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Mail 300 March 8 - 14, 2004






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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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This week:


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Monday  March 8, 2004


Sent: Monday, March 08, 2004 7:20 AM Subject: VVM Advisory to Support Associates: W32/Sober.d virus raised to Medium Alert Importance: High

Virus Advisory:

We have just received notification from McAfee that the W32/Sober.d email based virus has been raised to Medium Risk based upon prevalence of reported infections.

More information can be found at:

This virus may create confusion for users based upon the social engineering used in the body of the email message:

This is a socially engineered email based virus claiming to be from Microsoft that is a fix for the MyDoom@MM virus. This virus is delivered with ZIP or EXE file attachments, both of which are blocked in the AT&T environment. The primary exposure for this virus is for users at home or on ISP mail systems that bypass the AV platform. The email messages claim to be from Microsoft containing a patch for the W32/Mydoom@MM virus. Below are some examples:

From: (sender )@microsoft.(country ) where sender is taken from the following list:

Info Center UpDate News Help Studio Alert Security And country is taken from the following list:

de ch at il Subject: Varies, and contains random characters. For German and English messages respectively, the subject line starts:

Microsoft Alarm: Bitte Lessen! Microsoft Alert: Please Read! Body New MyDoom Virus Variant Detected!A new variant of the W32.Mydoom (W32.Novarg) worm spread rapidly through the Internet.Anti-virus vendor Central Command claims that 1 in 45 e-mails contains the MyDoom virus.The worm also has a backdoor Trojan capability. By default, the Trojan component listens on port 13468.Protection:Please download this digitally signed attachment. This Update includes the functionality of previously released patches.++++++ One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052+++ Restricted Rights at 48 CFR 52.227-19 com ,

The 4.0.4334 DAT files will be released later this afternoon. This message has been sent Bcc to the GNOC, PDS All Associates, Desktop Central, and BU Support Teams GAL distribution lists.

Virus Vulnerability Team AT&T Labs Security Center of Excellence <>

Douglas M. Colbary

"You Can't See Where you stand, From Where You Sit" unknown



I thought your subscribers might find this article interesting. South Africa is using DDT to help prevent the ravages of Malaria in its North-Eastern areas.

But it seems that it may be having harmful effects on male reproductive health of the locals. 

However, in a radio interview the Prof. in question is not calling for a ban on the use of DDT. He recognizes that it may be an acceptable price to pay to reduce the estimated 1 million Africans who die from malaria each year. He was asking for continued research into alternative pesticides, and education for local peoples as to how to minimize DDT contamination.


Craig Arnold

I have never seen a study that concludes the DDT is harmful to humans, but maybe. For mosquito control the amounts are much smaller than when it is used for agriculatural pests, and effects on birds seems minimal if it is used wisely.


On Free Trade and Economics:

Dear Jim Mangles,

I believe you have the wrong end of the stick in a number of places, and that it's worth showing you how I read matters.

The first area is that you aren't treating mercantilism properly in your historical examples. Yes, it's all you condemn when considered as an economic approach - but it wasn't trying to be, it was just what was in place when people's priorities changed. It really did deliver resource independence when it worked, and mercantilists knew perfectly well that economic inefficiency was part of the price. They weren't foolishly imagining that it was somehow delivering more goods and services than the alternatives.

If, say, someone had asked Frederick the Great why he did what he did in the run up to the Seven Years War, he could have told them that he preferred to have control rather than efficiency - and it turned out he needed it (Macaulay tells us that right to the end his finances held out and his war effort didn't collapse despite frequent enemy incursions all over his territories). When the Mongols captured Baghdad and found so much loot there, they asked the former ruler why he hadn't used it as a war chest to get armies to hold them off; that was what economic strength was for, then, and only an idiot would have tried to build an economy rather than use it. That particularly applies in an age before technological change allowed investment to make much difference to primary production capacity (British growth up to the 1830s was far more due to capital flight from endemic European instability than is commonly realised).

Or, Napoleon's Continental System really was working, as far as getting what Napoleon wanted went. He was after undermining British war making capacity, both in terms of funding war (by eroding British revenue raising) and by undercutting supplies of naval materiel - his diplomatic efforts in part produced US economic warfare against Britain and then real war to block off Canadian sources, and in large part he invaded Russia to block off Baltic supplies to Britain. In earlier years sugar mattered for money reasons, and also by boosting food supplies - there was no such thing as "empty calories" in an undernourished age; but also hard cash mattered for keeping armed forces in being. That was why Napoleon did protectionist and dirigiste things with sugar, like developing and protecting sugar beet.

Similarly, people like Malthus were concerned that the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 might damage British strategic independence, not that it was somehow economically better. They fully understood what was going on; it was only because there was a strategic non-problem that economic change made sense as a priority.

However the criticism is perfectly sound, WHEN you only apply it to idiots who thought that what was good for their vested interests was good all round economics. It's just that most of your examples really relate to the strategic reasons, when you're comparing apples and oranges.

Unfortunately the rest of your argument is too narrow as well. You are presenting alternatives that aren't exhaustive or even always exclusive. For instance, you write "...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." Nothing says that economic inefficiency WILL lead to that; actually, it only leads to that when other things happen too, often Malthusian sorts of things the way it is in developing countries. And, nothing says that "economic efficiency" of this sort only gives you "a (relatively) few disrupted lives" - I've traced the pattern of what happened in our own development, and I can tell you that disruption of the Highland Clearances sort is not only huge and enduring over generations, it is actually the norm. It is perfectly compatible with economic efficiency, since that is only measuring aggregates, and statistics make it look good even when the aggregate is bad since "survivor bias" doesn't count the losers. You see, the losers didn't have ownership and so had no stake in the gains - and their losses don't get netted off when you look at everything.

"Whatever path is taken, there will be people whose lives are disrupted." means that you didn't look at all the possibilities; there are more, and they might turn out to be unrealistic, but they should be looked into, at least for completeness. See the material I link to via my signature below for further discussion.

"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." Well, it is historically inaccurate; the USA has always picked and chose what it did, and the track record says more about that selectiveness than about any unmixed economic strategy. As it happens, there is a distortion from a wave of developing countries transmitting their "energy", as it were. It's a little like an accidental pyramid scheme, with newly developing countries providing markets for industrial products for the development effort. That makes the value of the earlier industrial bases larger than markets for direct consumption would make them, since they are working to make new investment too. Part of today's decline is from that need dropping, but that in turn shows that the lessons of the past were geared for the growth phase and we can't rest too much on them to tell us about the steady state we may be heading for.

"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." That "no way ahead without casualties" is more of the incompleteness of the options you consider, that I remarked on above. The refusal to accept direct experience even in aggregate is denial, and it is collectivist in spirit to insist that what is right is measured by the "whole picture". The right way is at least to acknowledge Rawls's approach, and say that if even one person is hurt, pushed back, something went wrong in distributing gains. But this rejection of experience leads to a practical flaw with breaking eggs to make omelettes; sometimes you only get broken eggs and no omelettes. You ought at least to start with a clear idea of the omelette.

I'd better show you how that works out, with a historical example to hold up against your "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." When industrialisation led to cheaper yarn, the weavers had a boom. It just set them up for a fall when weaving was mechanised. The "pick yourself up and reinvent yourself" approach ONLY works when the pace of change is slow enough for new change not to arrive on top. I wrote a letter to the papers on this, "Time scale problems for economic reform ever reaching actual improvement", which is at . It's worth quoting the background I gave in brackets before the letter: "[these follow from mathematical considerations involved in, e.g., stability criteria for back propagation in neural networks or the convergence of perturbation methods in solving rigidly coupled systems of simultaneous differential equations]". I didn't mention Pilot Induced Oscillation in the letter, but perhaps I should have. All those things together mean, you're NOT going to get back on course again if you keep getting knocked off - and in my book that makes the answer wrong.

Actually, a long term solution - for all countries - would involve the distributism that Jerry Pournelle mentioned in his reply to you, only what he is describing there is more redistributism than distributism proper, a transitional arrangement that causes further problems if the treatment is continued indefinitely. We don't need to keep redistributing, just make sure everybody has a stake and ensure each generation stays that way. Quoting from memory, as Chesterton (or was it Belloc?) said, "the trouble with capitalism is not enough capitalists". If we did have stakes in improvements, on the one hand we would all end up better off, and on the other any spurious claims of gains would be spotted and headed off. But that's not how it is, and a transition to that would be long and difficult - and meanwhile, a tourniquet approach to "progress" is justifiable to the extent it bought time to apply to getting ready to receive progress (NOT as an excuse for never progressing at all).


P.M.Lawrence. GST+NPT=JOBS

I.e., a Goods and Services Tax (or almost any other broad based production tax), with a Negative Payroll Tax, promotes employment.

See and the other items on that page for some reasons why.

I agree on distributism: the notion is to give everyone a stake. Democracy is government by the middle class, and the middle class are those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. If you do not have a large and powerful middle class, or your country is dominated by proletarians and plutocrats, you will not have democracy.

