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Mail 298 February 23 - 29, 2004






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Monday  February 23, 2004

As usual there was considerable mail over the weekend. Start there... We are still in short shrift mode, although I did some commentaries over the weekend.

Begin with security:

Subject: SECURITY - IMPORTANT - Windows Update CD and other fixes include Win9x

Dr. Pournelle:

Three items:

First: The Microsoft CD with Windows patches up to October 2003 is available for order , says MS (link: ).

"The Windows Security Update CD will be shipped to you free of charge. This CD includes Microsoft critical updates released through October 2003 and information to help you protect your PC. In addition, you will also receive a free antivirus and firewall trial software CD. This CD is only available for Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows 98 Second Edition (SE). "The Windows Security Update CD will be shipped to you free of charge. This CD includes Microsoft critical updates released through October 2003 and information to help you protect your PC. In addition, you will also receive a free antivirus and firewall trial software CD.

"This CD is only available for Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows 98 Second Edition (SE). Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery."

They will ask for an email address (for order verification/status), and your shipping address.

Secondly: Microsoft has been releasing updates (via automatic updates or Windows Update) that will sense if you system has the MyDoom, Blaster, and other similar worms. It will remove these virus/worms from your system, and the other updates will give you further protection.

Thirdly: There are press reports of MS releasing a fix for the "ASN" library problem for Win9x systems. (Win2K/XP systems patches are already available.) I've only had time for a quick search of their site, and haven't found it yet; so will report on it's link later (unless someone else chimes in).

So the regular mantra ("Windows Update, Virus Update, Firewall" * 3 ) is applicable to Win9x systems.

Regards: Rick Hellewell,


On USB 2.0 Support:

Windows XP and USB 2.0

Hi Jerry,

I think that the problem you described in your latest column regarding USB 2.0 and Windows XP is because Windows XP didn't include support for USB 2.0 until SP1. So, when you do your "base" install of Windows XP, it sees the USB controllers, but only as version 1.1. When you then install SP1, the necessary support is now available, but until you "uninstall" them and then let XP discover them again, the drivers don't get updated.

More information at;en-us;312370&Product=winxp.

Glenn Hunt

That's probably it, and I should have thought of it. Thanks! But Intel says do things in the order specified in the column.


There was a mention of Science Fiction technologies last week. It left me out. It has been fixed.



Both of the Oath of Fealty mentions that I saw in a quick mention gave you the primary mention, as "Jerry Pournelle (w/L. Niven)"

He mentions your website "(which might well be the web's first blog)" so it may be that he corrected what it used to say between your Saturday comment and my late Sunday following of the link.

One problem with the Web is that it is hard to tell when a correction has been made. As someone who grew up with books, and back issues of magazines and newspapers in my local library, I'm not sure how I think of correctible media.

Greg Goss

Indeed. I wrote him after I posted that and the fix was done within an hour or so.



From your mail page:

"They're coming and it's better to fight them in Baghdad than in Boston."

Good stuff!

"I need to write a major essay..." Look forward to it.

It might be cheaper to send all of to us space than conquer all of the Muslim world (cheaper by the dozen--or at least million).

From farther down the page:

"The big struggle is over sharia law. Democracy? The Sunnis see it as a tool for Shia domination."

They learn quick! That's the difference between a representative government and a democracy. Serve them right if we decided to break Iraq into three pieces and give them to Turkey, Jordan, and Iran (or to the highest bidder).

But on to serious stuff: Sequel to Footfall?

Gary S. Breschini, Ph.D. Coyote Press / Archaeological Consulting

=================================================================== Visit our website at Or, our new site at: ===================================================================


I don't know that it is worth anyone responding to such a shallow speech by Krauthammer, but I would encourage you to expound on the topic. On top of John Q. Adams, I like Teddy Roosevelt: "Walk softly and carry a big stick". It is simply not necessary or wise for the US to stick our nose into every issue that besets the global community. In particular, while we may encourage others in a good cause, that does not mean that we need to take part in those actions. While regrettable, the dictatorship in Iraq was simply not at the level of threat that would require actions by our military. Do we invade Zimbabwe because Mugabe is a terrible man? Our actions present a threat in the eyes of many who do not need to be threatened. In particular, N. Korea is paranoid enough without our adding to their sense of threat.

Charles Simkins

And an important letter with some major data on Saudi Arabia

Subject: Saudi Arabia

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Some of your correspondents and various pundits still show ignorance of Muslim customs in general and Saudi Arabia in particular.

Prince Abdullah is the acting king in Saudi Arabia. This is the result of a transition taking place while I was there in 1996. What most Americans do not seem to understand is that he rules with the advice and consent of the royal family, said to be about 4000 people while I was there. The actual figure was never published. They have distinctive license plates on their automobiles and a reserved section on every Saudi Airlines flight. What Americans do not realize is that if the King or his acting substitute does not accept the input from the royal family, he will be deposed or killed. It has happened. The royal family likes things the way they are, and sees no reason to change.

The way things are is that the royal family runs Saudi Arabia. They own the country. Their power base comes from the alliance formed by King Ibn Saud (and yes, I know his Arabic name) with the conservative Wahhabi sect of Sunni Muslims. Ibn Saud also married into virtually every tribe in Saudi Arabia, having about three hundred wives at one time. This required special dispensation, since the Qur'an limits a man to four wives, with special rules regarding how multiple wives must be treated. Muslims have surrendered themselves to God's will, and regard commands from the male head of the family, sheikh of the tribe, and the ruler of the country as being from God or his designated representative, who, as a Muslim, will only do as God wishes. Let us set aside any comments on the reality of that for the moment, it is the accepted belief. Democracy is not a part of such a system. If leaders are elected, they will be those named by the existing leaders, who will be expected to nominate whomever the clergy recommends.

Women are indeed in a class by themselves in Saudi Arabia. They are very restricted in dress and behavior, and subject to being beaten with half-meter sticks by religious police for immodest appearance or perceived sinful behavior. The women have lived by these rules for about 1400 years, and know how to prosper. Women have a closed society, and no man would dare invade it. Even the religious police are careful about entering rooms, and they have every right under Muslim law.

The idealists in America would have these countries convert overnight to democracy. These idealists are living a dream, and do not understand the people or their mores, customs and history. Slavery ended in Saudi Arabia by royal decree in 1965. The thinking person only needs to review United States History to know how successful that was. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be unto him) worked very hard to assure that the rights of women and orphans would be honored. Such rights as they had in 632 AD have changed little, but even those would not exist without his influence.

Americans who wish to understand the Middle East can start by visitng a Muslim book store. English translations of the Qur'an (holy book), Shariah (laws), Sunnah (customs), and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are on sale there.


William L. Jones

wljones (at)

So now what?

Dear Jerry:

Your essay on whether or not it is better to fight them here than there struck a note with me...a somewhat sour one. For more than 20 years my day job was in the security industry. The entire industry is also called "Loss Prevention". It is a very Zen discipline because if you're doing it right, nothing ever happens.

This leads to some bright MBA, searching for yet another cost to cut, asking what seems like a reasonable question. "Why do we have all of this security? Nothing ever happens around here?" And, of course, it was that kind of thinking that led to 9/11.

Airport security was little more than a bad joke, a Potemkin Village of measures that did not and could not work because they were always done at the lowest costs and the people on the front line were so badly paid that the turnover was the worst in the industry. As long as cost was the driver, nothing would ever improve.

Despite this war in Iraq, we are not any safer. Not a whit! The reason is that the money we should be using for improving the security of the Homeland has, instead, gone into this feckless adventure. The impact is felt in a million little ways, from the police officer who is absent from his post because his National Guard unit was called up to fight abroad, to the lack of money to adopt a communications technology that was tolled out years ago and, ironically, was battle tested on 9/11 by the New York Dept of Emergency Services. They'd had it 11 days and it was the reason that they recovered so quickly when No 7 World Trade Center (where their HQ was) collapsed.

