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Monday  April 5, 2003

Dr. Pournelle,

I am a protective agent in Iraq on contract to a US firm to provide security to its workers. I can tell you without a doubt that the men killed in Fallujah were not CIA. They were private security agents like me who were hired to protect Americans in Iraq. There are quite a few of us running around here doing this job, but it is a fairly tight community and most of us know each other, if only by name. The guys who were killed work for a small private security company composed of ex-military personnel. They were not conducting covert operations or spying or anything like that. Now, I am not saying that the CIA does not have anyone here under such a cover. I honestly have no idea what the CIA is doing here. Those particular people, however, were not CIA. They were simply a target of opportunity.

As a long time reader of your books (I first read The Mercenary when I was 14) I thought that you might be interested to hear a little bit about what we are doing over here. Some have gone as far as accusing us of being Mercenaries. I suppose that could be argued, but I don't think that we quite fit the definition. In actuality we are closer to security guards than anything. Some provide static security at work sites. Others, like myself, provide personal security to executives and engineers as they travel about the country doing their business. We are well paid, but there isn't enough money in the world to get any of us to fight for the other side. We are most definitely heavily armed, but we would be little good if we weren't. All of us are ex-military, from either a special operations or infantry background. We would, if so organized, be very capable of conducting military action, but we do not, at least not in my group (and I am pretty sure it is the same in the others). The only time we would commit any type of violent act is if our principals (protectees) were attacked, and then all we would do is what was necessary to evacuate them.

Even so, you may be interested in some of the things that we do here. For myself, I lead a team of Iraqi Security Agents. Most of them are either Kurds from the North or former Iraqi Army. The former we know are dependable for obvious reasons. The ex-army types were never really loyal Saddam Backers and hate the "Wahabis", as they refer to them, who are causing the trouble. Surprisingly they work very well together. We have formed quite an effective team and developed what I am sure will be life long friendships. We are probably doing more toward healing this country's wounds than most of the do-gooders over in the CPA ever will simply by demonstrating that we can work together and have a common cause.

Not sure wear this disjointed rambling is headed or if you are even interested, but if you like I can keep you up to date on our adventures. Please let me know. All the best and please keep up the good work.

(will there ever be any more tales of Falkenberg's Legion?)

Matt Kirchner

I neither knew nor cared whether the men killed were CIA or not; the fact that it was shouted that they were, and this was one of the justifications for attacking them, is enough in my judgment to force the CIA to pay attention. In order to take care of its own, the Company has to take care of many thought to be its own.

Iraq was ruled by a civilized Sunni majority, which was then taken over by Saddam and his crooks; real neo-Jacobin democracy in Iraq will lead to Shiite terror. Anyone who paid attention to what was going on over there would have known this before we invaded, and would have known we needed the Iraqi Regular Army to keep peace and order; so of course the neocons disbanded the Iraqi army first chance it got, and sent home with weapons a number of young men with no prospects for a job; and then Bremer wondered about what happened.

There are words for that kind of naiveté.

As a side note: I am a former editor of Survive Magazine and one time associate of Lt. Col. Robert Brown, and the author of a fiction series about John Christian Falkenberg. I have many friends and associates among the soldiers of fortune. I do not use "mercenary" in the pejorative sense of someone who would change sides for more money.

I think there's a distinction between long-term oil supplies and short term ones. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is short-term. George W. Bush's efforts at filling it as fast as possible do not indicate a disposition toward energy independence. Rather, they indicate an expectation of, or even a disposition toward, fireworks in the Middle East.

When Bush took office, he had several thousand troops in eastern Saudi Arabia, sitting on top of the oil fields, backed up by about twenty thousand more in-region, mostly afloat on the Persian Gulf. Eastern Saudi Arabia is approximately as unpopulated as northern Alaska. Not only did eastern Saudi Arabia have oil, but it was as defensible as any place in the Middle East. Bush chose to withdraw the American troops from the Saudi oilfields, after the Saudi government refused his request for bases and ordered him out instead. There was no sensible reason for Bush to accept deportation, unless he trusted the Saudis entirely, or unless he wanted to conciliate Al Quada. Most of the September 11 attackers carried Saudi passports. Saudi Arabia is not exactly a free country, and its officials can ask any question they want to ask. The Saudi officialdom simply must have known that the attackers were not peaceful students. What was the reason to absolutely trust the Saudi government?

Very well, Bush invaded Iraq. Having done so, he did not concentrate his forces on oilfields, but went after places like Fallujah instead. The Saudis have shrewdly observed that the troops which could enforce low oil prices are becoming bogged down in Fallujah, and acted accordingly. The situation in Iraq is worsening steadily. Sooner or later, conflicts in northern Iraq will result in the invasion of Syria. Bush will have to drain the Persian gulf of troops to fill the gaps further north (presumably the logistic pipeline will run from the Mediterranean).