Chesterton and Belloc pretty well thought alike on this issue.


I appreciate it when you post even a word or two each day. When you are busy being nibbled on by gerbals and go several days without a post I always fear you are ill or have a family tragedy.

It's silly, but your thoughts/experiences have become an important part of my daily routine and I worry.

Anyway, thanks.


Thank you. I try. Some days things get ahead of me...





This week:


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Tuesday, March 9, 2004 

There is a lot of mail, and the column is done, but I also have errands and cleaning up.  But we can start here, with a letter that is typical of many:


I have to say that I completely disagree with your view of the Martha Stewart case. What she did was clearly illegal, and having been a stockbroker she was well aware of that fact.

Martha saved $50,000 by trading on insider information, that $50,000 came out of the pockets of the people that didn't have insider information and had to sell at a lower price when the news became public, people like you and me that perhaps owned some of that stock, so Martha in effect stole that $50,000. Now if Martha came to your house and walked out with $50,000 in cash or stole two cars, you'd be pretty upset, stealing $5 from 10,000 people is no different that stealing $50,000 from one person, many people go to jail for far lesser amounts.

Should Martha be let off the hook because the $50,000 represented only .1 percent of her fortune (let's assume she's worth $50m even though it's actually far more, over $1B at one point), how is that fair and just? That makes it worse in my opinion, she doesn't need the money, she just chose to screw other people.

Yes, this type of thing does happen all the time, but the fact is, she got caught, that's a risk she chose to take. If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time.

It's precisely the fact that the wealthy do often get away with 'white collar' crime that helps breed cynicism in our society and causes people to lose faith in our justice system. In a fair justice system, all people should be treated the same regardless of their wealth or celebrity.

Greed in and of itself certainly isn't illegal but what she did is and some of that money came out of my pocket and the pockets of a few thousand other people. Explain to me why she should walk.

Why is it that whenever someone wealthy is prosecuted they are 'being made an example of', should we just stop prosecuting the wealthy altogether? She took the risk, she got caught, she should be prosecuted. That's the bottom line.

Dean Stacey

I remain unrepentant. Incidentally, we had dinner with the former US Attorney for Los Angeles, who has probably prosecuted more people than anyone else in the world, and he agrees: this case should never have been brought. It does no one any good while destroying the investments of thousands of people.

Her "crime" was: NOT UNDER OATH, she told investigators that she did not do something that, it turns out, was not a crime and for which she was never charged. She said she didn't do "inside trading" and that turns out to be the case. She had no obligation not to use any information she might have had. She isn't an insider; and even if the president of Inclone called her and said "We're losing the case! Dump your stock!" Martha Stewart was not under any obligation not to act on that. He was. She wasn't.

The notion that Federal Investigators are so important that you may never lie to them is bizarre. Perjury consists of making false statements under oath. She was never under oath.

We have Miranda warnings for murderers and kidnappers courtesy of the Federal judiciary, but you can be "investigated" and charged with lying to the investigators. God Help Us.

She should have told them all to go to hell, and refused to talk to them; and in future EVERYONE IS ADVISED NEVER TO SPEAK to a Federal Investigator about anything. This is not good citizenship; but it is prudent in these weird times.


Regarding Dean Stacey's attempted rebuttal of your position on Martha Stewart's conviction -- you appear to be talking at cross purposes. It might serve to clarify the issue if you simply pointed out explicitly that what Mr. Stacey claims she "did", she has not been convicted of.


She wasn't even indicted for anything having to do with stock trading. Look: she may or may not be a rich person with bad manners; I wouldn't know, never having met her and not having watched more than a few minutes of her show. I am told that she has been rather mean to people who work for her. I don't know, I never met any of them.

But she will go to prison and lose millions of dollars to MAKE AN EXAMPLE showing that maiastas is now a crime. Note: she has been jailed for lying, not under oath, about not doing something that was not itself a crime. No Miranda warning, which is a courtesy we give to murderers.

The lesson is clear. Talking to Federal investigators is dangerous.

>> EVERYONE IS ADVISED NEVER TO SPEAK to a Federal Investigator about anything <<

That might be good advice, except that nowadays you have to answer questions from Federal investigators or you will be charged with obstructing justice, among other things. You might in theory have a right to remain silent, but that applies only to "suspects". The Federal investigators define who is and who is not a suspect. If you are not a "suspect" (although you may become one at any time at the whim of the investigator), you are required to answer their questions, fully and completely.

This is no longer the United States. This is a country that is rapidly sliding into totalitarianism. Fred Reed wrote a column a couple months ago about why he moved to Mexico, primarily because the government there is non-intrusive. As Fred says, he didn't abandon his country. His country abandoned him. I'm seriously thinking about learning to speak Spanish and moving there myself.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I refuse to answer on the grounds that the answer might tend to incriminate me. Talk to my lawyers. Good day.

The local US Attorney (retired) says she was under no obligation to answer any questions, and she ought to have had an attorney present. Of course lawyers like to see work for other lawyers.

I am too old to leave the US. Besides, the way California is going, I may not have to if I want to be a citizen of Mexico.

Dear Jerry:

Your comment about the Martha Stewart case compels me to mention that one of my old ST&D columns about overzealous law enforcement as a business threat is now available as an "e-document" on and, or should be soon.

Actually I'm putting as much old material as I can this month because the set-up fees are waived until the end of by the distributor. That will save me a lot of money.

You might say that I'm following the model of that story Heinlein told in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" about the simple fellow who had a make-work job at the court house polishing the brass cannon out front. He got ambition, saved his money and one day went out and bought a brass cannon of his very own and went into business for himself.

I haven't exactly bet the farm on this one, but since I have all of this legacy material I thought, as part of that grand experiment I mentioned earlier, that I would try to find a way to sell it myself and make some money. You can buy "e-documents" from a number of sources. Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, Dialog, Ingenta, HighBeam Research, and your local public library all have them, sometimes for free or very little. Amazon sells them too.

Knowing something about business, I know that none of these firms would be there if there weren't money it old articles, despite the disinformation they've put out about how small the market is. Billions of dollars change hands every year in that industry segment.

I just thought it was time for writers like ourselves to get a piece of the pie. Ownership is power. I will be putting up a hundred or so articles that could be useful to a wide range of people. Most of them are not in the afore mentioned databases.

It occurs to me that the availability of this method may have an impact on the way freelance work is distributed. Why suffer the trials and tribulations of submission to a third party when you can go directly to the customer? Well, Branding and brand equity. Publication in certain publications is a "seal of approval". But if you have enough brand equity on your own, like Stephen King, then you don't need that of others. You are a case in point, yourself. I believe you told me that you have 150,000 or so regular readers here?

This is why I set up as "Francis Hamit Electronic Publishing" with my usual becoming modesty. In certain areas of tech coverage, I do have brand equity. Might as well use it.

I can see, based upon the changing distribution pattern of the music business, that writers too will begin to use electronic distribution. The late Jerry {Pearce once complained to me about one of his favorite long stories, which has taken three years to write and get published, had been published once for very little money and then was never seen again.

Harlan's case against AOL seems to focus on the dancehall theory of contributory infringement of copyrights. i.e. even if you don't control the music being played by the band, you provide a venue and benefit from it. There is a lot of short fiction out there that gets published once and is seldom seen again. Publishing it as a e-document gives it new life. If it has been previously published it acquires a certain legitimacy that avoids the "self published" label.

I am going to be very interested to see how much money comes back to me from this little publishing operation. The process is hardly a smooth one, but if you're stubborn enough, it can be done.

As for that old column about overzealous Feds, it was mostly about the Steve Jackson Games case. Martha Stewart suffers from being a totally unsympathetic villain, Jackson was an innocent bystander against whom no charges were ever brought and they almost ruined him and his business. This is not a new problem. The retail price of that old column is $1.50. Half the price that Lexis-Nexis would charge for a like item.

I'll let you know how this works out.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

I wonder who inherited Robert's brass cannon? He had one in the house in Colorado Springs. I am not sure I remember seeing it in Bonny Doon and it was almost certainly not in the Carmel house.


Subject: huh. You asked for it, you got it.


...Wish I had that kind of pull.



NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program To Offer Cash Prizes

By: Brian Berger
Space News Staff Writer


The organization created by NASA to build the hardware needed to return to the moon and venture to points beyond is planning to put up cash prizes to stimulate innovation in space exploration technologies.

NASA officials said they got their inspiration for the idea from the aviation prizes of the early 20th century, the X Prize Foundation and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation is offering $10 million to the first team to build and fly a three-person craft to an altitude of 100 kilometers and back, and then repeat the feat with the same vehicle within two weeks. DARPA is offering $1 million to the winner of an unmanned rover race being held in March.

NASA has yet to announce the first of its so-called Centennial Challenges, but agency officials have said the contests will be designed to encourage advances in fundamental space technologies like propulsion, power, communications, robotics and very low cost space missions. <snip>


Subject: The fat lady can't sing in Canadian opera

I know you're an opera fan. This may be of interest. 