Security requires lots of money to do properly and so does Intelligence, and, if done properly, the results can never be known to most of us. Until we accept that and spend the money, we won't be any safer. Spending the money may not make us safer, I admit, but not spending it more or less guarantees that those who mean us ill will succeed.

The War on Terrorism is a Hundred Year (or more) Global enterprise. It requires a steadfastness and commitment that our short-term culture is ill prepared for. We have the best soldiers and the best technology. All that remains is to summon the political will to see the conflict through. That cannot be done on the cheap.


Francis Hamit

I don't think it takes that long. We can close the borders to our enemies, and deploy many of the resources we put into invading the Middle East into border control and energy independence. As Cochran has observed wars are expensive ways to get oil.

But we have to be serious about this, and our politicians are not. Bush is serious but he is ill advised by the Krauthammers and other neocons who are determined to invade everyone who might be a threat to us -- as if Yemen has the resources to send an invading army! And as if it would cost less to deal with security matters than to send the military into unwilling lands and keep our enemies under suppression.

The cheapest solution of course is to nuke potential enemies into the Stone Age. That is hardly acceptable. But there are certainly easier ways to neutralize threats than to invade countries and generate even more enemies. See my thoughts on that last time.

And a good story from in country:

From Afghanistan Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 9:43 AM

Story of the week;

So we are up in the mountains at about 0100 hrs looking for a bad guy that we thought was in the area. Here are ten of us, pitch black, crystal clear night, about 25 degrees. We know there are bad guys in the area, a few shots have been fired but no big deal. We decide that we need air cover and the only thing in the area is a solo B-1 bomber.

He flies around at about 20,000 feet and tells us there is nothing in the area. He then asks if we would like a low level show of force.

Stupid question. Of course we tell him yes.

The controller who is attached to the team then is heard talking to the pilot. Pilot asks if we want it subsonic or supersonic.

Very stupid question. Pilot advises he is twenty miles out and stand by. The controller gets us all sitting down in a line and points out the proper location.

You have to picture this. Pitch black, ten killers sitting down, dead quiet and overlooking this about 30 mile long valley.

All of a sudden, way out (below our level) you see a set of four 200' white flames coming at us. The controller says, "Ah-- guys-- you might want to plug your ears". Faster than you can think a B-1, supersonic, 1000' over our heads, blasts the sound barrier and it feels like God just hit you in the head with a hammer. He then stands it straight up with 4 white trails of flame coming out and disappears.

Cost of gas for that: Probably $50,000

Hearing damage: For certain

Bunch of ragheads thinking twice about shooting at us: Priceless


And if you don't have enough to read:

Subject: Sunday Observer Articles of Interest,1373,1153576,00.html,12780,873826,00.html,12374,1153530,00.html (But see below)


Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of 

Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and 





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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 On Global Warming

Dear Dr. Pournelle, The Guardian column that Harry Erwin sent you yesterday was headlined 'Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us'. However, in addition to being a tad hysterical, it contained some major errors.

1) The report was neither classifed, secret, nor suppressed. I read about it months ago. 2) It was prepared by the Pentagon, not for the Pentagon. 3) This is not a forecast, it is a contingency plan. It is the Pentagon's job to prepare contingency plans for all contingencies (no matter how remote), especially if they could actually threaten the security of the US. 4) It dealt with the issues of rapid climate change, rather than global warming. The issue of rapid climate change is disconnected from the issue of whether global warming is anthropogenic. We know for a fact that the Earth's climate has been warming gradually for 400 years, since the end of the 'Little Ice Age' in the 1600's. We know for a fact (from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores) that climate can change drastically in the space of less than ten years. We are still arguing over whether the global warming observed over the last 50 years is anthropogenic and what the effects will be in the future.

If this is what our friends are writing about us ...

Sincerely, Larry Weinstein

----------------------------------------------------------- Lawrence Weinstein Professor of Physics Graduate Program Director Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA 

  I Was wondering if someone would notice that. Thanks. The Guardian is interesting but not reliable in many matters...

And Dr. Erwin says

Yes, that's what our friends are writing about us. The Guardian and Observer are left of centre, but are representative of the thinking of a large part of the UK. Most commentators on the BBC have similar views.

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



Dr Pournelle,

War on Terror

‘The War on Terrorism is a Hundred Year (or more) Global enterprise…        I don't think it takes that long. We can close the borders to our enemies…’

From what I saw and learned in Saudi Arabia twenty or so years ago, I’d say Mr Hamit is just about right on the button; all he says matches what I know.

I think he is right and you are flat wrong about how long it will take for us to win; it is easily going to take one hundred years, probably far more. I have long been of the view, ever since I lived in Saudi and saw Islam close up, that this was going to prove a far, far harder task of control (never mind final victory) than Communism and the Soviet Union ever did in the Cold War.

The tools and techniques we will need for this task have barely started being invented and developed ; in large measure we don’t even know what most of these will have to be yet. Be assured that shear military might— just what the US has aplenty— is going to be a very small part of the answer, and indeed will prove directly counterproductive in many situations. I do not believe this war can be won by brute force, however subtly it may be applied. It has to be won by persuasion, by reason and by, in a sort of a way, friendship— which is something Americans can do very well when they set their minds to it.

As for closing your borders to your enemies: don’t kid yourselves.  The last several decades have demonstrated that for all the power and might of the United States, and the strong motivation of the so-call ‘War against Drugs’ (now effectively lost, in my view) you cannot close your borders effectively. Even the Berlin Wall didn’t work all that well, and the Stasi were really ruthless.

What’s more Jihaddi suicide bombers are far— you might say, infinitely— more powerfully motivated to succeed than any drug smuggler, who does what he does for mere money. This kind of suicide bomber does what he does not for money, but for the glorification of Allah and in the certainty  of eternal life in Paradise— and they really believe this.

They will come over the border from Mexico or Canada with their chemical or biological or nuclear weapons in suitcases, rest assured. Eventually it will happen; it cannot be prevented every time they try. And try and try they will.

If the United Sates was to settle for a policy of border controls and big stick military responses, I’d be tempted to suggest changing the national bird of the US from eagle to ostrich— you know, the kind with its head stuck in the ground.

Jim Mangles

In other words, we must conquer and occupy the world in order to be safe. It is easier to do that than to close the borders to enemies.

That is silly, as you must know. The problems with border control here are matters of will, not of ability. You say we cannot close the borders. I say that we can't conquer and reform the world. But if we must try one or the other of those alternatives, it's pretty clear which is the least impossible.

As to the motivation of all those jihadists, I suppose it has manifested itself in the tens of thousands who have swarmed here after Bin Laden demonstrated that you could do it on 911. I have more on this in view.

Just saw this on Yahoo News:

Note the "hypervelocity rod bundles" -- sounds like Thor!

Keep up the good work,


Yep. About time, but hurrah.

Feeling safer already: Boycott Delta for One Year

Subject: Pre-flight rudeness

Having read your previous experiences when flying, I thought you might find this experience interesting, if not infuriating. Look at the very bottom of the article under the heading "Aggravating/Enjoyable travel note of the week". 

"Rules are Rules". Unbelievable. That experience reminds us that we really are hostages when traveling by air.

Rob Madison

The story is well down in the text. It is about what you would expect. King will not fly Delta for one year as a result of this. Neither will I, in sympathy. Of course I fly as little as possible anyway, due to the nonsensical rules they have imposed. But Delta is right out until February, 2005.

Dr. Pournelle,  is an activist site but it covers pretty thoroughly what is happening to all airlines, not just Delta, as they sell a transportation service while wearing a 500lb security monkey on their backs. Take your popup blocker.