Saudi Arabia may very well decide to solve its internal problems by absorbing Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries are even more socially, militarily, and politically impotent than Saudi Arabia. They play at being western developed countries, buying the trappings from abroad with oil money, but they have very little of nationhood about them. Saudi Arabia at least has its Wahabbis, if it can point them in the right direction. From a certain standpoint, the consolidation is long overdue. The increase in oil revenue would enable Saudi Arabia to temporarily solve many of its internal problems, and perhaps half of the population of the conquered territory, being guest workers, could simply be expelled back to South Asia. The gulf states have used visas in such a way as to prevent their guest workers from putting down permanent roots, so they are birds of passage. The Saudis could easily subvert them by offering a donative, payable back home in Karachi, or Mumbai, or Manila. Say, about ten years wages for a few days fighting ought to be about right, because the guest workers have no long-term stake in the gulf states. The United States Navy will still be in the gulf, but ships by themselves do not project power on shore very well. The navy will have the unattractive choice of letting the Saudis consolidate the oil fields, or letting the Iranians cross the gulf instead. Prince Bandar will probably convince George W. Bush to turn a blind eye, with airy promises of abundant oil.

Bush has staked literally everything on a grand political victory in Iraq. In the attempt, he is systematically squandering the limited objective of control of the oil fields. If his grand design should ultimately fail, the Iranians will inevitably pick up the detritus, including control of the entire Persian Gulf, and Iraq as far north as Baghdad.

Andrew D. Todd

 An interesting analysis.

Subject: Fallujah Heros

Like all of you, I was dismayed to hear of the atrocities at Fallujah. Check out pictures and a couple of words about the heroes that died there from this web site: 

Text on the site referring to inappropriate commentary on the Fallujah tragedy from a liberal blog that has achieved some currency was answered as follows:

"The rage of the left is as sad as it is sickening"

So true.


But, but, but, liberals CARE so much, don't you see.

I find "sad" an inappropriate word for much of what I hear from Al Franken and KOS and those people....


When this old world starts getting you down...

I laughed. Then gulped, feeling guilty. Then laughed again.

<  >

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.


They are overestimating how large a bomb needs to be.

"Project Orion", George Dyson, 2003 (paperback) pgs 54-55: ""Pursuing these limits became my obsession," Ted admitted in 1986. "What is the absolute lower limit to the weight of a complete fisson explosive? What is the smallest amount of plutonium or uranium 235 that can be made to explode? What is the smallest possible diameter of a nuclear explosive that could be fired out of a gun?" The answers were surprising. "I was narrowing my focus, getting the quantities of plutonium that one could use to make nuclear explosions, down into less than a kilogram. Quite a bit less." This is golf ball, not baseball, size."


 However, it's possible to overstate the achievement, and both the program personnel and the media are doing that. For instance, one would have the impression from the coverage that a scramjet had never been previously tested in flight, when in fact the Australians did this almost two years ago, with a tiny fraction of the Hyper-X budget. The significance of this flight was not that it was an in-flight test of a scramjet, but that it generated sufficient thrust to actually accelerate the vehicle.



Subject: "25 Years in a Cell"

---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Buckyballs, Nanotech and toxicity 

Looks like a few side effects will occur from nanotech. I guess fullerene (C60) is missing enough electrons to be a serious oxidant.



Dear Dr Pournelle,

"I like Linux generally. It's easy to work with and a lot faster and less resource intensive than Windows. But until this issue is addressed, I'm not likely to give up my Windows installation."

Just so, though I have other reasons for not giving up Windows. The two OSs have complementary strengths.

In the case of Windows there are equivalent issues to Randy Powell's installation problems - things like absence of vbrun300.dll, wrong quicktime version, absence of flash or director, wrong DirectX, etc. - but they are well canvassed on the web. Linux (and Mac) users often feel smug that their machines are relatively immune to virii: this is the flip side of that coin.

There are several automated "package management" meta-tools out there which are intended to address this problem, but like other Linux desktop conveniences they are still evolving and it's not clear which will dominate. The most interesting synthesis going on at the moment is in the RPM world, and RH/Fedora is at the forefront. Mr Powell's Mandrake uses a tool called urpmi to keep track of .rpm package dependencies. There is also "apt", which is capable of tracking dependencies on CD or on the web. Debian uses "apt" for .deb dependencies. RH uses "yum" for .rpm dependencies, but it can also use "apt", and thereby hangs a tale.

Of the two main installation tools, "apt" and "yum" (don't you just love these names), yum is the default for now, but a lot of people use the apt system. Not only has it some momentum (a little while ago it was the only reliable service) but since "apt" can handle .deb as well as .rpm dependencies it makes sense to use apt if you have to support both Debian and RH.

Red Hat is of course one of the most important Linux vendors. It recently stopped free support for its variants of Linux - Red Hat 9 was the last such distribution. It now ships commercial support packages (with steep academic and personal discounts) for its new commercial products, but the old "up2date" links to Red Hat support are obsolete. As of the end of 2003 there is no more patches/support for Pre-RH9 systems; from 30th. April next year RH9 support likewise disappears.

To mollify critics from the Open Source movement RH merged with the Fedora Project, which builds cutting-edge versions of the RH products but without formal contract support from RH (although several RH engineers are deputized to assist the Fedora developers). In return it gets back the basics of future RH commercial distributions.

The "up2date" in Fedora now links to repositories of updated packages which are maintained not by RH, but by the open source community. Trouble is that since Fedora is so state-of-the-art, the yum repositories in particular sometimes can't keep up!

These issues are often discussed on the Fedora mailing lists. See for example < >

The upshot is this: as the geeks who develop Linux begin to use its desktop features themselves, they will come to appreciate the need for straightforward installation procedures and will develop them. It has already started. Tools like synaptic, which offer a glorious GUI for apt package updates, show the way. But it will take time. Meanwhile, Windows will remain the home user system of choice.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427


Your link to Eric Raymond's rant led me to this link: 

which is about user interface design. I recommend it for all programmers.