Personally, I find opera a vestigial form of medieval torture. But there is, indeed, no accounting for taste.

Cordially, John

Once saw her in Aida. She was not believable as the girl who vamps the general. Too bad. Great voice. And I once saw Jessica Norman at the Met in Ariadne auf Naxos; she should have sung from the wings and let someone else mouth her words on stage.

When opera works, it is wonderful.

And of course, being married to a singer, I haven't had a lot of choice about learning to love it... Incidentally, Covent Gardens and the Royal Opera are in London, England


Subject: The queen of battles

Video of Mobile Infantry Prototype: 

A page of links regarding the new X-M8 assault rifle: 

Covers the 6.8x43mm Remington cartridge it may ultimately be chambered for, (this round feeds reliably through standard magazines) as well as something called a 'blended metal bullet'...which if the claims concerning it are accurate represent technology that is "sufficiently advanced".

Regards the concerns about stopping power and rifle rounds... I'm in the USCGR, and we have something to say about stopping power. :)

I have held this weapon but not fired it yet. With 7-10 rounds and semi-auto fire it is almost a throwback to a Garand, not a bad thing I am told. It is supposed to serve our purposes well, and being based on an M-4 frame is very handy.

Back to the infantry:

 AFJ does a shootout of several modern small arms....including a 76mm "small arm". Includes videos.

Very Respectfully, Ken Talton


Subject: Why no Mac in the living room?


ExtremeTech has an article today wondering aloud why Apple hasn't made more of a splash in the home theatre market. I was reminded of your recent efforts with all things Mac.,1583,a=120974,00.asp

The words "... preaching to the choir..." can be found there. Always been a Mac fan, but not being a graphic artist, I've never been able to justify the price hit. Especially in this age of commodity Win or Linux machines.


Charles Krug


The prosecutors in the Martha Steward case reminds me of Lincoln's guard. While Lincoln was being shot, his guard was next door in a bar. While Lincoln lay dying, the guard brought a prostitute in to the police station and attempted to have her arrested. The government prosecutors couldn't make a case against the real criminals who made off with billions so they picked on Martha Steward in an attempt to improve their image by bringing charges for a minor infraction of doubtful validity. Just like Lincoln's guard.


The TSA will straighten us all out, so we will be good little subjects.


>> She did nothing illegal at all.

Yes she did, two things. 1) Traded on insider information 2) Lied about it. If she did nothing illegal, why did she lie about it? Clearly as a former stock broker she knew what was legal and what wasn't, if it wasn't illegal she had no reason to lie.

>> But the result here is that a bunch of people who invested in HER >> stock (Imclone was a high risk investment to begin with) are ruined,

Which made what she did all the more worse. You should be angry at her.

>> I'm blowed if I can see how either you or I are better off.

Enforcement of the law is not intended to recompense the victimes it is however, intended to show there are serious consequences to ones actions and serve as a deterrent to others.

-----Original Message----- From: Jerry Pournelle [] Sent: Monday, March 08, 2004 1:12 AM To: 'Dean Stacey' Subject: RE:  Martha Stewart

She's ruined, a bunch of small investors in her company are ruined, and she did nothing illegal at all. If my broker calls me and says "the founder of the company is dumping his stock do you want to dump yours?" what do you expect me to say? It's no crime to say "Dump mine."

But the result here is that a bunch of people who invested in HER stock (Imclone was a high risk investment to begin with) are ruined, and I'm blowed if I can see how either you or I are better off.

-----Original Message----- From: Dean Stacey [] Sent: Sunday, March 07, 2004 8:40 AM To: Subject:  Martha Stewart


I have to say that I completely disagree with your view of the Martha Stewart case. What she did was clearly illegal, and having been a stockbroker she was well aware of that fact.

Martha saved $50,000 by trading on insider information, that $50,000 came out of the pockets of the people that didn't have insider information and had to sell at a lower price when the news became public, people like you and me that perhaps owned some of that stock, so Martha in effect stole that $50,000. Now if Martha came to your house and walked out with $50,000 in cash or stole two cars, you'd be pretty upset, stealing $5 from 10,000 people is no different that stealing $50,000 from one person, many people go to jail for far lesser amounts.

Should Martha be let off the hook because the $50,000 represented only .1 percent of her fortune (let's assume she's worth $50m even though it's actually far more, over $1B at one point), how is that fair and just? That makes it worse in my opinion, she doesn't need the money, she just chose to screw other people.

Yes, this type of thing does happen all the time, but the fact is, she got caught, that's a risk she chose to take. If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time.

It's precisely the fact that the wealthy do often get away with 'white collar' crime that helps breed cynicism in our society and causes people to lose faith in our justice system. In a fair justice system, all people should be treated the same regardless of their wealth or celebrity.

Greed in and of itself certainly isn't illegal but what she did is and some of that money came out of my pocket and the pockets of a few thousand other people. Explain to me why she should walk.

Why is it that whenever someone wealthy is prosecuted they are 'being made an example of', should we just stop prosecuting the wealthy altogether? She took the risk, she got caught, she should be prosecuted. That's the bottom line.

Dean Stacey

Let me, wearily, say it one more time: her stock trade was not illegal, which is why they did not charge her with any crime in the matter, brought no indictment, and the goofy charge they did put together that sounded like a stock trade charge but wasn't was thrown out by the judge.

She was charged with and convicted of lying to Federal investigators in a matter in which she was never criminally charged, because she had committed no indictable offense. Period. And that I have as the opinion of the US Attorney for Los Angeles (Retired) as well as all the legal analyses I have seen. She was charged with lying, not under oath, to Federal Investigators in a matter in which she had created no indictable offence, and had she told them to go to hell instead of talking to them, no charges could or would have been brought.

Second: all kinds of people including I am sure the jury decided that she wasn't nice, and she was unethical -- she took advantage of knowledge others didn't have. One juror said as much afterward. Wanted to send a message. But that is not rule of law, that is rule of bad feelings. If you want to live under such a society, in which the middle and low justice reside in the whims of government officers, then so be it: for we are achieving that.

I have no idea whether or not she is nice.

As to whether we should prosecute the wealthy, it depends: are they guilty of crimes? A crime is something that is spelled out in law, and make illegal before you do it.

In any event, be on notice: if you speak to a Federal Investigator then anything you say can be used against you in a criminal action. As to making examples of people, of course: the idea is to make examples of people.

Maiastas. It was the major crime used by Augustus and then Tiberius to suppress enemies and potential enemies.




For something astonishing see this:

Advanced Technology Aerospace Giants Eye Zero Point Energy Aviation Week & Space Technology 03/01/2004, page 50

William B. Scott Austin, Tex.

Zero point energy emerges from realm of science fiction, may be key to deep-space travel

To the Stars

At least two large aerospace companies and one U.S. Defense Dept. agency are betting that "zero point energy" could be the next breakthrough in aerospace vehicle propulsion, and are backing those bets with seed money for ZPE research.

If their efforts pay off, ZPE-driven powerplants might enable Mach 4 fighters, quiet 1,200-seat hypersonic airliners that fly at 100-mi. altitudes as far as 12,000 mi. in about 70 min., and 12.6-hr. trips to the Moon.

ONE OF THOSE companies, BAE Systems, launched "Project Greenglow" in 1986 "to provide a focus for research into novel propulsion systems and the means to power them," said R.A. Evans, the project leader, in a technical paper last year. Although funding levels have been modest, Greenglow is exploring ZPE as one element of the program's "project-directed research," according to John E. Allen, a consultant to BAE Systems.

At least one large U.S. aerospace company is embarking on ZPE research in response to a Defense Dept. request, but the company and its customer cannot be identified yet. National laboratories, the military services and other companies either now have or have had low-level ZPE-related efforts underway.

The concept of zero point energy is rooted in quantum theory, and is difficult for even the technically minded to grasp. <snip>

Ed Hume

Mind boggling. If I'd written it five years ago it would have looked like Doc Smith had done it.







This week:


read book now


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Subject: Succinct precis of SCO's current situation

Bruce Perens has neatly summed up the current state of the SCO vs. IBM lawsuit. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

And what a story! Taking the stock from .50 to $20. And what do you want to bet that the company managers haven't sold out?  But we prosecute Martha Stewart. And no, I am not saying the SCO managers ought to be prosecuted; I am saying there is risk in market trading and attempts to take the risks out can be a cure worse than the disease. And the law is so complex that the SCO managers might have, in good faith, thought they had a case, and Microsoft might, in good faith, have thought they ought to pay the license fees rather than be embroiled in the law suit. But of course Microsoft's payments bankrolled the suits, which cause the SCO stock to gallop...