Sean Long

I have some sympathy for the airlines, but the rudeness of some of their employees, as Peter King describes, is inexcusable. If Delta were to discipline those two morons I would reconsider; but of course they won't do that.

The fact is that TSA isn't providing us with much more security -- real security -- than we had prior to 911. But they have worked the will of the terrorists in helping destroy our airlines.

Carnival Booth algorithm makes CAPS worse than random searches.

Did you happen to look at the MIT student paper that was linked-to at The jist of it is CAPS will decrease security, because the system is transparent as to who is selected for increased scrutiny, and who isn't. Thus the terrorists can send everyone through clean, see who escapes the CAPS flag, and then use those persons on a mission. The MIT guys call this the "Carnival Booth" algorithm: "Step right up! See if you're a winner!"

The paper is at

Mike Juergens

When a stupid man does something he knows is wrong, he always insists that it is his duty. TSA isn't known for competence to begin with.


Samuel Edward Konkin III, RIP

My friends,

I've been putting this off since last night. I don't want to be writing this. Please feel free to forward this as appropriate. and to get back to me for further information.

Yesterday, on the properly Discordian 23rd of February, Samuel Edward Konkin III passed away to the hereafter, in his apartment in West Los Angeles, California. He was found collapsed in his apartment by his landlord in early afternoon. I got the call from Sam's client, David Silvers of Beverly Hills Publishing, just before 2:00 PM. I went over to Sam's apartment, identified his body officially for the police who were waiting for the LA County Coroner, and thumbed through Sam's organizer until I found the number for Sam's brother, Alan, in Edmonton Alberta. I left a callback number and when Alan called me a few minutes later, I told him, and made arrangements for me to act as his proxy in any way necessary until he comes to L.A.

Alan tells me that his plans, in accordance with Sam's mother, are to return Sam's remains to Edmonton where Sam will be buried next to his father, Samuel Konkin II. Alan will be consulting with Sam's friends here on a "Sam-appropriate" Los Angeles memorial service, likely in mid March. Also the next meeting of the Karl Hess Club, which Sam founded, will be dedicated to memories of Sam. I'll say details when I know them to be factual and final.

There is so much that I want to say -- have to say -- about Sam that this can only be a beginning.

Sam may only have had one biological brother. But he was my brother, also, in every other sense.

I first met Sam in 1971 in New York City, at the first libertarian meeting I ever attended, the New York Libertarian Association, in Gary Greenberg's living room. I had already started a campus libertarian group at the branch of City University of New York that I was attending. Sam, a believer in the "libertarian alliance" concept of stringing together libertarian groups, immediately found this naive 18-year-old worth talking to. We found out almost immediately that we shared an interest in science fiction (particularly Robert A. Heinlein) and the works of C.S. Lewis, whose Narnian chronicles I'd read as a child. Sam was only the second other person in my life I'd met who had read Heinlein, and the first other person I'd met who'd read Lewis. It was Sam who told me that Lewis had written more than the Narnian children's books, introduced me to Lewis's nonfiction and adult fiction, and took me to my first meeting of the C.S. Lewis Society of New York, which we attended together regularly. Sam also took me to my first science-fiction convention, Lunacon, in New York City, and to my first world science fiction convention, Torcon, in Toronto, ON, in 1973, and to my first meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We joined the just-formed C.S. Lewis Society of Southern California together in 1975, and Sam and I each served on its governing council for a number of terms.

Other than a few long letters I'd written at age 16 for my high-school underground newspaper, Sam was my first publisher. He published my first fiction and my first articles in his magazine, New Libertarian Notes. He took me to lectures where I met Murray Rothbard, and introduced me to the writings of Ludwig von Mises. Sam's seminal writings on counter-economics became the deep background of my first novel, Alongside Night, which is dedicated to him. He's also on the dedication page of my short story collection, Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories.

Sam took me to my first libertarian conference at Hunter College in New York City, where I first met Robert LeFevre.

And Sam and I tooled around New York City, searching out "underground gourmet" restaurants, and always (on the first day when possible) catching the latest Woody Allen movie or the latest James Bond movie. He also ate many of my mom's home-cooked meals at my parents' apartment of the West Side of Manhattan. Sam was a speaker at both of the CounterCon conferences I organized in 1974 and 1975.

I have too many stories to tell. I'll get to them soon, I'll get to them.

We left New York together to come out to the promised land, Southern California. Our automobile journey west with two other libertarians (Bob "Kedar" Cohen and Andy Thornton), in July and August 1975, took us to the Rivercon science fiction in St. Louis and to the home of science-fiction magazine publisher Richard E. Geis in Seattle, before we arrived in Los Angeles on August 10, 1975, where we spent our first night sleeping on the apartment floor of Dana Rohrabacher, Sam's libertarian mentor, and now U.S. Congressman from Orange County, CA.

I just got off the phone with Congressman Rohrabacher, who remembers Sam fondly, and spoke fondly of his genius and imagination.

Dana introduced us to Chris Schaefer, who managed an apartment complex in Long Beach. This became the AnarchoVillage (named after Sam's recent six-floor walk-up apartment on East 11th Street in NYC which he'd dubbed the AnarchoSlum) and we lived two apartments away from each other until 1984. Many, many days were spent collating, folding, stapling, and mailing out magazines (many with articles of mine) with eating and drinking afterwards. When I was broke in those day's, Sam was always happy to pick up the check and lay a "meal ob" on me.

A few years later I returned the favor when I set Sam up in an apartment he dubbed the AnarchoVilla, on Overland Avenue in Culver City. That apartment was production central for my book publishing. Sam was the production backbone and book designer for every book that came out from Pulpless.Com, and a talented graphic artist for many of the covers.

I would not be who I am, what I am, or where I am if it were not for Sam. With rare exception, I would not have met my current friends, including a long list of prominent authors. If I had succeeded in becoming a writer, I would not have written any of the books I've written. I would be living an unrecognizable life in an alternate universe. I know lots of other writers who can make the same statement.

One of my last extended conversations with Sam was my using knowledge, logic, and vocabulary I learned from Sam to challenge his premise that there was no reason to consider the existence of God. At the end of that conversation, Sam was left without challenges and said that he thought I'd made a comprehensive case. If my case was correct, then Sam already knows it.

We'll resume that debate whenever Sam and I find ourselves on the same side of that Great Divide ... and wherever that might be, as before, I am confident there will be plenty of dark beer to lubricate the philosophy.

J. Neil Schulman



Subject: All Americans Ought to See This

From Aleta Jackson

This picture of the statue below was made by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad. This artist was so grateful that the Americans liberated his country, he melted 3 of the fallen Saddam heads and made a memorial statue dedicated to the American soldiers and their fallen comrades. Kalat worked on this night and day for several months.

To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms. It is currently on display outside the palace that is now home to the 4th Infantry division. It will eventually be shipped and shown at the memorial museum in Fort Hood, Texas.




Subject: Beria wept.

--- Roland Dobbins

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

-- A.E. Houseman


Subject: Norilsk Journal.

---- Roland Dobbins

Lest we forget.



Subject: Banana Republic. 

--- Roland Dobbins

I have Buckley's annual fund raising appeal letter for National Review. It came yesterday. I can't imagine why they sent it to me. I have, since student days, given National Review some money, even when it was pretty hard to do it, because I thought highly of it. Of course in those early days Possony had "The Protracted Conflict" column, and Russell Kirk had a column, and Burnham had his say. But last Fall National Review had the egregious Frum read Stephen Tonsor and people like me out of the conservative ranks, so why do they ask me for money now?

I am sending Buckley a letter to that effect although I do not believe I will get an answer.




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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ash Wednesday


Subject: Today's Microsoft email-borne worm ( priority one). 