Charles Milner -- Harts Systems Ltd


And THIS will put the cat among the pigeons:

Dr. Pournelle,

If this doesn't make things worse, I don't know what will:

I'm not sure we have any choice but to try to take him out of circulation, but I think calling a press conference to say that we were going to try indicates a greater concern with voter response in the US than practicality in pacifying Iraq.

On the other hand, I suppose the strategy here could be to keep the Shia sufficiently angry at the US that they won't be interested in fighting the Sunni. I doubt it'll hold off civil war very long, though.


Joe Beaver


Subj: Iraq: Who's rising? *The* Shia or *some* Shia?

 IRAQ: Radical Shia Minority Rebels

[begin quote] April 5, 2004: Sadr militia had taken control of government buildings in Shia towns or neighborhoods from Baghdad, south to Basra. Sadr's armed militia is not large, a few thousand men, but they are dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic Republic (like the one that has ruled Iran since 1979, and is generally hated by Iranians.) ... Sadr has sort of talked himself into a corner, telling outrageous lies (the suicide bomb attacks in Iraq are the work of Americans), and appears to feel that he can seize people with a good old revolutionary coup (as was used during the Russian revolution in 1917, and many before and since.) Sadr can't win a battle like this, and it was always hoped he would realize this. But apparently not. Now a lot of people (Iraqis and coalition troops) are going to get killed because of the foolishness of one man. ... Sadr is considered a troublesome minority by most Iraqis, and most Shia. [end quote]

Which is a little different from what some other sources have been reporting.

Time will tell how many Sadr militia there are, and how effective. We'll all be just blundering around in the Fog of War for a while yet. I'm a bit disappointed at the sky-is-falling spin that NY Times reporter John F. Burns and his crew are putting on the Sadr militia uprising, but maybe I shouldn't be -- they are, after all, the NY Times.

Or maybe the sky really is falling, and I'm just an idiot, or a neo-Jacobin. Or insane.

Am I making too much of the line, near the end of the Burns report, about "Sadr militiamen ... fought a protracted battle along Sadoun Street, one of Baghdad's main commercial boulevards, with the Iraqi police"? If the battle was "protracted", I don't guess the Iraqi police just ran away, did they?

And it'd be interesting to learn, in a month or two, exactly what happened at the police stations and civil defense centers that were abandoned. Treachery? Cowardice? Or prudent evacuation of small outposts that might otherwise have been wiped out to no good purpose?


The sky is not falling, and the Marines are pretty sharp: they have been fighting small wars for a long time.

The real question will be the effect on our troops (and not just casualties).

Make no mistake, if we decide to stay the course we will learn the empire business. But Empire has a logic, and it leads to places not usually seen by a republic.

We do not have long to make some choices: what, precisely, do we think we can accomplish in Iraq?


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I was rereading Heinlein, "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" and noticed that his description of the Peace Dragoons control of the tube stations was similar to the TSA's control of airports. There are authors who just get to the essential truths. Shakespear, Kipling, and yes, Heinlein.

Being currently unemployed, I responded to an ad from the TSA for screeners (hey, it's a job). You have to sign a nondisclosure statement to go through the screening. You cannot tell what it entails on threat of not being considered and possible crimminal charges. Not only that, you cannot tell that you cannot talk about it if I read the thing properly.

I am waiting with baited breath for your new books. Love your site. Keep up the good work.



Hello, I'm a big fan of your collaborations with Larry Niven.

Me and my friends have been discussing this for quite some time: the real motive for invading Iraq. I think it's clear that it had nothing to do with WMDs and little to do with liberation.

And while I may be sympathetic to some of its causes, I don't believe the left's assertion that it's a simple matter of "blood for oil" or any other mindless slogan, except of course in the broadest sense, that the primary reason the US has any particular interest in the region is because of its oil. But they did not invade Iraq for its oil, or at least that was not the primary reason.

We thought that it was important to take a step back an analyze the entire region.

First of all, we look at Saudi Arabia.

For the past 13 years the United States has had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. They were there to protect Saudi Arabia from a possible invasion by Iraq (since Saddam being in control of over half the world's oil would be a BAD thing). The troops were there so long that they constructed a virtual city for them, including, among other things, bars.

In the eyes of many Saudis it must have been a big insult to have what appeared to be an occupational force in the holiest of Muslim sites drinking alcohol and getting drunk.

Add to that the fact that thousands of Muslims make pilgrimage to Mecca every year, and they see the occupation with their own eyes.

And out of the 19 Sept 11th hijackers 15 were Saudi. Fancy that.

Fast forward a dozen years. Without Saddam to pose a threat Saudi Arabia is safe and one of the first things the US did after major combat operations in Iraq ceased they pulled out thousands of troops from Saudi Arabia (moving them to Qatar I believe). It wasn't heavily advertised.

From this point on it becomes a lot more speculative.

Saudi Arabia may be on the verge of revolution. There have been massive protests of the Saudi Royal Family happening with increasing frequency. Of course such things are hard to predict, but there seems to be a significant chance that they might continue to gain support, and possibly overthrow the government.