Dr Pournelle,

A warning

On waking up today I checked my email and found this…

[legal at nac dot net] wrote:

Your credit card will be billed at $22.95 weekly and free 3 pack of child

porn CD is shipping to your billing address. To cancel your membership

and CD pack please email full credit card details to

 [legal at nac dot net] Ready to enjoy all types of underage

porn? We have the best selection for every taste! Click the secret link

below and have fun... www dot cardertalk dot com <http colon // www dot cardertalk dot com>

…which is a new one on me (note: all net & email addresses above are cobbled)

Jim Mangles

Holy Moley! And you can get up to 20 years for the mere possession of kiddie porn. Now there's a blackmail scheme! Send us money or we send you contraband and inform the postal authorities. I am not sure what you should do here!

On reflection, this is terrifying, given the implacable nature of the prosecutorial authorities. By the way, on one occasion I know of, the post office authorities mailed a package of kiddie porn to a man, and a postal inspector then got a warrant to search the man's house on the grounds that there was kiddie porn present. This was at the instigation of the FBI who suspected the chap of something illegal.

(On later reflection, I am sure this wasn't real: nothing is actually being mailed, and this is just a way to try to get a verification of email address, and perhaps to phish your credit card stuff; still, it's a hell of a blackmail idea! Send money to the Cayman Islands account or we will mail you kiddie porn and tell the Post Office. It might work, given the rationality of most federal agents now (Homeland Security handcuffed an IMF diplomat when it was clear to everyone involved that this was a case of mistaken identity -- but rules are rules and are made to be kept, and when stupid people do things they know are wrong they always insist it is their duty.)

Dr. Pournelle:

Jim Mangles related the email message he got about being billed for child porn. This is actually an attempt at installing a virus ("MiMail.L") on your computer (see  ). If the virus installs, it will attempt a denial of service against several sites. The message is sent from an infected computer, but the virus payload is not necessarily attached due to an error in the viral code. This virus was first seen about 12/1/03.

I also seem to recall that a variation on this message (again, a message generated by an infected computer) would include a link to a site that attempts to get credit card information, but I wasn't able to find that specific reference.

But you are right to be concerned about the content on a user's hard drive. There are several viruses that have "backdoor" access to your computer, and some infected computers have been used as storage areas for adult sites, just as others have been used as spamming sourced.

The usual warnings....

Rick Hellewell, Information Security,





Trading on the basis of material non-public information

The Martha Stewart imbroglio raises several distinct issues:

1) Is the generally accepted version of events (that Martha sold on the basis of a tip based on material non-public info for which the ultimate source was Waksal) an activity which the Securities exchange act attempts to prevent? Is it illegal based on the letter of the law and case law? 2) Is it economically and/or socially desirable to restrict such activity? 3) Is the prosecution of individuals at prosecutorial discretion warranted on the basis of tangential or unrelated (and sometimes unavoidable or artificial) law breaking when their primary unlawful/undesirable activities cannot be sucessfully prosecuted (but law-enforcement is SURE they are guilty)?

My answers: 1) Yes, No 2)Maybe (probably) 3)Whose ox? Constitutionally, no. In our actual judicial system arbitrary prosecutorial power is significant in virtually every prosecution and the laws are often written to increase these powers (for instance, by making the same activity illegal in multiple ways). Most Americans ( I use the term loosely) are happier with this than they would be with more criminals thumbing their noses at the system. The majority (even the vast majority) isn't always right.

I consider Martha's activity the moral equivalent of both knowingly receiving stolen goods (the tip was of information belonging to the company, not Waksal, and thus to all shareholders equally) and selling a car without disclosing a significant known defect not general to the model, year, and mileage. Legal or not, this isn't something a moral person would do. People were harmed (albeit to the minor tune of $50K). If Waksal felt he owed a personal debt to Ms. Stewart beyond his public duty to all shareholders he needed to find another way to pay this debt (check?) rather than "writing a check" on some faceless buyer's bank account. Similarly she should not have cashed that fraudulent check.

Sincerely, Ben A. Pedersen, P.E.

Great. Let's have a Rule of Bad Feelings. To hell with law.

RE: Trading on the basis of material non-public information

I may have been unclear. This is, I think, the major point in the whole thing that you and I agree on. Folks shouldn't be arrested, intimidated, indicted or prosecuted based on loose interpretations of law or laws written to create inordinate prosecutorial power. What I tried to say below was that while I consider Martha's actions morally reprehensible, perhaps undesirable, and substantially equivalent in effect to the actions legislated against by the pertinent aspects of the law, the central aspects of her conduct were not illegal and the legal action against her was both unconstitutional and dangerous to American liberties. However, I also pointed out that the majority of "Americans" currently prefer it this way (which disgusts me).

Ben Pedersen, PE

Ah. I had misunderstood. Yes, we are in agreement. Moral reprehensibility is punishable in the market place, or through social conventions. The power of the state ought to be reserved for indictable crimes -- at least in a republic. In an Empire the main crime is maiastas, loosely defined as "insufficient groveling before the agents of the state."


Subject: A letter from India.

I recommend reading the first one, bad grammar and all:

--- Roland Dobbins








CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, March 11, 2004

From: Jim Mangles []
Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 9:01 AM
To: Jerry Pournelle
Subject: Distributism


Dr Pournelle,


I agree on distributism

Well, so do I. Of course!

Everyone’s against sin and in favour of motherhood and apple pie.

The question, on distributism, is how? What is your mechanism?

You say it needs economic inefficiency, I say it need economic efficiency .

That’s the difference,

Jim Mangles

 Is there anyone in the world who is after economic inefficiency (as a primary goal)? Well, perhaps; but explaining why takes a lot longer to say.  

Are you against progress?   Depends on the definition of progress, doesn’t it?

  You often mistake analysis for advocacy, by the way. I am not sure I am in favor of democracy, but history is damned clear on the requirements, which is a large middle class and income distributions that do not excite envy. That will produce economic inefficiency. Always. Is it worth that cost? Perhaps. Perhaps not. This is what Madison struggled with. “There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.” Is “progress” defined as “more democracy” and movement toward the end of history with universal liberal democracy? That is what Fukayama and the neo conservatives believe in. It's progress. But if you are in favor of that kind of progress, then prepare for distributism; it’s the only way I know to get there and stay there.

As to what I prefer to Democracy, I prefer a federated Republic, with self-government based on the consent of the governed, but with as small a geographic scope for each entity as it practical. We had that, at one time. We probably will never have it again.

I would leave most matters to the states, reserving to what the Framers called "the general government" only the most important matters all strictly defined by the Constitution. Within states I would leave most things to the people, including establishments of religion, education, definition of marriage, abortion, residency requirements for citizenship, the nature of the upper house (does it represent counties or direct population) and a lot of other matters that within my lifetime were left to the states and have now been appropriated by the general government with no great benefit.     


Subject: So, MS was behind the SCO funding 

Who would have thunk it?

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint

As I said in the column, it was uncharacteristic of Gates to pay the SCO license fees instead of fighting their demand; and certainly the notion that the money would probably be used to put a thorn in IBM's side with lawsuits must have occurred to someone in Redmond before they paid out that much. On the other hand, remember when everyone was saying that Java and the Internet would destroy Microsoft? Gates has always run scared.


Of course there are plenty of jobs being created. They just aren't being created in the United States of America.

According to a column in National Review

"Between 1983 and 2003, outsourced jobs have increased to 10 million from 6 1/2 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs insourcing, however, as a result of strong foreign-direct investment in the U.S., has grown to 6 1/2 million from 2 1/2 million in this same time period. The net outsourced jobs figure peaked in the early '80s at nearly 4 million, then declined to a trough of roughly 2 million in the early '90s, before its recent gradual rise to just under 3 1/2 million. (The latest data is for 2001.)"

While this is not insignificant, the numbers here do not seem to account for a lot of the job losses.  I dare say a lot more numbers and math would be required to come to a firm conclusion on this.  Also, more recent numbers would be useful.

If you want my opinion, purely as a non-economist, I suspect that many of the jobs of the late 90s were artificially created ones riding the tech boom, and what we are experiencing now, outside of the recession impact, is a partial correction to "normal" levels.

Think about the employment rate changes for gardeners and fertilizer makers during the Netherlands tulip craze.

Of course, the facts aren't going to make much difference to a voter who is being inundated by the media with the idea that a 5.6 percent unemployment level is equivalent to the Great Depression.

Tom Brosz

Well, you're probably right, but economic recovery without job increases is not likely to make for a happy nation. Perhaps we can all join the army.



Subject: This beggars belief.

---- Roland Dobbins

It sure does! But after my treatment at the Glendale Galleria Apple Store (I have yet to hear from anyone there), I am hardly surprised. Gouging Apple loyalists is a way of life.


And this asks an interesting question:

This is just a confused note from someone that came through the public school system, was exposed to Greek and Latin roots but never took Latin...

You have used the term "maiastas" a few times recently, and I was curious to see more of what you were talking about. Popping it into Google only came up with 3 hits (2 of your pages, and someone else referring to you), so I thought "well, what if it is misspelled" and tried "majastas", which got a suggestion of "majestas". It that what you are referring to?