------ Roland Dobbins

More on that one:

Dr. Pournelle:

The next MyDoom virus (release "F") is spreading. This one is more dangerous, as it will delete files. This is from the McAfee/Network Associates alert:

"A variant of the original Mydoom virus, W32/Mydoom.f@MM is a Medium Risk mass-mailing worm that can open up hacker backdoors on infected systems and launch denial-of-service attacks that target and domains.

"Note: Unlike previous versions of Mydoom, Mydoom.f can also delete image, movie, Excel and Word files on an infected machine."

On this version, the executable is hidden inside a ZIP file. If your mail filter is not able to 'look inside' zip files for executables, the mail will be delivered. (An important feature of a good spam/virus mail filter, IMHO.) The user will still have to open the executable inside the ZIP to become infected. (Details about MyDoom.F here: )

This one seems to be the latest escalation in viruses. It was just a mater of time before really damaging viruses (deleting files, etc) appeared.

Regards, Rick Hellewell, Information Security Guy,

and more yet:




Hi Jerry,

A new one running rampant through our network today, and the systems are not protected -- yet --

McAfee and Norton have updated definition files out there now.


Greg H

WORM_NETSKY.B aka W32/Netsky.b@MM

This mass mailing worm arrives with the following information: Subject: (any of the following) hello read it immediately something for you warning information stolen fake unknown Message body: (any of the following) * anything ok? * what does it mean? * ok * i'm waiting * read the details. * here is the document. * read it immediately! * my hero * here * is that true? * is that your name? * is that your account? * i wait for a reply! * is that from you? * you are a bad writer * I have your password! * something about you! * kill the writer of this document! * i hope it is not true! * your name is wrong * i found this document about you * yes, really? * that is bad * here it is * see you * greetings * stuff about you? * something is going wrong! * information about you * about me * from the chatter * here, the serials * here, the introduction * here, the cheats * that's funny * do you? * reply * take it easy * why? * thats wrong * misc * you earn money * you feel the same * you try to steal * you are bad * something is going wrong * something is fool Attachment: The file name can be any of the following: * msg * doc * talk * message * creditcard * details * attachment * me * stuff * posting * textfile * concert * information * bill * swimmingpool * product * topseller * ps * shower * aboutyou * nomoney * found * story * mails * website * friend * jokes * location * final * release * dinner * ranking * object * mail2 * part2 * disco * party * misc * #n#o#t#n#e#t#s#k#y#-#s#k#y#n#e#t#! The first extension, which may or may not appear, can be any of the following: * RTF * DOC * HTM The second extension can be any of the following: * SCR * COM * PIF This worm Creates 40 .zip files in the %Windir% folder, which contain copies of the worm. The names of these files match the Attachment Names above.

Technical Details: Creates a mutex named "AdmSkynetJKIS003." This mutex allows only one instance of the worm to execute. May display a dialog box with the text: The file could not be opened! Copies itself as %Windir%\services.exe. *Note: %Windir% is a variable. The worm locates the Windows installation folder (by default, this is C:\Windows or C:\Winnt) and copies itself to that location. Adds the value: * "service" = "%Windir%\services.exe -serv" to the registry key: * HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run so that the worm runs when you start Windows. Deletes the values: * "Taskmon" * "Explorer" from the registry keys: * HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run * HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices Deletes the values: * "KasperskyAV" * "System." from the registry key: * HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run Deletes the registry key: * HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{E6FB5E20-DE35-11CF-9C87-00AA005127ED}\InProcServer32 Mcafee definitions files 4325 Symantec definition files dated: February 18th






Subject: UN-IMPORTANT VIRUS INFO (but humorous)

Dr. Pournelle:

At the risk of being politically incorrect, this "virus" message is making the rounds (and there are variants):

"ehican Virus





Regards, Rick Hellewell,


Dr Pournelle,

Roman history re-written

Introducing the Emperor Domitianus,,2-1014435,00.html

Richard Abdy, curator of Roman coins at the British Museum, said yesterday: “This find rewrites history; it is the final piece in a jigsaw. Only the archaeological evidence of this coin shows that he was indeed emperor and provides us with a face to go with history’s forgotten ruler.”

As well as the name of Domitianus, the coin bears the Latin abbreviations for “Imperial” and “Caesar”.

Jim Mangles

On this one I know nothing, but if I get a chance I'll look into it. Unfortunately the link is "behind registration" and I am registered for enough junk mail as it is.


AMD and INTEL and 64 bits

Just caught up with this weeks column and I see you've found about Prescott's heat problems the hard way. If you have the time (and you haven't already seen it) then the following video is worth watching. It's a talk given by a former Intel design architect about the evolution of the IA32 line and goes into problems like heat. 

I agree with you to some extent on the public buying 64 bit because it's bigger (and therefore must be better) than 32. In practice, clock for clock, the speed improvement seems to be in the order of 10-15% (it slows some application down, some go faster). Beyond this and more importantly the three ideas that AMD had that make the AMD64 worth considering were lower power technology (Cool & Quiet, 30 & 50 Watt server class Opterons etc), on-chip memory controllers (lower memory latencies - it can take a P4 up to 500 clocks if there is a cache miss) and high IO bandwidth (up to 3 of 6.4GB/sec HT channels).

Don't get me wrong, I want to see Intel catch up/leapfrog AMD. If there wasn't any competition then we would have slower and much more expensive CPUs today (remember the way performance shot up back when the Athlon came out and there was the race to 1GHz). On the other hand today they are behind the curve and people are starting to tell them.


Steve Todd

I find Prescott runs hot but reliably, and I'm still pounding on the new Prescott system. I like it enough that it will replace one of my "mains" once I get all improvements final. But the real changes are coming later this year with new form factors, and that will have new heat compensation systems.


And one I definitely need to look at:

Subject: OS/X Hands-On Training.

---- Roland Dobbins


Joe Zeff finds an interesting story:

I was looking through an odd website, , a compilation of various roadside attractions, museums and oddities and came upon this: . Some soldiers of the 101st Airborne realized that they were stationed at the site where the opening scenes of The Exorcist were filmed and got inspired. They ended up building a car park and hotel, hiring local guides and opened a theme park that will eventually be turned over to the Iraqis.

-- Joe Zeff

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

Now to get tourism going. This morning's paper had pictures of smiling troops glad to get to Kuwait alive after an overland trip from Baghdad. Of course it was the LA TIMES, so the news reliability isn't as high as it might be. Maybe they were just glad to be going home.

On the topic of newspapers, Re: The Guardian

 The Guardian is, in practice, what the UK equivalent of Washington insiders read & pretty much only them. All newspapers make their profits at least as much through advertising as from sales. The advertising in the Guardian is almost exclusively for government or government controlled organisations, often for jobs in such places. quite strange but real advertisers presumably know what they are doing.

Neil Craig

You will gather I don't like them much - they parade their "liberal" sensibilities but were quite unambiguous about supporting people who they must have known were Nazis in Yugoslavia. You will gather that, unlike everybody else, I consider the Yugoslav wars a touchstone for many things.



Subject: So thats how we improve the economy

Hey Jerry

Speaking of Voodoo Sciences. 

sorry if link is not working correctly but you must read this.


  So: if you go to work at MacDonalds making hamburgers you are in "manufacturing". Wow!!


Subject: The teacher unions exist to defend the least competent teachers, and they do it well.

The best description I've ever seen of what a union does was from the brother of a friend of mine, who worked in a steel mill.

Here it is ... "being a member of the union means that I don't have to be any smarter than the dumbest guy at the shop and I don't have to work any harder than the laziest."

That pretty well sums it up, doesn't it.