And of course what would replace the Saudi Royal Family would almost certainly be a fundamentalist regime. But whereas the Taliban had a whole lot of dirt, this new regime would sit on top of one of the world's largest deposits of oil. And such regimes generally aren't too fond of Israel.

Whether or not things escalate to that level, it appears that one of the major motivations for the invasion of Iraq was to establish a safe place in the Middle East from which to operate and to allow them to get their troops out of Saudi Arabia, so they might ease tensions in Saudi Arabia by limiting their visible presence in the country.

Of course the neo-Jacobins completely underestimated what it would take to win Iraq. And even though I was against the war, I honestly thought they'd have an easier time with it than they have.

My opinion has changed and I think Iraq will remain a deadly quagmire for years to come. Handing over control of the country to the Iraqis would be disastrous, as it would likely result in another fundamentalist dictatorship. And the UN isn't likely to be interested until the US reliquishes some control. And the US' list of allies grows thinner as elections replace the governments that were supportive of the US-led war.

I don't really have an answer, but I think it's best if you can escape the inevitable oversimplification and polarization that develops with things like this if you are to have any hope of understanding what is happening.

Thank you for your time.

-Christopher William McEwen

Calgary, Alberta, Canada



The year is 1904, only 100 years ago. Here are some of the statistics for the U.S. that year...

·         Total U.S. population in 1900 was 76 million people, less than a third the population we have now. Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California; with a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union. (The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.) The American flag had 45 stars; Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

·         Life expectancy at birth was 47 years, and the infant mortality rate is high: 140 of every 1000 babies born will die in their first year (these days, fewer than 10 in 1000 die) Yet more than 95% of all live births in the US took place at home.

·         Flu, pneumonia, typhoid, gastritis, and whooping cough were common causes of death. The five leading causes of death in the US were: 1.) Pneumonia & Influenza 2.) Tuberculosis 3.) Diarrhea 4.) Heart disease and 5.) Stroke

·         90% of all US physicians had NO college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."

·         The dollar was a defined (not floating) unit of currency; there was NO income tax; there was NO central bank (i.e., Federal Reserve). But the United States was a rising economic powerhouse and was the wealthiest economy in the world: per capita income was on the same level as Britain and Australia, was twice that of France and Germany, and was quadruple the standard of living in Japan and Mexico.

·         Still, most Americans in 1904 were living in what we today would consider poverty. Per capita American income in 1904 averaged around $5000 [in present-day dollars], less than one-fifth the current level. In other words, the typical American in 1904 had about the same income as a typical Mexican today. The average wage in the US was $0.22/hour; the average US worker made between $200-$400/year; A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000/year, a dentist $2,500/year, a veterinarian between $1,500-$4,000/year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000/year. Sugar cost $0.04/pound. Eggs were $0.14/dozen. Coffee cost $0.15/pound.

·         A man's typical on-the-job work week consisted of 60 hours of work, spread over six days. Pensions were rare; men generally worked until they were too feeble to go on doing so. Two-thirds of men over 65 still worked full-time jobs. Women made up only 18% of the paid work force. They mainly worked in textiles, apparel, shoes, canning - fields where you were paid according to how much you produced.

·         At home, women spent an average of 40 hours a week on meal preparation and meal cleanup, seven hours on laundry, and another seven hours on housecleaning. The average housewife baked a half a ton of bread-about 1400 loaves-per year. 18% of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.

·         Only about a third of American homes had running water, only 15% had flush toilets, only 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub, and half of farm households didn't even have an outhouse. Most women washed their hair only once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

·         Only 3% of American homes were lit by electricity; only 8% of the homes had a telephone (a three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.00) 50% of all people’s living spaces averaged more than one person per room; taking in lodgers was common.

·         Most people lived within a mile of where they worked, and depended on their feet to get them around; only 20% of urban households owned a horse. There were only 8,000 automobiles in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads; the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

·         Coca Cola contained cocaine; marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

·         Half the population drank alcohol; half didn’t. The half that did drink averaged two hard drinks and two beers per day; wine consumption was minimal. By contrast, in Europe, people drank twice as much beer, and averaged more than four glasses of wine a day.

·         [Only] 10% of the American population was completely illiterate, and the average adult had an 8th grade education; only 7% of students would ever complete high school.

[compiled from and]


If I understand you correctly, you wrote that the British deliberately set up the Sunni to rule Iraq. Well, not quite. What the British actually did was to adapt the "dyarchy" approach Sir Lionel Curtis had invented for India to Iraqi conditions (Sir Reginald Coupland did the adaptation, if I remember his name correctly). This was a transitional approach to a full hands off independence that both respected local wishes and also avoided failed states by leaving them going concerns with pro-British working institutions. It was well on the way to working when interrupted by outside events (not just the world wars - also the deliberate anti-imperialism of the USA before 1939-45 as well as after). Whether it was inherently vulnerable to disruption, and whether disruption was inevitable, are important questions too, of course.

The thing is, during the slow transition Iraqi dyarchy - purely coincidentally - had local involvement that used the material at hand: the Sunnis. But the British were not setting the Sunnis up, they were growing in a constitutional monarchy that respected all minorities as well as the majority. I was myself a child in Iraq in the 1950s, and I distinctly recall that when the monarchy was overthrown our Armenian nanny was a monarchist. So the nation building was working, until Suez's failure worked through to undercut the Baghdad Pact that implemented British hegemony; an unintended consequence of US middle eastern policy, though one that European arabists had explicitly warned about.