John Ballentine

Well in English law it is spelled majestas, and is defined here

Many Roman inscriptions use a capital I instead of a J (Iulius Caesar). Since Majestas and lese majesty were crimes in English law, I used the Roman spelling to make it clear I was referring to the Roman crime of lessening the power of the state; contempt of state might be a better way to put it. Caligula used that a lot as a charge to confiscate property. Tiberius used it to consolidate his position. So did Augustus.

The notion that any random Federal Officer is so damned important that you must not lie to him is bizarre. Note I do not here refer to sworn testimony, whether under oath in court or before Congress, or in a sworn statement signed under penalty of perjury, where fair warning has been given. But if the cops ask you about your legal activities and you think you might be embarrassed by the real answer, why shouldn't you lie to them?

Somehow the courts have inferred rights to privacy and from them a right to abortion, but apparently privacy doesn't extend to telling lies to federal goons.

Alas I had the spelling wrong: the Roman spelling is 'maiestas'. Sigh.


A lengthy description and review of the TH55

Hi, Jerry!

Don't know if you've played much with PDAs, or have any interest in them... I recently decided to buy one, and put a lot of time into investigating them. The unit I chose to purchase was the Sony Clie (pronounced CLEE ah, and I don't know why) PEG-TH55. This is one of the new crop from Sony, so new that they're not in the local shops yet; I got mine by ordering it over the web from SonyStyle.

In 10 words or less, the TH55 is the Swiss Army Knife of PDAs. It does it all, and has it all (or at least, most of it). You get the following:

built in, high speed 802.11b Wifi connectivity built in 1/3 megapixel, 640 X 480 digital camera built in voice recorder (similar in usage to a pocket dictaphone) built in MP3 playback capability (but requires a memory stick; you cannot use the internal memory.) HUGE screen - the entire surface of the unit is a 2 1/8" X 3 1/4", 480 X 320, 64K color screen. Best I've seen, anywhere; twice the resolution of all Pocket PCs, and considerably larger. power saving processor auto throttles between 8 and 123 Mhz, resulting in exceptional battery life. 32 megs of built in memory, ALL available to the user. Memory stick expandability, currently up to 1 gig (larger cards coming). A really nice, lightweight form factor (with the exception of the weirdest, most awful-est button placement since... well, ever. A new high in lows.)

The software includes the following:

Sony desktop - a really useful, productive way of integrating commonly used applications. It is modelled after real life paper applications - the virtual organizer looks like a paper one, the virtual phonebook looks like a paper one, etc. Of course, all the electronic advantages are also incorporated, but the familiar analogy means that you can actually start using it immediately, without learning anything new. For example, if you want to write an appointment in the appointment book, just scroll to the relevant hour and day, and write it in with the stylus. Alternately, you can also use Graffiti 2 or Decuma character recognition to input text... but you don't have to.

wifi autoconnect feature - includes a sniffer to detect and autoconfigure the PDA. It also finds IR networks. Makes wifi rediculously easy.

Web browser and email software - the web looks fantastic on the super large, bright TH55 screen, and the wifi connection means you surf rapidly. Very nice experience.

Decuma character recognition - vastly faster and better than Graffiti 1 OR 2. If you throw anything at this software that is shaped even vaguely like a letter of the alphabet, it'll figure it out. In general, you can input text as fast as you can print, with little or no recognition errors. Just blaze away.

SonicStage software - audio player/recorder software that I found so confusing, I haven't messed with it to any great extent yet. It does sound considerably nicer than Real Player or Media Player 9.

Free downloadable 'documents to go' which allows you to create, view, and edit existing Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents. I haven't messed with the spreadsheet, but the word processor is easily powerful enough for my needs... several fonts, typesizes, bullets, formatting, justification, inclusion of illustrations... lots of stuff. An inexpensive upgrade adds a few additional features, such as spellcheck.

e-book reader and Acrobat software, allows you to read the common formats out there. And they're READABLE on the huge TH55 screen! (Say, did I mention the wonderful screen?)

Anyway, it's quite a cool device... I think it's a strong contender for 'best PDA on the planet'. But nothing is perfect, and the TH55 is no exception. The deficiencies are:

No built in OS support for Portrait / Landscape orientation. On the Palm T3, Palm built it into the operating system, so all applications have it available. Although the TH55 uses the Palm software, Sony chose to leave that particular function to the software developers... with the result that most software doesn't give you the option of flipping the display 90 degrees. Frustrating.

Lousy button placement. What were the designers thinking? I cannot imagine that the button placement works for anyone, even tiny japanese hands. The perimeter of the unit is studded with tiny, surface mounted buttons which trigger various functions; unfortunately, it's almost impossible to pick the PDA up without triggering something. Also, there's no traditional D button layout; gamers tell me that it's almost impossible to play some games on the Clie as a result. And I find it impossible to reach the camera shutter release button without blocking the camera lens with my palm. If my fingers were 8 inches long, or I had tentacles, this would be a great layout. As it is... Lord, what were they thinking? This is a PDA designed for Space Aliens. Maybe that adds to the Cool Factor, or something.

Relatively slow processor and small memory. Although 123 Mhz and 32 megs of usable memory are still a lot, the competing T3 gives you a 400 Mhz processor and 64 megs (54 usable) of memory for the same amount of money. (However, the 400 Mhz ARM processor and memory combination burns power like mad, with the result that most people are really complaining that the T3 goes from full to zero power in much less than a days normal use, which is REALLY a drawback. By comparison, the TH55 has exceptional battery life.)

Lousy game machine. Don't buy it to play games on; the button placement and comparatively slow processor will frustrate you. (If you want a PDA that is primarily a game machine with some organizer capabilities, check out the Tapwave Zodiac at .)

The special Sony processor means that certain software which is processor dependent, such as Real Audio or various TV Remote Control software, doesn't currently run on the TH55. In most cases, software developers state on their website that they will offer versions for the TH55 shortly.

No bluetooth support. You get Wifi and IR network support, so bluetooth is largely redundant, and almost useless for any real world usage in any case (its massively slow, worse than dialup). Still, if bluetooth is the light of your life, look elsewhere.

No charging cradle; you get a dinky little adapter that plugs into the standard Sony slot on the bottom of the PDA. Into this adapter plugs the hotsync USB cable and the power cable; it is a kludgy, creaky, flimsy and floppy solution. For $400, I would have thought that space might have been found somewhere in the buget for a fifty cent charging cradle... but apparently not. So you plug cords into adapters, and adapters into slots, and hope that the whole sloppy rube goldberg assembly works. Guck.

Don't expect too much from the camera; it is primarily intended to provide small memory jogger type photos. There's no built in flash, and no way of adding one. The lens is optimised for closeup objects, which means that items more than 10 or 20 feet away are somewhat out of focus. Don't plan on using this camera as a replacement for a 'real' camera. It's more than a toy, but by no means a full solution. On the other hand, it's exceptionally easy to use.

However, when I balance out the plusses and the minuses, the TH55 is - for me - the best PDA out there. You get all the standard PDA functions, an enhanced desktop which makes the unit considerably easier to use out of the box, a decent word processor, wonderful text input options, high speed internet surfing and email, great MP3 playback, great battery life, lots of memory for most applications, a moderately useful digital camera, and the dubious distinction of the worlds first PDA that is an obvious example of Alien Technology.

At least, this thing was never built to be used by anyone with fingers. Art Bell show, anyone?

Take care, Jerry - Charlie

Thank you. Quite complete.

I tend to find PDA's annoying, one more thing to carry; I generally have a brief case and thus a TablePC when I go places, but then I don't spend much time out of my office. A Tablet with WiFi and Bluetooth serves me better and if I wanted a smaller device I'd probably pick a Blackberry. But that's me. I tried with Palm and Compaq PDA's and found I just didn't keep them up to date and after a while they gather dust...





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  March 12, 2004

Dr Pournelle,

Re: Distributism

You ask who is against economic efficiency? Well, there’s yourself: "I would rather see economic inefficiencies than disrupted lives". I look forward to your explanation that will “take a lot longer.”

On democracy, I’d agree with Churchill who said it was the worst system of government except for any other.

What you have to say about your ideal system is interesting. Do you know that such a place actually exists?   — Switzerland.

Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of cantons, equivalent to states. Each canton is made up of a number of communes. Each commune is small enough to practice direct democracy where every citizen can speak and vote, like Athens or Rome! Communes send representatives to the Canton and Federal parliaments. No-one can be President of the republic for more than one year— but the Presidency is a largely ceremonial position.

As for the rest of your wish-list, I’m not sure of the details, and I’m sure the match is not perfect, but I do know that a lot of what you seek actually is the case in Switzerland, mostly at the commune level— for instance, no-one can become a citizen unless the commune they live in accepts them as such. The trouble with the Swiss system is that it takes a heck of a long time to get enough people agreed so that anything can be done; for instance Switzerland only gave women the vote about 10 or 15 years ago. And as Harry Lime pointed out in ‘The Third Man’, all Switzerland has to show the world for this is the cuckoo clock.