Jack Smith Clifton, VA

Does and doesn't. Among people with well developed work ethics, unions may be an absolute necessity because the pressure of unlimited free enterprise and particularly free trade is to take every little advantage you can get. Now if your view is that the world is a better place if everyone works as hard as possible, as long as possible, for as little as possible, then a no unions, laissez faire, "unions are conspiracies in restraint of trade" view of the world is probably correct.

If you think that citizens deserve a few benefits from the country they have created and must defend, you might have a different view.

Alas, the teacher unions have gone beyond utility, and they threaten us in an area where we can't afford to be this lax. Credentialism is the weapon of choice: if you have the (rather useless and mostly meaningless) credentials, then you deserve a position teaching kids no matter how bad the outcome. Sigh.

Of course local control has its odd moments too: 

Please note carefully where the slogan on the T-shirts came from in the first place.

I suspect that certain people in the local school system need to lighten up a bit.





On Global Economy

The piece way below (whole thing included so you can skip the commercial) conforms to my experience of an internal MS call center from ten years ago, excepting that the process is accelerated, an MS often thought that they might actually try and solve your problem. Sometimes, anyways ("F_riendly D_isk I_nteractive S_earch K_it"). 

It also highlights something that seem quite evident to me, that tends to be completely ignored in the 'Cheap goods from China helps the economy' debate. That is the fact that goods are cheaper not so much because the Chinese (or whomever) work for less so much as the goods themselves are simply of a lower and constantly declining quality. To my eye, there has been a rapid and steady decline in the quality of everything, at least at the low end, starting from around 1992-93ish. It used to be that the lowball motherboard from Taiwan worked reasonably well. Now the lowball motherboard is from China, and at least a 1/3 of the time suffers from major problems out of the box.

For example: I acquired an old Ford truck, because I like old Ford trucks. (They were made of steel, for one thing.) It is, however, 25 years old, and I've had to go through and replace the worn out parts.

It started acting up one evening and I was checking it out on the side of the road, and the coil wire broke off inside the coil. It was on my list of things to replace anyways, and I thought that might have caused the problem so I went to the nearest Autozone. It seem they mostly only speak Spanish there. So, after much communication difficulty (essentially, I had to run the computer parts ID system for her) I managed to get the non-English speaking young lady to go back and get my part. Got back to the truck, slapped the coil and the wire in, and it still didn't run right. Managed to get it home. Next day, it wouldn't run at all. After much time and ignition part replacements, it occured to me to check the electrical qualities of the coil. Coil resistance is supposed to be 1.05-1.15 ohms, and this thing clocked in at 1.4 ohms or so. Ah, on the back, it said "Made in Mexico". I cleaned out the coil wire connector on the _25-year-old_ Ford OEM coil that the thing had been running, tested it, slapped it in and it started right up, rust and all.

Moral (besides 'Autozone sucks'): Everything is starting to resemble the old Soviet supply system. I mean, they have a part for my 25-year-old vehicle (still immensely popular, even though it was made in 'Detroit's darkest days'), it's just that it doesn't work right and it's the wrong part anyways. The old Soviet system was based on having a large number of incompetent workers spend three weeks assembling a very simple design with reasonable quality in 10% of the numbers needed. Followed by one week of making the other 90% of the needed quantity in bad to abysmal quality.

Come to think of it, much of the pro-globalization argument seems to be implicitly Marxist - labor is labor, all goods are equivalent, and we need to spread the benefits of America's wealth to everybody even if it hurts us to do so. Particularly if it hurts us to do so. (Or in the more masochistic style: 'American workers are dumb and can't compete and we deserve to lose to the infinitely smarter Chinese.')


['Denmark. Rotten. (Fish!)']

"We don't support that" We're not here to help fix your computer. We just want to get you off the phone. A tech-support slave tells his hellish tale.

Editor's note: All names have been changed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - By Kyle Killen

Feb. 23, 2004 | Class officially started three hours ago, but our instructor has not yet arrived. This is not uncommon. By now many of my classmates have begun to bring cards, magazines and DVDs to pass the time. "The Matrix" is playing on someone's laptop and has attracted a small crowd in the back of the room. The fact that we're being paid largely to sit around and entertain ourselves has been the source of lots of jokes and smiles, but in the back of our minds we can't help but be concerned.

Several people confess that they've never done more with a computer than check their e-mail. Others admit they haven't even gotten that far. An impromptu contest develops to see exactly who knows the least. There are lots of contenders. I'm listening to them battle for the crown of incompetence as I'm dealt a new hand of cards when a frightening thought occurs to me. Our clueless bunch is now part of the technical-support staff for one of the world's top three computer manufacturers, and in seven days we're going to be taking your calls.


- - - - - -


Subject: xm radio buffy willow


Haven’t seen this mentioned on your site…but…I purchased an XM radio for my car about a year ago and have become addicted to XM radio. I’ve added a receiver at home as well. I found that I loathed commercial radio and my listening fell off over the past decade. I did (and do) listen to public radio and actively support it. However, the fantastic, amazing selection and quality of XM radio has converted me from commercial radio. My sons (ages 6 and 11) both beg me to turn on the XM “stories”. Turns out that XM has channels which play books and drama, Sonic Theater which plays lots of science fiction and science ( and XM Radio Classics ( ) which plays classic radio. I listen to a lot of “classical” music and there is plenty available. I like the idea of real people acting as disk jockeys and responding to email and requests. Cheap computer hookup available as which is what I’ve got in the house…hooked to computer to run channel selection software and plays through the stereo.

As always, I’ve no commercial interest except as delighted listener. Give a listen. 

Mark Huth

I have a number of friends who are enthusiasts for satellite radio. I haven't tried it yet, partly because I find KUSC quite satisfying, and my radio is nailed to that station... If I didn't have KUSC, there is KMOZART; but this is Los Angeles. Others don't have those choices...

SCO has started selling licenses on their web site. The indispensable GROKLAW goes over the license, and points out a few howlers, here: 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

I wonder how many they have sold?


Subject: Global what?

Jerry: I previously sent you a URL to NASA earth observatory. The page now has a (Semi) permanent url:

 And a related article on the "asian brown cloud":

Sorry for the lengths. And the pentagons take,3858,4864237-110970,00.html

 Regards, Chris C

A tree: first you chop it down, then you chop it up. George Carlin


Dr. Pournelle,

I've sent you email before on the dumb TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing that is done in Texas (I send my kids to a private Christian school where phonics based reading is begun in preK-3 year olds and kindegarten kids read books).

The below quote may be appropriate to post:

 February 24, 2004 

Education Chief Calls Union 'Terrorist,' Then Recants By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 - Education Secretary Rod Paige said Monday that the National Education Association, one of the nation's largest labor unions, was like "a terrorist organization" because of the way it was resisting many provisions of a school improvement law pushed through Congress by President Bush in 2001.

Mr. Paige made the comment in a private meeting with governors at the White House, just hours before the president stepped up the tempo of his re-election campaign with a speech attacking his Democratic opponents.

The secretary later apologized for a poor choice of words, but repeated his criticism of the teachers' union as a group of obstructionists.

His initial remark was described by four governors and confirmed by the Education Department. "The secretary was responding to a question," said Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for Mr. Paige. "He said he considered the N.E.A. to be a terrorist organization."

The governors who recounted Mr. Paige's remarks were two Democrats, Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan and James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, and two Republicans, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Linda Lingle of Hawaii.

Ms. Granholm said the governors were "all a little bit stunned" to hear the union described that way.

Mr. Huckabee said Secretary Paige "was trying to point out that one reason it's been so difficult to execute real reform is that a lot of people in teachers' unions are trying to protect the status quo."

And Governor Lingle said, "He's frustrated" by the N.E.A.'s "lack of support for a law that's clearly aimed at helping all children." She said Mr. Paige had complained that the union seemed concerned more about its 2.7 million members than about children.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 26, 2004

The SCO License

Dr. Pournelle,

Note: Please publish my e-mail address as Thank you.