If anyone wants to know more about the way empires work, it's worth reading up the work of the Beit Professors of Imperial History like Sir Lionel Curtis and Sir Reginald Coupland. It would certainly clear away any misconceptions like "the USA isn't after territory like the British, so it isn't an empire"; the British weren't after territory either, just following the logical consequences of getting stuck with commitments and facing up to making them pay for themselves as much as possible. Things like the "Perpetual Maritime Peace" were hegemonic and imperial but not territorial.


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 am not sure what your disagreement is. The Brits brought in an outside King -- the Hashemites had no previous rule in Mesopotamia and Faysal did not last long in Syria due to French opposition -- and the Turks had long used the Sunni to keep the Shiites down.

I make no doubt that the monarchy, and for that matter the Sunni in general, were more for tolerance than the Shiites. Most everyone is.

Hi Jerry

What can you say about this?,4057,8696545%5E1702,00.html 

That's just simply shocking. Who would have thought that kite flying is so dangerous?

- Paul

Actually, I can think of nothing to say about this. Astounding!




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  April 6, 2004

I would have to say Mr. Todd has a few things wrong.

Bush accepted deportation (and I assume this means ejection of a military presence) from Saudi Arabia because Saudi Arabia is an independent country and has the right to say what foreigners can be there. If you mean he accepted it as the price for invasion of Iraq, then I would have to say it was because most everyone thought Iraq had the WMD's we have not yet found.

As far as Saudi absorbing Kuwait, Qatar, the Emirates, etc. I would have to ask, with what? Except for a small number of elite forces, they do not have much of a force to do that with. Even if they managed to do that, I don't think the USA will stand around idle. And those countries are not likely to voluntarily join with Saudi Arabia and submit to it's Religious Police.

Expel the foreign workers? Who do you think keeps the oil flowing, the warplanes maintained, all of the other work which needs to be done? If that labor could be found locally, they would not need to spend big bucks importing it.

As far as control of the oil fields, well, as soon as that happens the political opponents will immediately short 'AHA! So it was about oil after all!'

Also, the polls show most people are more concerned with the convenient location of fuel, not price, at least right now.

Brice Yokem Senior Programmer/Analyst





From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                                 

Date: April 06, 2004                                                                                       subject: Accusations of treason
Dear Mr. Lundy:
        Daniel Pipes says, in his latest newsletter, that the book Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley contains what amounts to an accusation of treason against former President Ronald Reagan, to wit: "Actually, Reagan had made a private deal with Khomeini. If the Iranians would hold the hostages until after the election, the new Reagan administration would pay ransom for them in the form of arms for Iran. Khomeini badly needed the weapons for his war with Iraq, so the deal was struck."  He further states that this material was inserted by Mr. Brinkley after the death of Stephen Ambrose.  See
        I regard this matter as quite serious.  Does Mr. Brinkley have any actual evidence for this remarkable claim?  If so, what is it?
Stephen M.
        St. Onge


Dr. Pournelle,

Found an interesting article about democratic rights and such in Arabic countries at the Economist. I do not agree with all their number rankings, I would rate a great many of them lower still, but... 

It is interesting to note how they rank in the various areas on a chart. Notable omissions include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the 'Stans. Though, they are not stirctly Arabic. It would have been interesting to compare them as well since they have similar problems/governments/cultures/societies.

The countries do seem to be slowly moving toward better government. But this is fragile since any dictatorship or theocracy immediately reverses any gains. Maybe higher levels of education and technology do promote progress. One can only hope so, since it will be a long struggle to get them there. Should we be doing it or pushing it? That question becomes one and the same as that of Empire, I suspect.

But if the Romans could collapse so completely might that also not happen to us if these become barbarian (theocratic/dictatorship) hordes with modern weapons? Their threat would be to Europe and East Asia, of course. All they need is some kind of Attila, Alexander, Napoleon, Mohammed, Stalin, Hitler, or Genghis Khan to unify them and start the cycle again. Are we at some point of this cycle that might be identifiable? Can we then prevent it? Are we internally weak or corrupt enough that we cannot prevent it? It might be interesting to see if we are at a point of such transition.

I blather on... -- Oliver Richter KI4EKG

The point about not taking on an empire in a fit of absent mindedness is that you won't be an empire, but remain a republic, as you watch things collapse in other parts of the world; you thus have some reserves.

Two oceans are still two oceans, and time is still time. But that was my point all along. I never doubted we could right many wrongs in this vale of tears: but I don't think we can right all of them and bring about the end of history, and history has a way of biting those who have committed all their resources.

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

 In thinking about this letter, I realized I have been reading your work for almost 30 years. In that time I can't say I have always agreed with your policy prescription, but I have always found your writing insightful and thought-provoking.

With the events of this week, however, it seems to me that you predicted event of the US adventure (mis-adventure?) in Iraq over the last two years. Every single event, from selective interpretation of intelligence during the runup, to the course of the fighting, to the aftermath and its consequences.

That is an amazing record; I can't think of another analyst who even comes close. Do you have any insight into why the course of events was so clear (I won't say obvious) to you, but has gone so wrong for an Administration which should have vastly greater resources at its disposal?