Had Madison heard of Switzerland? It’s been going on in this fashion for about 800 years now.

Jim Mangles

I fear I no longer have time to go through all this, nor, given that you seem to find Harry Lyme a moral instructor, am I sure we are talking to the same ends. If glory is what you want, a self-governing republic may or may not be the way to get there.

First: of course I favor economic inefficiency over economics uber alles; that was my point. So, I suspect, do you: there is always a part of the population that can never contribute to economic production, and which merely consumes. The aged, the incompetent, the "undeserving poor"; efficiency mandates that we liquidate these useless mouths who contribute nothing to the goal of economic efficiency. Only monsters favor economic efficiency over all other human activities. The purpose of mankind is not to mindlessly produce!

Churchill's remark is wonderful, but it is also meaningless. As I said earlier, if you want democracy, you must have a large middle class, and not very many people so poor that they are desperate, or reduced to wage slavery; or you must be willing to enslave those who are not middle class. You must also be careful not to have such widespread differences of income as to excite the envy of the middle class itself. Democracy always leave the voters the choice of despoiling the rich: of voting themselves benefits while voting taxes not on the middle class but on "the rich". And if there is a large class of "the poor" there will always be politicians willing to organize them into voting themselves largess -- health benefits? Prescription drugs? -- from the public treasury while getting someone else to pay for these benefits. Democracy is not a low maintenance institution,. Churchill's remark makes for a good political slogan.

Switzerland is in fact a pretty good model of what I advocate. An armed populace, self governing, and not Imperial. Of course not long after 1787 the Swiss were conquered by Napoleon who formed a new constitution for them, and after our Civil War the Swiss had one of their own that resulted in the division of one canton into two half-cantons; but in general, yes, it is a stable, well governed, self-governed confederation of free people. As to accomplishments, I would have thought ETH had in fact produced its share of technologists.

I am a bit astonished that you think me ignorant of the Swiss Confederacy, and your remark about Madison is odd. Do you think the Framers at the Philadelphia Convention were ignorant of history and political science?

By the way: self government always takes a long time to "get anything done" which is why so many are tempted to overthrow it. Give me the sword of state and I will make a beautiful world. Earl Warren certainly thought that way. The trouble with democracy and republics is that the stupid voters don't choose PROGRESS as you define it.

Let me say it one more weary time: if you want democracy, you will need to look to the means of distributing largess in such a way that it does not corrupt. You cannot sustain a democracy that has a large impoverished class. And the Framers rejected it: "There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide."

And on Swiss accomplishments, see below



After one of her twins was stillborn, the mother was arrested for basically not following her Doctor's advice.

Ken M.

But couldn't she simply have chosen to abort one of both? Hard cases make bad law. But protection of the innocent always curtails choices of others.

Dr. Pournelle:

I have been using macs for 14 + years and I LOVE the platform. I am writing this on my 5 year old powerbook that has been dragged all over several continents. Looking at the condition of the case you'd think that it wouldn't even boot. But, from reading about the problems you have encountered with your Powerbook, I have concluded that macs aren't for everybody. Still, that little video is full of misinformation! You want to shut down your mac? Press the power key and then press enter! Dragging files from a cd to the desktop copies the files to the it is supposed to! If your mac locks up, press command, control power key...that is not anymore arcane than pressing control alt delete in windows.

No, Macs aren't for everybody, but neither is Windows. The Mac OS works for me and the way I work. I can't stand Windows.

David Turner

Dragging things to the desktop creates a shortcut to the CD. You have to do something else to get them actually to copy. As to the rest, I wouldn't know, but note his final remark.


Dr. Pournelle,

I've decided to initiate a new relationship with Microsoft:

"I've been a Microsoft user and general supporter, an Access Database programmer and evangelist, and a Visual Basic programmer for years. My personal experience goes back to DOS 5 and Windows for Workgroups 3.1. I mostly use Linux for my server and desktop needs these days, but I've kept an up-to-date Windows XP box on my home network, mostly for database work and for video editing.

Well, tomorrow I am going to go look at an Apple. If the open source community could help me with the video editing, I wouldn't even bother with that. But my goal is to banish Redmond from my life forever:

~ "Investment company BayStar Capital has confirmed ties between two Linux foes, saying Thursday that a Microsoft referral led to $50 million in BayStar funding for the SCO Group.

~ "Yes, Microsoft did introduce BayStar to SCO," a BayStar representative said Thursday, declining to share further details and repeating the firm's earlier position that Microsoft did not actually invest money in the deal..."

...this is not business competition, this is thuggery..."

- -- Don

Don McArthur

Welcome to economic efficiency.


 Upon further review I have decided that I ran into two of the “New Jobs” recently.

 One was Arabic Interpreter an Iraqi-descent friend was offered for $200,000 a year. He declined, not wanting to return to Iraq for any amount of money.

 The other was from a trainer of firearms for the high-speed, low drag operators. This gent is a retired Marine and law enforcement type who is now recruiting for “contract operators”. The pay was good, and depended on qualifications. I decided I needed to be 20 or 30 years younger to take this on.

 I have classed both of these opportunities as Imperial Services; perhaps there will be more such?

 I think I will wait until the Bush Administration gets tired of Cde. Mugabe. I think a spot in the administration of Zimbabwe would be just right.

 Jim Dodd

San Diego

 “We used to visit Rhodesia to see the ruins of Zimbabwe, now we visit Zimbabwe to see the ruins of Rhodesia.”

Well, some Imperial Services are better than others. I have no objections whatever to expanding the work of our Intelligence services, including covert actions overseas. Cheaper than the domestic terrorism we impose on ourselves at airports.



This article: << >> discusses an Arabic language training program under development to teach soldiers about 500 words of Arabic in 80 hours. Very interesting!

-Jon Dowell


Now for an example of -- well, of something.

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

I was shocked by the illogic of your column in DDJ this month. You start out by saying, essentially, with regards to battles, that common sense and observation gives you much better results than modeling for many complex situations, without having to wait years for computing advances. Then you do a 180-degree turnabout and say that, with regard to global warming, we should collect a lot more inputs and build more models. The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees there is a hole in the ozone layer which is growing at an alarming rate and there is very substantive evidence, both circumstantial and theoretical, that carbon dioxide emissions are a large factor accelerating this process. So, on the one hand you assert that computer models are extremely limited in their value, and in the next you assert that we need better models before taking any action.

Furthermore, you make a blanket assertion that preventative action is more costly than continued research. That would be true if there were all the time in the world to find a solution, but it is unlikely to be true in the current situation. When a lump is found in medicine, it is biopsied or removed promptly because the "costs" of waiting can be so much greater than the costs of action, even if the action turns out to be unnecessary. The costs to societies the world over of controlling CO-2 emissions are highly debatable: if energy costs go up some, or car costs go up, or even if some companies go out of business and their factory workers have to find other employment, those are not obviously bad things for society as a whole, especially when weighed with increased health costs in the short term and possible planet-wide extinction in the long term.

Costs of prevention are always higher than the costs of non-prevention in the short run. In the long run, costs of prevention often turn out to be either a life-saver or a complete waste - think of hospital insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you are mightily glad it's there. Your blanket statement that reducing uncertainty is a better investment is just silly when life and death is at stake and the clock is ticking. It assumes no cost of waiting, which is a patently ridiculous and reckless assumption with regard to these topics.

Best wishes, Warren Sirota

I am not sure where to begin. Perhaps I will allow one of the readers.

Sir, if you do not know whether we are headed for an Ice Age or an Inferno, is it not possible that if you pick the wrong one, you will make the situation worse when you try to DO SOMETHING NOW?

As to life and death being at stake, not this week anyway.

I fear you have been reading something other than sober scientific discussion. As to the consensus of scientists, I assure you, whatever they may agree on, the Ozone Hole is not the premier danger. And in fact, the situation is as I have described it: theorists are certain there ought to be warming going on, observation people don't see much if any. Drives both groups batty. But if there were warming, and it correlated with sunspots, would you then say we must get all the water vapor and methane out of the atmosphere? I know, you didn't mention those, but perhaps you should have.

By the way, where do you stand on nuclear power? It's the one "remedy" I know of that would do much of what you want without harming the economy. Enough nuclear power and space solar power and we can stop burning fossil fuels.

And see next week's mail


Subject: Nuclear waste does not pose a fraction as much risk as the millions of tons of s

Letter published in the Herald, Friday 12th March. This also got the headline used as title here:

Dear Sir,

Both Barry Lees & Alex McKechan say that burying nuclear waste does not count as dealing with it. Why not? What evidence is there that burying a few cubic feet of metal with a half life so short that it will reach the background level in a few decades, in a sealed container so strong that you can drive a train at it full speed without damage, could harm even the most enthusiastic lemming? Is it really neccessary to mention that all that radioactive material used to be, in the form of uranium which has a much longer half life, lying in the ground sealed off by nothing more than soil? Such waste obviously does not pose a fraction as much risk as the millions of tons of sulphur dioxide the coal industry dumps in the air we breathe & does not endanger Golden Eagles in the gruesome manner windfarms do.

