate us, they are coming, we will have to fight them anyway, we may as well do it while we have a goddam army over here to do it with."  That, it turned out, wasn't even true when Patton said it of the USSR.

   And see more next week.

And an exchange from another conference:


What *is* a Unipolar Power to do? Especially when it exists on the same planet as an militant, expansionist ideology (Jihadism) to which its mere existence is a mortal threat? 

Democratic Realism An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World

By Charles Krauthammer

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004 SPEECHES 2004 Irving Kristol Lecture

AEI Annual Dinner (Washington) Publication Date: February 10, 2004 A Unipolar World

Americans have healthy aversion to foreign policy. It stems from a sense of thrift: Who needs it? We're protected by two great oceans.

We have this continent practically to ourselves. And we share it with just two neighbors, both friendly, one so friendly that its people seem intent upon moving in with us.

It took three giants of the twentieth century to drag us into its great battles: Wilson into World War I, Roosevelt into World War II, Truman into the Cold War. And then it ended with one of the great anticlimaxes in history. Without a shot fired, without a revolution, without so much as a press release, the Soviet Union simply gave up and disappeared.

It was the end of everything--the end of communism, of socialism, of

the Cold War, of the European wars. But the end of everything was also a beginning. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union died and

something new was born, something utterly new--a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe.


A reply from one of my correspondents in another conference of fairly high powered people:

I read Krauthammer's essay and conclude he is as big of a nutcase as the liberals he rails at. I accuse the neoconservatives of both impractical utopian idealism and of incompetence. Plus, their ideology is rife with internal contradictions which they are oblivious to. Kinda like the Marxists.

Krauthammer, after going on about how realism is the way to look at the world, launches into advocacy of utopianism all the while denying he is doing so. One supreme value? How many of the world's 6 billion people agree with him on that one? 5%? 1%? This guy is a nut case. The neocons are nutcases.

If democracy is such a supreme value that ought to be obvious to everyone then why is Max Boot advocating a US occupation of Iraq for decades? If democracy is such a supreme value then why does the practice of consanguineous marriage undermine its ability to function in a large chunk of the world including most of the Muslim countries and what does Krauthammer propose to do about it? (if he is even aware of the problem)

If democracy is such a supreme value then why is Sistani pushing for Sharia law in the Iraqi constitution and why are even neocons worried that Iraq is not ready for democracy?

Also, why are US troops dying in Iraq every day if the US military is so omnipotent?

The mullahs in Iran are so impressed by the US invasion and occupation of Iraq that the mullahs just rigged an election so that they could win and they still haven't abandoned their nuclear weapons development efforts.

On the other hand, perhaps Krauthammer uses the term "Democratic Globalism" rather cynically. Perhaps the term is used simply as a fig leaf to legitimize the naked exercise of military power in pursuit of interests which neocons have. So maybe Krauthammer is more realistic than he lets on.

But then he gets to the point where he starts prescribing what to do about "the roots of Arab-Islamic nihilism." and it becomes clear he doesn't know what to do:

Krauthammer attacked the "isolationists" earlier on in the article for being against immigration and comes back to attacking the "isolationists" again. But reducing the ability of Muslims to get into the US would reduce our risk of attack. Better defended borders, more stringent rules for granting visas, and more aggressive pursuit of those who are here illegally would all reduce our risk of being attacked again.

Krauthammer attacks the liberal internationalists. Well, he's just dreaming a different unrealistic dream than they are.

Then Krauthammer attacks realists for offering no vision. What?

Krauthammer offers no vision of his own. He has no plan. He has little in the way of practical suggestions.

Look at where we are today:

1) Iran is still working on nukes. The mullahs just rigged an election and won it by disqualifying most of their opponents from running. What's Krauthammer proposing to do about it?

2) Saudi Arabia is unreformed and is internally paralyzed by a struggle between theocrats and slightly moderately (and only slightly moderately) more Western factions. The kids still learn Wahhabism in schools. The women are kept down. The population continues to grow rapidly. They have a lot of oil and the rest of the world's oil fields are being depleted.

What does Krauthammer recommend?

3) Pakistan's madrassahs are totally unreformed. Al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong on the Afghan border. What does Krauthammer recommend?

4) Afghanistan is deterioriating. Ismail Khan rules his portion in the style of the Taliban and is allied with the mullahs of Iran. The Taliban are attacking schools and government officials. The place is lawless.

5) North Korea is still working on nukes.

6) Iraq is such a mess that Max Boot now advocates a US occupation that will last decades and cost tens of billions per year plus lives lost every year. The big struggle is over sharia law. Democracy? The Sunnis see it as a tool for Shia domination.

More commentary next week.






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