I've spent the last week or so at work looking over EULAs so I rather enjoyed the Groklaw interpretation of SCO's effort. Thanks for the link.

You may have come across a variant of the following before. It's been doing the rounds for some time, but it seems worthwhile to pass it on, as I think that life may once again be imitating satire.

"Attention, end-user vermin. Here's some software. It might work. It might not. No guarantees. In fact, we take no responsibility whatsoever even if it fries your motherboard, scrambles your hard drive, blows up your monitor, messes up your files, and gets you in trouble with the IRS. You have no rights at all, peasant. You will use the software EXACTLY as we graciously permit you to. Period. Any unauthorised use, regardless of whether permitted by other laws is, thanks to our lobbying efforts, not just a civil violation, but a criminal offence. You agree to waiving all "fair use" and other rights (including human rights) by accepting this EULA. When we change our minds at whim about what you can or can't do with our software, you agree to that too, even if we decide to scan your hard drive and monitor your network traffic and secretly report, or sell, that information to anyone we wish without telling you. Don't bother to complain. If you do, we'll sue you and win, because we can afford lawyers and you can't. You should be thrilled we're letting you do anything at all with our product. And if you don't swear blood oath, on your mother's grave, full compliance with this license, then get our software off your computer and destroy the disk immediately. No, you can't get a refund, thanks to the choke-hold we have on the software stores. Thanks for the money, loser!"

Regards, -- Harry Payne


Safe roads, Reliable journeys, Informed travellers

Department for Transport

This E-mail and any files transmitted with it are private and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, the E-mail and any files have been transmitted to you in error and any copying, distribution or other use of the information contained in them is strictly prohibited.

Nothing in this E-mail message amounts to a contractual or other legal commitment on the part of the Government unless confirmed by a communication signed on behalf of Secretary of State for the DFT.

EMAILS MAY BE MONITORED FOR LAWFUL PURPOSES ***************************************************************


On education and society:

Report: Only half of Hispanics, blacks finishing school 

The Washington Post Thursday, February 26, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Barely half of all black, Hispanic and Native American students who entered U.S. high schools in 2000 will receive diplomas this year, according to a new report that challenges conventional methods of calculating graduation rates.

Of all students who entered ninth grade four years ago, 68 percent are expected to graduate this year. The rates for minorities are considerably lower -- 50 percent for blacks, 51 percent for Native Americans and 53 percent for Hispanics -- according to a measure devised by the nonprofit Urban Institute in Washington.

Methods of calculating graduation rates are a perpetual subject of debate, and there are many differences in the ways states and school systems report data. By any measure, though, blacks and Hispanics graduate at lower rates than whites.

"We will never dissolve the hegemony of Jim Crow segregation... unless we get serious about this problem," said Christopher Edley, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, which with the Urban Institute wrote Losing our Future: How Minority Youth are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis.

Serious question: is racism the only, or even the major, reason for this situation? Comments invited.

This is in connection with a continuing discussion in another place:

Subject:  Continuing perplexing mystery - why are black students more likely to be disciplined than whites?

 I went to primary school with a lot of black kids from the very poorest subdivision in Illinois, a place called Robbins. I have no recollection of them being particularly troublesome. But this was the 1950s where the teachers expected to be obeyed and the students expected to obey them. There has been time between then and now for some sexual selection, but *that* much?

 Also, the overall incidence of major discipline problems (i.e., the kind that lead to expulsions) was low enough that I doubt anyone was terribly interested in studying it. One reason may have been the much-higher incidence of the use of corporal punishment by families back then. In a community where a boy gets flogged by his father for serious disrespect at school, there will be a hell of a lot fewer such incidents.


I then said:

When I went to school including in High School the principal had the legal right to cane students, and in 8th grade I got my five whacks for something or another. Doesn't seem to have scarred me for life.

And this was the reply:


Yes, the re-introduction of caning--for adults as well as children--would probably be the *biggest* single thing our society could with male children already born do to reduce violent crime and also the need to incarcerate so many of our young males throughout their crime-prone years. But said re-introduction would serve neither the needs of the Left's Dependency Industry nor the Right's Prison-Industrial Complex. (The biggest thing we could do period is impose reproductive responsibility on our currently reproductive irresponsible males.)


It is almost certainly the case that disciplinary problems are a major reason for failure to graduate.

As I said above, I was paddled in grade school and caned in high school, not often (I didn't like it so I avoided doing things that got me whacked). It doesn't seem to have scarred me for life, and having a quiet and orderly environment in school was a Good Thing.


An interesting space article by an old friend:

The Washington Times

------------------------------------------------------------------------ --

Spacecraft, statecraft

By James A. M. Muncy

Published February 24, 2004

------------------------------------------------------------------------ --

If the fiery streaks of Columbia wreckage raining down on Texas over a year ago seemed like a death knell for America's space program, then President Bush's new call for a rebirth of human exploration beyond Earth's orbit is the beginning of its resurrection.

For more than 30 years, the U.S. space agency has wandered in the wilderness of bureaucratic inertia and down-to-Earth politics. Waiting for a new mission, a new dream, a new chance to do great things, NASA and its industrial contractors had grown too cynical and paranoid, and appeared unable or unwilling to accept leadership from space supporters like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In the powerful words of Sen. Sam Brownback, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, the space community seemed not only pessimistic and beaten-down but lacking in soul, devoid of the passionate spirit that permeated the agency during its youthful Apollo-glory days.

The reasons why NASA lost its faith are interesting but not really that important. What counts now is whether and how every participant in America's space enterprise, including not just scientists and engineers but politicians, entrepreneurs and taxpayers alike, will look into their hearts and commit themselves to serve generations hence.

What President George W. Bush laid out on Jan. 14 was not merely a thoughtful and intelligent plan for NASA, but perhaps the most basic and powerful vision for human spaceflight, one that can enable and ennoble everyone's goals regarding space exploration: opening the cosmos for and to a free humanity.

Space exploration is not merely about the wonders of science and technology, although it produces countless discoveries and innovations. It is not merely about stunning images and daring adventures, although it has those aplenty. And to the disbelief of so many space professionals and aficionados alike, it is not even really about outer space.

Rather, space exploration is about strengthening and spreading the very essence of freedom: the magic of going and doing what you want, where you want, when you want and why you want. It is about the endless and innately human quest for a better, wiser and richer life, not just for yourself today but for generations hence. Freedom is as much about the creation and pursuit of new dreams, horizons and challenges as it is about achieving them.

In the Beltway buzz leading up to Mr. Bush's announcement, there was much talk about his initiative being an attempt to proclaim "big ideas" and create a positive counterpoint to America's daunting war on terrorism or the painful challenge of completing the liberation of Iraq. Ironically, I believe Mr. Bush's space agenda actually flows from the same values and instincts that buttress and shape his approach to those national security crises.

Albeit different in topic and tone, Mr. Bush's call for "a renewed spirit of discovery" evokes to me the cause he spoke of so eloquently last fall to the National Endowment for Democracy and at Whitehall in the United Kingdom: advancing the cause of human freedom. Indeed, fighting for freedom requires not just destroying its enemies but affirming and extending its reach, power and majesty.

Twenty-five years ago, in "The Virtues of Boldness," George F. Will powerfully distinguished between Dwight Eisenhower's and John Kennedy's space agendas:

"Eisenhower thought like a quartermaster. He thought, rightly, that a space program would be useful for developing important hardware, but a moon shot would be unnecessary. Kennedy thought like a general: hardware matters, but intangibles do too. A moon landing became central to Kennedy's space program because, to him, the program was only secondarily about scientific or military benefits. It was primarily about politics, in a grand sense: it was about defining and shaping the nation's spirit and confounding its enemies."