As regards the cost the latest reactors & I grant ours are far from being the latest, can produce power at 2.4p per unit (something which I must admit I am reminded of every time a bill comes through my door). The worst thing about wind is not that it is merely about 3 times the cost, which is why the government has to force utilities to buy it, but that it is completely unreliable. Scottish renewables wind spokesman recently admitted that wind was unable to provide any part of our baseload power

This means that for every watt of windpower we construct we must build a watt of workhorse capacity which will be switched off when it gets windy & switched back on a few hours later. It should be obvious to even the most convinced Green that this is an insane system. Moreso since switching on & off reduces efficiency & thus the alleged CO2 or millionth of a gram of uranium savings.

Yours Faithfully
 Neil Craig


From another source:

Iraq attack is a more or less total strategic failure, with so-far non-catastrophic consequences:

1. It has not done anything to deter or degrade the main terrorist - rogue state security threats, ie Saudis and Pakis. In fact, radical elements in these states have been strengthened (existence proof: Riyadh bombings, OPEC oil price RISES, Taliban success up in Northern Pakistan provinces)

3. It has not signficantly deterred WMD prolifeation in either Iran, Pakistan or N Korea (existence proof: these states continue to maintain nuke programs)

4. It spilled a great deal of US/Iraqi blood to remove a non- signficant WMD "threat". (existence proof: almost one division casualties)

5. It has spent a great deal of US treasure, ~ $300 billion through 2006, that might have been alotted to more valuable defence goals, thereby reducing resources for anti-terrorist security (existence proof: lack of harbour security)

6. It has provoked what it sought to prevent, jihadist conflict in vulnerable Gulf states, with possible civil war over oil resources (existence proof: terrorist attempts to provoke sectarian conflict)

7. It has tied down ~ half of the US Army combat infantry, for an indefinite period, in a crappy dangerous peace enforcing nation building mission that they were not designed to do, harming morale (existence proof: reduction of recruitment and reenlistment)

8. It has alienated a sizable section of the US security apparatus - non-compromised US staff officers, intelligence analysts &diplomats. (existence proof: Republican officers running for President)

9. It has alienated long-time, traditional US allies. These allies are critical for multi-lateral police and intelligence support (no proof)

10. It has alienated the civil pooulations of allies and enemies (existence proof: largest anti-war demos in history in UK)

11. It has probably provoked an increase in terrorist recruitment (no proof)

Notice I have said nothing about institutional process violations of UN or US laws and regulations regarding transparent accountable executive behaviour, and respect for international law.

Most people condemn Iraq-attack on these grounds alone.

I repeat: Iraq-attack has been a strategic failure, now. I see no prospect of retrieval, although there is evidence that the thing could get worse.

Anyone who believes this litany of failure is success is an idiot.


I await comments. Here is one:

I have a more basic question. Prior to our destruction of the Taliban and Saddam regimes, did any of the world's madmen dictators have any reason to fear the United States? And if they do not fear us, how in the world can we bargain with them? Appeal to their tender moral sentiments?


It is certainly better to be feared than loved. Was this a good way to accomplish it?

And see below


On Haiti

Tide rises against Haiti's elite class By Carol J. Williams Los Angeles Times

PETIONVILLE, Haiti - From the palm-shaded swimming pools and marble terraces of this wealthy suburb's hillside villas, the distant squalor of Port-au-Prince resembles a tranquil, opalescent coastal vista.

The lavish comforts enjoyed here by Haiti's small class of industrial kingpins inspired former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to label them "rocks washed by cooling waters," while his people, the impoverished masses in the slums below, were "the rocks in the sun, taking the heat."

In a populist drive to show the rich what poverty feels like, Aristide long urged his followers to drag the rocks from the river into the inferno, an allegorical appeal that lives on after his departure as armed supporters continue to loot and <snip>

Our man in Haiti

In a way, the only sad thing about Haiti is the way we keep trying to make it into Ohio. Because it never will be, and only looks ridiculous trying, giving the local killers fancy democratic names. If we just let Haiti be Haiti--a crazy, gory voodoo kingdom--people might learn to respect the place. I have, after reading up on it. Haiti's history isn't just a lot of killing, either. A lot of Haitian leaders were brilliant guys who weren't afraid of anybody--not Napoleon, not Jesus, not nobody. These guys were self-made black Roman Emperors. They came up the hard way, out of slavery in the cane fields, and beat the European armies that tried to take the place back. All comers--French, British, Spanish--the Haitians took them all on and put the fear into them. The only people they can't beat is themselves, and that's nothing for soldiers to be ashamed of.

We've made them ashamed, by telling them the only way to be worth anything in this world is by working in offices, wearing dress-shirts and watching TV. My life, and God damn does it suck. If I had a little more of a tan, Haiti and a job in the Cannibal Army would look like a pretty good career option.

Unfortunately for me, they don't want white guys. Desallines, one of the scariest men who ever ruled Haiti with a bloody machete, said it pretty clearly when it came to racial policy: "For the Haitian declaration of independence, we should use a white man's skin for parchment, his skull for an inkwell, his blood for ink, and a bayonet for a pen!"

From The Big Hate
By Gary Brecher ( )








This week:


read book now


Saturday, March 13, 2004


"And as Harry Lime pointed out in ‘The Third Man’, all Switzerland has to show the world for this is the cuckoo clock. "
    That and 26 real Nobel prizes, last time I looked.
                       Gregory Cochran

Mr. Mangles replies:

Not bad. Middling, I’d say.

Cambridge University has 80.
31 of them are from Trinity College alone. All are “real.”

Your point is?

Jim Mangles

Thus proving that Empire is Better?


Responses to the Iraqi analysis:

Response to your anonymous commenter:

>1. It has not done anything to deter or degrade the main terrorist - rogue state security threats, ie Saudis and Pakis. In fact, radical elements in these states have been strengthened (existence proof: Riyadh bombings, OPEC oil price RISES, Taliban success up in Northern Pakistan provinces)

On the contrary. American troops are no longer virtual prisoners in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi oil is back to prewar production levels. Saudi leverage is thus significantly decreased. As for Pakistan, see next ...

(No #2?)

>3. It has not signficantly deterred WMD prolifeation in either Iran, Pakistan or N Korea (existence proof: these states continue to maintain nuke programs)

This is so blatantly false I'm astounded you could actually write it. In the first place, existence counterproof: Libya. In the second place, the Pakistani nuke network that was uncovered in the past few months - actual production may not have been deterred yet, but the scope of the problem is now known, which it never would have been otherwise. You can't deter a problem you don't know anything about.

>4. It spilled a great deal of US/Iraqi blood to remove a non- signficant WMD "threat". (existence proof: almost one division casualties)

Divisions are 500 soldiers now? Wow. Things have changed. As for the threat, Bush and Blair repeated often enough beforehand that the problem wasn't an actual current threat, it was the possibility of one arising and the difficulty of predicting what Saddam might do. Regardless of whether you agree with that analysis, given that they believed it to be true and had at least some hard evidence to support the position (which is the case) it was a completely reasonable move.

>5. It has spent a great deal of US treasure, ~ $300 billion through 2006, that might have been alotted to more valuable defence goals, thereby reducing resources for anti-terrorist security (existence proof: lack of harbour security)

"More valuable"? In your opinion perhaps. But can you prove that in fact the money spent effectively drawing jihadists to Iraq and getting them killed there could have prevented them from entering the US if they had no closer target?

>6. It has provoked what it sought to prevent, jihadist conflict in vulnerable Gulf states, with possible civil war over oil resources (existence proof: terrorist attempts to provoke sectarian conflict)

It is not clear at all that it sought to prevent such things. Rather, it sought to bring the conflict out in the open and destabilize a completely unacceptable status quo. Civil war in some states, with potential for eventual improvement as a result, is drastically better than a continuation of the current regimes.

>7. It has tied down ~ half of the US Army combat infantry, for an indefinite period, in a crappy dangerous peace enforcing nation building mission that they were not designed to do, harming morale (existence proof: reduction of recruitment and reenlistment)

Show me some numbers. The ones I've seen indicate that recruitment has not changed in any statistically significant fashion.

>8. It has alienated a sizable section of the US security apparatus - non-compromised US staff officers, intelligence analysts &diplomats. (existence proof: Republican officers running for President)

I have no idea what you are talking about here. Everything I've seen indicates that the current administration is extremely popular in the military.

>9. It has alienated long-time, traditional US allies.

No, it hasn't. They were already alienated and just pretending they weren't. It was under Clinton that the Europeans started saying "hyperpower that must be restrained". Even the French are now admitting that a Kerry presidency might "feel better but wouldn't change any of the fundamental problems".

>10. It has alienated the civil pooulations of allies and enemies (existence proof: largest anti-war demos in history in UK)

And why do we care?