Steven Healey

Possony taught all his students to think clearly, and served as the foremost example. I wish we had the old fox around now. God knows we need him.



One of Fred's premises is that in addition to its role as science "evolution serves the purposes of religion, namely to explain human origin and destiny." It is at this leap, the expansion of science beyond the explanation of how things work and into the realm of meaning and faith that many Christians, including myself, find much frustration.

One of your readers expressed his irritation with Fred for making short shrift of "ten thousand biologists" doing "genetics [and] molecular biology." Conversely, I must express my frustration with scientists who make short shrift of many of the great Christian and other thinkers of western civilization.

An illustration of this point may be found in the book "Science and Creationism." It was edited by Ashley Montagu who assembled a cluster of notable scientists to refute Creationism. Although good science was presented it was also breath taking to see its virulently anti-Christian tone. Equally disappointing were the sometimes crude mockeries. Clearly there was religion here; the religion of reducing all reality to the strictly material. C.S. Lewis' "Abolition of Man" anyone?

I am not a creation scientist nor do I wish to defend their movement or methods. But neither do I appreciate scientists who claim that their very proper work of understanding the physical universe exhausts Reality. Both sides could benefit by reading more widely. Maybe some of C.S. Lewis' essays.

Best regards,

Mike Cheek Tallahassee

I would never discourage anyone from reading C. S. Lewis, and The Abolition of Man is a good place to start; as is The Great Divorce and Pilgrim's Regress, or the fictional That Hideous Strength.  Lewis was strongly attracted to reason as a means of discovering truth. He may have come to the wrong conclusions, but it cannot harm the scientists to pay attention to him once in a while.





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Dr. Pournelle,

One more datum and another onion nomination. Apple refuses to ship to APO addresses, so as a military member stationed overseas, I cannot do business with Apple. Since I moved here, I've been finding out which companies support US military members stationed overseas and which do not. After a polite message to the company explaining why, I am not going to be doing business with any of them at any point in the future.

APO addresses are in no way different than addresses in the 50 states, because they are US postal service run facilities. Shipping costs the same, terms of service are the same, and the only difference is that these postal service centers are specifically set up so that overseas military members (and their civilian family members) can continue to receive mail at US postal service rates. Failing to ship to these official US government facilities is a distinct failure to support a population of US military members who frankly don't have a choice where they happen to be living.

Apple joins that list of non-supporters. is again to be applauded for making a specific effort to ship to APO addresses.

Not that they care, but Apple gets an onion with garlic clusters from me. I was going to carry one of their products around the world with me anytime I deployed. Now I suppose I'll carry another company's product and remember how little Apple cares for my business. It's a shame because the more I read about it, the more I wanted an ipod mini. But Apple refuses to sell me one. The sales lady even corrected herself... "We can not... will not ship to APO addresses."

For what it's worth (not much), the apple sales lady said that she "gets that a lot" when I asked her to inform her customer feedback contact that Apple had just lost a customer due to not shipping to an overseas military address, so they know about the issue and are deliberately not changing their policy.

Sean Long

Does anyone know why this is so? Is is political correctness?

The primary reason not to ship to APO/FPO addresses is the lack of tracking. For merchants this means the they have no way to prove the package was ever delivered. The potential for fraud is much greater than with US Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. Merchants simply do not want to incur the extra risk and losses associated with APO/FPO addresses.

Jeffrey Hines

Yet many merchants do send to APO addresses. New Egg among them.


I'm sure many vendors will tell you they don't ship to APO/FPO addresses because it's more difficult and riskier. Many resellers have standardized on UPS and/or FedEx, and it's a bit more hassle for them to ship via USPS. Many will also tell you that they run into more credit card issues--fraud, chargebacks, etc.--with APO/FPO addresses and they have little recourse when they do.

Still, if they could get their minds off their short-term bottom lines, they'd realize that mistreating our young men and women in uniform is penny-wise and pound-foolish. So they take a small hit expense-wise. Who cares? I'd think that'd be something they'd happily do to help our armed forces. It's little enough, certainly.

Which reminds me of a story I've heard from more than one WWII veteran. Both my father-in-law, who was a Marine in the Pacific, and a good friend of mine from college who landed as an Infantry sergeant at Omaha Beach and walked to Berlin have told me the same story. Apparently, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army both provided coffee and doughnuts to the guys who were coming off the front line. The difference was, the Salvation Army gave them the coffee and doughnuts. The Red Cross charged for them. No money, no doughnuts. Just off the front line and don't have any spare change? Tough.

Naturally, they both remembered the Salvation Army with fondness, and neither had any use for the Red Cross. Apple and other companies with military-hostile policies probably aren't even aware of the ill will they're causing. Or perhaps they don't care. Either way, I hope they reap what they've sown in the fullness of time.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I heard the story about Red Cross charging troops for services many times, but I will have to say that never happened to me or to anyone I know personally: it was always a story that happened to someone else. (In your case you have a first person account from someone you know, but I don't.) I saw the Red Cross in several military hospitals here and overseas and I never saw any money requested or paid. I never saw either organization very close to a combat zone, but then you wouldn't expect to.

For a number of years I did volunteer work with the American Red Cross as an unpaid instructor. (And, by the way, the vast majority of the people doing things for the organization were totally unpaid, and the few who did draw a salary were not paid much. Many were retired military, etc., and didn't live on their pay and probably could not have done so.) The stories out of WW2 were always going around and we were briefed along the following lines. It was before my time, so I can not swear to it.