In that context, Mr. Bush has indeed found his "Kennedy moment." By realigning our space program toward opening the space frontier to and for all humanity, Mr. Bush has thrown the space agency's cap over the wall. NASA has no other option but to let go of its bureaucratic past and pursue this risky but rewarding future. Of course, Congress must join with the president and do its part as well.

Achieving this vision will take many more speeches and cost real political, as well as budgetary, capital. But if this initiative succeeds, our grandchildren will remember this space initiative not only in addition to Mr. Bush's stewardship of the war to defend freedom, but as leading to one of our greatest strategic victories in that long struggle.

James A. M. Muncy is an independent space policy consultant.













CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  February 27, 2004

I took the day off.







This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 28, 2004

Subject: Cybeterrorism. 

Subject: Trusting Microsoft.

Subject: MADMEN

Subject: Grand National bookmakers extorted by DDoS rings.

Subject: Capitol of Empire.

 "My daughter used to run up the steps of the Capitol, turn around, spread her arms and say, `This is my city,' " said Dan Tangherlini, director of the municipal Department of Transportation. Now, the steps are off-limits to the public while construction continues on an underground visitor center that will serve as the Capitol's sole public entry point.

Subject: CoE.

Subject: Haphazard. (World ends at 10. News at 11)

--- Roland Dobbins


On Tariff and economics

Hello, Jerry,

A diamond-hard point:

"I would rather see economic inefficiencies than disrupted lives."

Each job lost, factory closed, tears out a life's work. That might not have been so in times when we had a pick of factories in a town, or in a neighborhood of a city, but now people have to leave when their work closes down.


- Who can plan a coherent life if, as the jolly-golly "work of nation's" economists, such as Lester Thurow, are correct in predicting that each of us will change careers -- not just jobs, but trades, careers, entire collections of skills -- about five times in a typical work life?

- What happens when the "career change" is forced on us after 40 or 45 years old?

- What happens to the tissue of life, the spider's web of interconnections that hold a society together? Specifically, what happens when the fine teacher's husband is "outsourced", and they pick up their kids because he has a chance of a job at equal pay in another state? What happens to the school? To the little league team the husband coached? To their odd-ball drama group that wants to do John Gay's "Beggar's Banquet" followed by "Three Penny Opera"?

- Is it a consolation that people who would have worked in their group, or seen their production, can rent a DVD (produced in China by near-slave labor)?

- For curiosity, if making a Lexus in the US would force the Japanese company owners to charge $45,000 per car, rather than $30,000, who buys the $30,000 Lexus if fewer Americans have jobs?

- If we can imagine an economy of rich people and servants, what kind of society does that bring? I prefer a yeoman's society in which everyone lives secure in their skills, their holdings, and their future. I think that's closely akin to what you have been calling a "middle-class" society.

- Does anyone seriously believe we can have an economy made of the two un-outsourcable trades: lawyers and doctors? Well, sure, the doctirs can prescribe medcine to the lawyers, who can sue the doctors for malpractice, but what kind of an economy is that?

- Finally, what could be our new, 21st Century ethical commandment? "Look out for number one"? Hobbes was joking when he described a society of everyone warring against everyone else. Adam Smith surely never meant that any economic society could survive if every person treated themselves as an independent, competing, profit-center. A society like that would fly apart, as we saw in the '90s. What was the ethic at Enron?

- I recall talking with a rookie programmer in 1997. I asked: What do you really want? I expected him to answer, "I want to turn out new systems...I get a thrill to think that I bring life to an idea." Nope. He said, "I hope to get stock options". So much for the creative artist/engineer's passion.

(Later, since this has been enough blustering, I'll explain why outsourced projects turn out garbage. Agile methods cannot be used by dispersed hierarchical sub-contracting companies. When Indian programming factories proudly point to the fact that many of them have been certified as CMM Level 5, it suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the heavy methodology in CMM. The certification is circular: TaTa Consulting adopts CMM, so CMM certies TaTa...which does NOT mean that TaTa has improved quality in American projects...only that they've adopted CMM, which is too academically naive to do anything but bless them with Levl 5 certification.)


John Welch


Hi Jerry, Here's one ray for hope: 

U.S. Support For Free Trade Wanes By Agence France-Presse

Free trade is losing support in the United States, in particular among high-income Americans, as a growing number of professionals feel threatened by job outsourcing to low-wage nations, according to a recent study.

The University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) found that among those in the over-$100,000 bracket, the percentage actively supporting free trade slid from 57% in 1999 to 28% in January 2004. These results surprised even the researchers.

"It is rare in any case that any demographic slice drops 20 or 30 points on any issue," said research director Clay Ramsay. "It certainly provides evidence for the theory going around now that job insecurity is creeping up the income scale."

Indeed, the survey found 53% of the respondents endorse expanded international trade but are not satisfied with the government's handling of its effects on U.S. jobs, the poor in other nations and the environment.

 I guess that if rich people's jobs start to get outsourced, then it matters. I just hope that whatever solution is used will also be helpful to factory type people. Thanks, Jim P.S. I truly enjoyed Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace, now I don't even blink at the Haiti situation. Also, I now understand why you advocate a larger Navy and Marine force.

It all sort of depends on whose ox was gored, doesn't it?

The Wall Street Journal is increasingly shrill on the subject, with their Thursday February 26 2004 editorisl saying: "Is it moral to stop foreign people from working their way out of poverty by closing access to the US market?"

This is hardly an economic argument. If we want to give money to foreigners, that's an individual decision, not a moral position for the nation. And does it work that way anyway?

They do point out that regulations in the US contributes to high unemployment here. ALl true. And if we could get rid of many of the taxes and regulations that burden US industry, imports would decrease and we'd have more jobs. But that isn't very likely, or is it?

We live in interesting times.


Subject: Linux UI Shortcomings

Jerry, Eric Raymond has just published a rant (that's his characterization of it, not mine) about the shortcomings of the UIs in Linux. It's available here:

 It's a bit long and jargon filled, but interesting to see someone as experienced in Unix / Linux echoing some of your comments. (Including constant references to "Aunt Tillie").

Chuck Wingo

Interesting. Thanks to several of you for sending this reference.


Subject: Panspermia, indeed!

-- Roland Dobbins

Interesting. I have always used the panspermia hypothesis in my science fiction stories.

Subject: Bipedal Antarctic carnivores - 70 Myears ago.  

Subject: Density. 

--- Roland Dobbins

And here is someone I can't help:

Dear Jerry,

I was clever enough to download the W32.Mydoom.F@mm worm virus, and have subsequently lost very nearly all my Word documents, including my coursework (I'm a university student). Is there any way of retrieving them?


Sebastian B

But the lesson is clear. Don't open mail attachments, and back up important documents...

From another discussion group:

Andrew Marshall knows nothing about climate science.

Andrew Marshall's supposedly radical and more insightful ideas on warfare got fairly thoroughly discredited by the Iraq war. If the soldiers had been equipped per Marshall's suggestion hundreds or thousands would have died from small arms fire. Big heavy tanks and APCs saved lives. Guru Marshall was wrong and the supposedly neanderthal old-fashioned Army Generals were right.

(and did anyone notice that Commanche was just cancelled? Another deserved Iraq casualty after Apache's demonstrated high vulnerability to small arms fire)

I used to be taken in by Marshall's supposed radical ability to see the military future better. Now I just think he's another quack who has managed to ingratiate himself with a lot of Congressional staffers.

Our national security issue with oil is that the world's purchase of it funds the Wahhabis. We need to obsolesce oil for that reason, not because of some imaginary imminently looming environmental catastrophe.

Marshall is trying to play Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich is also in a prestitgious institution (Stanford). So surely tens of millions of Americans must have starved to death in the 1980s. Such a prestigious person couldn't possibly be a nutcase could he? After all, lots of other prestigious people took him seriously. They couldn't all have been a bunch of unrigorous nutters could they? The intellectual herd doesn't stampede into one folly after another does it?