>11. It has probably provoked an increase in terrorist recruitment (no proof)

And with equal lack of proof I assert that it has probably brought closer the day when Islamic terrorism is abandoned on a large scale.

>Notice I have said nothing about institutional process violations of UN or US laws and regulations regarding transparent accountable executive behaviour, and respect for international law.

And by saying something by not saying anything you are making a dishonest argument. I will claim, at least partly for the sake of argument, there were no process violations at all. Perhaps some intentions weren't fully what they were advertised as, but as far outright violations go, that did not happen. Can you prove otherwise?

>Most people condemn Iraq-attack on these grounds alone.


>I repeat: Iraq-attack has been a strategic failure,

Repeating things often doesn't make them more true.

>Anyone who believes this litany of failure is success is an idiot.

"When someone makes a statement you don't understand, don't tell him he's crazy; ask him what he means."

Who said that?

===== Kent Peterson

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_

Leaving out the merits of either side here, this is almost a perfect example of why I seldom to never use the "chop the other guy's stuff into mincemeat, then comment on each fragment" method of argument. It is needlessly irritating, and seldom addresses the overall point: that is, it's perfect for nitpicking, but I don't think it much advances understanding.

It is certainly true that the original correspondent overstated his case. As for instance:

Subj: Recruitment, reenlistment and Republican officers

One of your correspondents identifies "reduction of recruitment and reenlistment" as evidence that operations in Iraq are "harming morale".

Don't know where the correspondent gets his recruitment and reenlistment figures. I don't have any original-source figures myself, but I did see this: 

[begin quote] February 16, 2004: Despite the media stories about troops dismayed by overseas service or combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, all the services (active duty and reserve) are suffering from the problem of too many people wanting to join, or stay in. ... It's rare for there to be too many people. But since September 11, 2001, a combination of recession (which always attracts more recruits to the military) and patriotism (which is usually underestimated by the media) has brought in more people than the armed services are allowed to have. [end quote]

I suppose Jim Dunnigan & Company -- the crew -- could be flat-out lying.

There's also this:  Army meets end-strength for fourth straight year

=Despite reports from a Stars and Stripes poll stating some 49 percent of Soldiers in Iraq are “not likely” or are “very unlikely” to reenlist after their current obligations, the active Army exceeded its retention goal this year with 54,151 Soldiers retained against a goal of 51,000.=


=According to an Army National Guard spokesman, units returning from deployments had only a 10 percent attrition rate as opposed to a 17.4 percent attrition rate within the entire Army National Guard.=

They could be lying too, I suppose.

Your correspondent also identified "Republican officers running for President" as evidence that operations in Iraq have "alienated a sizable section of the US security apparatus".

The only such I know of is Clark. In view of his widely-reported reputation among his peers, I wonder what it is, really, for which his candidacy really constitutes evidence?

Of course the correspondent qualifies the alienated as "non-compromised". But isn't that qualification a tad tautological? For those who dislike that kind of thing, might one not say, well, that is the kind of thing they dislike?

How many serving general officers have been so alienated, that they have resigned their commissions in protest? I haven't heard of any, and somehow, given the prevailing attitude among American reporters, I rather think I would have, don't you? I think I've heard of a State Department career officer or two resigning in protest, but military officers?

General Shinseki -- the Army Chief of Staff before the current one -- is about the most alienated I can think of, but he didn't resign in protest, and his beefs went way beyond Iraq policy.


Do understand: I do not believe the United States cannot be a competent empire. My concern is that we should not be an empire at all.

But I can carry flags and thrill to the sound of the trumpets if needs must.

And note

Subject: Straining the legions.

--- Roland Dobbins

So the story may not be quite so clear cut.

Hello Jerry,
Apropos the quote in this article from Colin Powell: that's right, only thing is, you send them to Syria or elsewhere that human rights are abrogated. And canadians can vouch for that.,13743,1168501,00.html

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


Jerry, you wrote: "One possibility is not a possibility, which is to renew the Crusades with a vengeance, expel all Muslims from Christian territories, and in general make it very difficult to do this sort of thing in our part of the world."

Why is this not a possibility? It's what it is going to take for us to return to what I call our 'previous level of insecurity'. Otherwise, we are going to continue sinking into even more of a perpetual police state due to our moral cowardice to do what's right and what it takes to get the job done. I, for one, am not willing to go through all the post-9/11 airport shakedowns and cavity searches (as well as all the similar versions in other aspects of post-9/11 society) just so we can have Muslims in the country. They are not worth it. I have seen nothing to convince me they are more loyal to the nation than to their religion.

Every time you go through an airport and the TSA pulls you aside, it is so we can have Arabs/Muslims in our country, period. In essence, it is our fear of being called "racist" or some-such that overrides our common sense and keeps us in a state of denial. Well, it's not about race, it's about culture. If there is a group who comes here and not only does not want to assimilate, but wants to tear us asunder, then it is our DUTY to "renew the Crusades with a vengeance". If not, you condemn your children and grand-children to live at the total mercy of an all-too-willing-to-grab-more-power State apparatus that will use the presence of enemies within as a go-to reason any time they want to speed up the march to totalitarianism.


As Fred has pointed out, we don't have free speech in this country. We all know what we can't say and who we can't say it about. We are enlightened.

Dear Jerry:

I prefer option four which is to band together with other like-minded countries and use the full force and power of our combined technology, intelligence, and military assets to hunt all terrorists (of whatever religion) down and kill them in their beds or wherever else we find them.

Tim Loeb

But we have to find and identify them first. The Israelis prefer this solution too, but it doesn't seem to have brought peace. Not that I argue: it's the right and proper thing to do, but the devil is in the details. Will Rogers once suggested that the answer to the submarine threat was to boil the Atlantic ocean, forcing all the subs to surface. Asked how to do that he said "I've given you the solution, don't bother me about the details."



On other matters:

Prenatal choline supplements make baby's brain cells bigger, faster 

They fed pregnant rats choline supplements during pregnancy, and got significantly smarter pups.

The implications for humans are immediately obvious.

--John R. Strohm


This fellow was the middleman in the $50M deal which enabled SCO to launch its crazy lawsuits.



In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies. Red Hat did recently raise several hundred million which certainly gives them more staying power. Ultimately, I do not think any company except a few of the largest companies can offer any reasonable insulation to their customers from these types of judgments. You would need a market cap of more than a couple billion to just survive in the OS space.

--------------------- 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: MSN Messenger IM remote hard drive access vuln ( priority one)

 ---- Roland Dobbins

Subject: Backdoors everywhere, mandated by regulation.

--- Roland Dobbins

On the Job Market:

Dear Jerry

I just read an interesting article on outsourcing at . It seems reasonable to me, except for this: will American IT workers be willing to work for wages signifigantly lower than those offered before the bust, lower even than what they might have expected straight out of college?

I will soon be graduating from college in Canada with a diploma in Systems Management/Networking. I recently applied for a Network Support position at a Convergys call centre, so from the point of view of an American, I may be part of the outsourcing problem. At the same time, I am in competition with China and India too.

I suspect that the main point of the article - the impossibility of sustaining the present model of exporting jobs while maintaining the same high standard of living - will hit both Canada and the U.S. fairly soon, with many complaining that they didn't see it coming.

Greg French

Middleton Nova Scotia Canada

Precisely. Now I understand that some adjustments will be needed. The question is how many will a democracy put up with? Economists always look at things as if there were no political concerns, as politicians look at the world without considering economic factors. Water always runs downhill but it will never reach the bottom...

Which is why I after a long time came to the conclusion that a non-discriminatory tariff of about 10% (maximum 15 in my judgment but that's a guess) is probably the best economic/political solution to the problem. It protects some inefficiencies imposed by union rules and higher wages without being so protective that it allows really awful production inefficiencies: indeed if things work out well it forces some efficiencies just so that higher wages can be supported.

I am prepared to be proven wrong, but all the "proofs" I have seen have been arm waving with predictions of Worldwide DOOM and the like.

And I have yet to see an economic model that takes into account the inevitable political costs of free trade. Most don't even look at such things as welfare, anomie and crime, and the like, as if such consequences never happened.

Interesting IT article on it. Reversing some job losses thru devaluation of the $, inflation, lower standards of living. 

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint


First, we tax-payers spend BIG bucks paying for years of training, then ...

>    >... >Squads of Bosnians, Filipinos and Americans with special forces >experience have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to >protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. > >Their salaries can be as high as $1,000 a day, the news agency AFP >recently reported. Erwin, a 28-year-old former US army sergeant working >in Iraq, told AFP: "This place is a goldmine. All you need is five >years in the military and you come here and make a good bundle." >...

Jim Warren








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 14, 2004

You should look at the Logitech MX 700 Cordless Optical Mouse. It has a recharger stand and works great. Also I agree with you about the Sennheiser headphones. I have a hearing loss and they work great without turning up the volume and driving everybody out of the room.

Dick Hiatt








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