In WW2 the closest ally in ETO was the Brits. While the tradition in the CONUS was for the RC to show up at places of need, and try to lend a hand, free, that tradition is absent in the UK, especially for enlisted Poor Bloody Infantry. It bid fair to lead to friction due to unequal treatment - couldn't have the overpaid Yanks getting freebies while the Tommies got nothing. The upshot is that the RC was ORDERED by FDR, via the War Department, to charge. The idea never came out of the RC, and they accepted it only as a condition of being able to lend SOME aid to the troops. Of course, it's considered to be some sort of violation of decency to criticize Saint FDR, so the RC took the fall. Some of the older (and I do mean OLD, even in the 70's and 80's) had been getting beat up over it for many years and were bitter about it.

The RC deserves criticism for some things. This isn't one of them. When the 'voluntary' call comes around for donations to United Way, the ones that get my support are the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. The day I can't do that any longer is the day I'll risk wrath and donate $1 per year.

I know you get this, but I still hope to see a re-issue of the Inferno before I die.

T Martin

Hmm. Thanks. I had not heard that story. Here it is again:

The Brits were very jealous of the wealth of our soldiers. "Overfed (have you ever seen the British WW2 ration schedule), oversexed and over here," was as good as any Nazi propaganda from Axis Sally.

So, the Brits asked us not to give away food in canteens, and applied political pressure, which FDR only too happily transferred to the American Red Cross. Remember, FDR was the fellow who ditched Garner as VP because Garner was too soft on the race issue. (Modern mores forbid an exact quote here, but you all have imagination and can imagine which N word was used.)

When the man who writes the paycheck says 'stop', what else could they do? Go public, and sow further dissention? In a war?

Now, the Salvation Army had three different kinds of immunity to political BS.

In those days, they were 100% self-funded, and they could tell FDR what to do with the Brits' request.

In addition, the Sallies had, and have, additional insulation from the slings and arrows of outrageous government action, for they are a church. The USG rarely leans on churches, it just ain't wise.

They were also an English church, which provided them even more immunity from American governmental preferences while Over There.

Recycling this without perspective hurts the folks, like me, who are trying to prepare us all for the next disaster.

And, BTW, with that *one* exception from over half-a-century ago, all disaster relief services provided by the American Red Cross are provided at no charge to the client, without respect to any ability to pay. If Bill Gates lost his palace in a mudslide, we'd be there with coffee and doughnuts, and a voucher to tide him over, just like we'd help OBL or that Mister Hilter from the flat upstairs (sorry, obligatory Python reference). Hardly anyone making a decent living *asks*, but equality of treatment is drilled, drilled, drilled into our heads in training.

And, oh, BTW, I had a brief conversation with the PR head for Apple Stores

and sent her a link to the GI's story, so expect some kind of response from Apple.

-- John Bartley, K7AAY,

As I said in response to the first mention, my experience with Red Cross dates to the Korean War, and I never saw anyone charged for anything. I still find it hard to believe that the United Kingdom would object to our handing out free doughnuts, but the Brits often astonish me. Why not?

So apparently the story is true but there is a reason. Why would it apply to Marines in the Pacific, though? Because we were based out of Australia? The story has some odd inconsistencies.





Moslem Theocratic Eansion,


When America's fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbour they went away and made another one. Then they came back with the new, improved, model just as Tojo predicted. This is the sort of people they are, for all their faults. Europeans and I include Russia, are the same. All it needs is for a serious threat to the Western way of life like a few small nukes exploding in American and European cities and its goodbye to the Abduls. The hard fact is that the Moslems aren't very good at anything. For example, in 1945 Pakistan and Korea started equal as two of the poorest countries. Pakistan is still there at the bottom of the list. The South Koreans are opening factories in Wales as the labour is cheap, well educated, and English speaking. In short, Moslems as a class are not useful.

Having said that I am waiting to see how you establish democracy in a country like Irak where the three parties, Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, have as their sole real policy the extermination of the other two groups. It took a long time to establish contention by ballot in Northern Ireland, assuming the shooting war there is now over. The two sides there have far more in common with each other and with the occupying power than an Iraqui of any flavour does with the US forces. Possibly Bush will establish a government of locals and then cut and run. This might be the least bad out for America. And possibly for the Iraquis too.


John Edwards


One should not underestimate an enemy nor take counsel from fear. And it helps if you're fighting Arabs. --Moishe Dyan

The US has always had the option of requiring the Kurds and the Turks to come to an understanding,



Dr. Pournelle,

One again, these are a breath of fresh spring air through a cloud of bad news!

See them raise their young! Chicks/eggs are in the nests now....

Eagle Cam: 

Falcon Cams: 

Osrey Cam, too!: 

Owl Cam? Oh, well, maybe next year...

QUOTE Unfortunately for Owl Cam, relocating the camera at this time could disturb the owls. We plan to keep you updated through "News from the Nest" on this year's nesting activities, and hope the owls return to the nest box in 2005. UNQUOTE 

 Respectfully Submitted, Robin K. Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired)






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Maundy Thursday

Joel Rosenberg on Iraq:

"The US has always had the option of requiring the Kurds and the Turks to come to an understanding," you write.