Dr Pournelle,

The Highroad to Poverty

"I would rather see economic inefficiencies than disrupted lives."

Would that it were so simple. Meanwhile, back in the real world—

Unfortunately it is not ‘one or the other’, but ‘one leads to the other’; economic inefficiency is the sure and certain path to far more disrupted, and far poorer, lives than economic efficiency will ever deliver.

What is proposed amounts to mercantilism, an economic system and theory popular in early modern Europe, which held that by developing a wholly domestic supply of materials and markets a nation can be relieved of dependence on other nations.

Its theoretical basis was effectively demolished by Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. This important book was published in 1776, at a time when the power of free trade and competition as stimulants to innovation and progress was scarcely understood. Governments granted monopolies and gave subsidies to protect their own merchants, farmers and manufacturers against 'unfair' competition. Laws forbade the importation or use of new, labour-saving machinery or cheaper raw materials or finished goods than could be supplied domestically.

And, not surprisingly, the result was that almost universal poverty was accepted as the common, natural, and inevitable lot of mankind.

Adam Smith railed against this restrictive, regulated, mercantilist system, and showed convincingly how the principles of free trade, competition, and choice would spur economic development, reduce poverty, and precipitate the social and moral improvement of humankind. To illustrate his concepts, he scoured the world for examples that remain just as vivid today: from the diamond mines of Golconda to the price of Chinese silver in Peru; from the fisheries of Holland to the plight of Irish prostitutes in London. And so persuasive were his arguments that they not only provided the world with a new understanding of the wealth-creating process; they laid the intellectual foundation for the great era of free trade and economic expansion that dominated the Nineteenth Century.

The significance of Smith’s message cannot be illustrated better than by comparing the economies of France, which continued to stick with the older mercantilist system from ancien régime to Napoleon’s Continental System and beyond, with Britain, which had increasingly adopted Smith’s system, finally culminating in the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

But long before 1846, the evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of Smith and free trade.

In 1760 (or thereabouts) the population of France was three times as great as Great Britain’s and the French economy was generally considered to be about four or fives times greater than Britain’s; France was the economic superpower of the day. By 1830 or so, the British population equalled the French, and the British economy was three or four times as great as France’s.

True, Smith cannot be thanked for all of this change of fortune, but he can for the vast bulk of it.

The Wealth of Nations changed our understanding of the economic world just as Newton's Principia changed our understanding of the physical world and Darwin's Origin of Species did of the biological world. Would you go back to the pre-Newtonian world of physics? Do you think our lives would have been better if we had rejected all that physical science has learned about the world since ‘God said, “Let Newton be.” and all was light’? For although Smith did not have the last word to say on economics of course, nonetheless he provided us with the fundament, the ground, that all subsequent economics has been built upon. Just like Newton did for physics.

So the choice is not between economic efficiency or disrupted lives, but rather, between economic inefficiency and vast numbers of disrupted and permanently impoverished lives on the one hand, or economic efficiency and a (relatively) few disrupted lives on the other.

Whatever path is taken, there will be people whose lives are disrupted. Under the free trade route which has served the vast, the overwhelming, majority of the people of the United States so well for so long, of course some will get hurt. But under any other system, many more would be hurt, and eventually everyone would be poorer and have significantly less meaningful lives.

There is no way ahead without casualties, and whatever the route, if you’re a casualty you’ll take that as conclusive evidence that the wrong choice was made, but (I’m sorry) that’s because you’re too close to the problem. Somehow you’ve got to try to step back from your own difficulties and look at the whole picture.

Yes that’s difficult, but it’s the only path to the right answer. Because if you are a casualty, you’re going to get back on course again much quicker, much more certainly, if the right answer is chosen.

I know I’ve said this before but I’ll now say it again: it is an exceptionally dangerous error in logic, leading to deeply mistaken choices, to generalise from the particular.

Jim Mangles

So. Free trade is now a law of nations, and if the rest of the world vanished so that we were thrown on our own resources, eventually everyone would be poorer and have significantly less meaningful lives.

Your fallacy is plain enough to see. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

I have ever said that if the goal of the world is to maximize economic growth, make more things, strive  for ever cheaper stuff, accumulate lots more stuff, then in general unrestricted free trade and laissez faire internal economics, unrestricted child labor, totally unregulated economics, might well be the right way to get there. Let the market decide all things.

That, you tell me, will lead to everyone being richer and having a significantly more meaningful life.

And yet:

I may know that people live in dire poverty on the other side of the world, but my life doesn't get better by seeing my neighbors get beggared in order to raise the wages of Chinese peasants.

Nor, for that matter, is it clear that the market is always the best path to riches. Might I suggest that conquest does that sometimes? US conquest of Saudi oil fields, beggaring the Saudi Royal Family, might well lead to better economic lives for both us and most Saudis. We aren't going to do that, but not because of market considerations.

Now it is certainly the case that over the long haul, everyone on earth will be better off if we in the US will just give up much of what we have and let the New World Order be created. That is: they'll be better off so long as economic models rule the world, and politics and war and conquest are kept at bay. By magic, perhaps? Because without rule of law, and ordered liberty, the conditions for free market economics don't exist. And who will keep that order? Well, for the moment, the nations that have it.

More: we have proved one thing: we may talk about "level playing fields", but if we can buy goods cheaper from a slaveholding society that builds things without regard to the damage done to the environment, and allows a brown cloud visible from space to arise over its belching factories, we will do that: there are those who will get rich from the import business and they will happily do what it takes, without regard to consequences. But if the US really wanted simply to maximize things, would we be better off getting rid of all environmental regulations, all child labor laws, all laws against slavery (slavery may be an uneconomic institution, but not always and in all cases and for all goods); get rid of all health care obligations; do as William Lloyd Garrison did and fire all workers when they reach age 50, turn them out into the streets without pensions because they are no longer as productive; I can think of a number of labor practices in the US that, were we rid of them, would let us become low cost producers, and which would significantly reduce unemployment.

And yet, I am not much of an advocate for more regulations, and I do believe the market is the best regulator in many cases; but not in all.

For most of history, enormous discrepancies between the haves and the have-nots have resulted in particular kinds of society. The one thing you won't get when things get too bad is rule by consent of the governed. Democracy, I keep pointing out, is, according to Aristotle, rule by the middle class: those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. Those who have enough that they don't care to risk it to gain a lot more. But for the middle class to rule, it must make up a great part of the society. We have that, here, so far. But democracies perish when the political mechanisms are used to transfer the goods of fortune from the haves to the have-nots. The reason for that is not as clear as it might be: that is, a distributist society that actually handed wealth out to the many can endure a fairly long time: but that isn't what happens. What happens is that the wealth is taken from those who earn it, and handed over to government, which enriches itself and uses the proceeds to build its power. Then it provides bread and circuses. And half time Superbowl shows.

Unrestricted free trade not only doesn't hurt me, but probably helps. I derive significant income from overseas royalties, and cheaper goods is good for me; while having a larger pool of unemployed is useful if I need simple services. But I would still rather live in a society in which people own their own houses, and sweep their own floors and tend their own lawns.

Of course what I would rather isn't terribly important.

Over time, more and more of the goods of fortune will be made by machines, and more and more of the population, particularly those on the left side of the bell curve, will be unable to compete with either machines or overseas workers. Of course those people won't just starve. What will they do? Will they vote themselves largess through taxes? Will we have a means of distribution that frankly decouples work and contribution from wages and compensation?  I don't know. 

So perhaps you're right. Let things stay in the saddle and ride mankind, and pursue the acquisition of cheaper goods, and let the weakest go to the wall.











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