I couldn't agree more. As I've been saying since 1992, we've reached the historical point where settling the Matter of Kurdistan becomes not only possible, but increasingly pressing.

More so lately.

Sure: Iraq is the most likely candidate for the world's first Arab democracy; the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz contingent are right on that. It's still vanishingly unlikely -- as I believe both you and I have been saying for, well, pretty much forever. Huge payoff if it works; vastly unlikely to work.

On the other hand, a Kurdish democracy in the north seems to be already building -- complete with things like a free press -- under US protection, and the Kurds main fear in the ongoing negotiations for the transitional Iraqi state is making sure that the Shiites and Sunnis don't get to eat them.

So: cut the cord, and partition; hand over the southern 2/3rds to the UN, and let them administer it with the great success that they've had with the Food for Peace program; that'll make Kofi Annan's son an even richer man.

Let the Shiites in the south have their islamofacist Iranian-style society. It's their problem -- as long as they don't, like the Iranians, start playing with the toys that sane Westerners wouldn't want to allow in islamofascist hands. Ditto for the Sunnis in the Triangle. Sure, it would be nice to think of the Iraqi National Congress as some sort of fetal Continental Congress, but let's be serious here.

The pony that's hiding under the dungheap is Kurdistan. It's got some real problems, but some real possibilities.

Which leaves dealing with the Turks. The Turks are allies, but the US doesn't have a history of always allowing its allies to act as they see in their own interest, and there's no reason why the Turks should get a bye.

The deal would have to include an explicit agreement that the borders of Kurdistan stop at the Turkish border, and that family reunification to the South would take place on a Kurdish timetable, but the only real obstacle to that would be Turkish objections, and those could be overcome.

Perhaps Kurdish Iraq really is too small for a Kurdish state, although that's a hard argument to make, given what's expected elsewhere. And chopping off a chunk of Turkish Kurdish lands for Kurdistan has to be explicitly waived, to keep the Turkish alley only reasonably unhappy. . .

. . . but I don't remember *Iran* being a US ally.

----------------------------- Joel Rosenberg

Long time readers will recall I said before we went in that defeating Saddam would be easy, but getting out once we were in Baghdad would be extremely difficult, sufficiently so that perhaps we ought not go in until we knew precisely how to get out. I have seen nothing to contradict that -- to me obvious -- observation.

Building a democracy in Iraq was never possible and is not possible now without some fundamental changes. Iraq is not one country. It's not even three countries, although it could probably be partitioned into three. The Turks made some 18 provinces out of the region, Kuwait being one of them. Most of the southern part of Iraq was independent of Baghdad, as was Iraqi Kurdistan. Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra were autonomous provinces. Of course "independence" and "autonomous" are relative words when applied to Turkish satrapies.

The boundaries of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq were drawn in Cairo and London, not on the ground there. The Hashemite dynasty had no history in the region. Faysal proclaimed himself King of Syria, and was preferred by the Syrians to the French, but the French forced him out, holding Syria as a League of Nations mandate. The Brits had the various provinces of Iraq but there was a movement for getting out and when Faysal appeared in London after his expulsion from Syria by the French, T. E. Lawrence and Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill seized the opportunity. Faysal was proclaimed King of Iraq, a "nation" created from the various provinces, in 1921: and that was the first inkling that there was a "nation" of Iraq.

The Hashemites governed by using the Sunni minority to hold down the Shiite majority. The Hashemites are hereditary Sunni Protectors of Mecca.

Iraq is composed of tribes and clans, and these are of various ethnicities as well as religious confessions. Loyalties go to the local Sheik first.

To make a democratic nation of Iraq would require a federal structure with considerable autonomy of the parts -- precisely what the Shiite Ayatollah opposes because the Shiites want one man one vote winner take all, and they will be the winners. If we allow this, the result is likely to be Algeria with oil. The Shiites have ties to Iran, and would exploit them.

The Sunni are better educated and probably better warriors, and they have ties to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. They would call on their friends to help resist being inundated by a bunch of Shiite heretics. Wahabi sects would respond. The result wouldn't be fun.

The Kurds, as Joel observes, are closer to having a democratic structure but the problem is there are TWO democratic Kurdish organizations and there is considerable evidence that the loser of an election would not accept the result.

This is true in Iraq as a whole as well. The loser of an election won't accept the result.

The US can perhaps build a nation In Iraq, based on federal principles, but it will take time and lots of it,. We will have to impose law and order, devolve internal government to the member states, and dole out the oil revenue by forcing compromises rather than winner take all. That will take a long time, and it will also take a different kind of army. We cannot leave the shield of the Republic hostage to Mesopotamian politics. We need an army and a Marine Corps to deal with problems other than Iraq, and we don't have them, and won't have them if we use the regular forces to occupy Iraq during the decade and more it will take to build a confederacy and force the parts of it to accept each other. We will have to build an army of imperial mercenaries who govern because that is what they do, not because the governed consent to it.

The alternative is to teach our regular forces that they can govern without the consent of the governed. We may not want to do that. We may also need them elsewhere: Iraq is not the only problem spot in the world.

Giving Iraq to NATO or the UN is a poor idea, but I would rather do that than try to stay there and govern. Merely walking out and letting Iraq degenerate into Algeria with powerful sectarian neighbors, becoming a battle ground, is hard lines on the Iraqi, but perhaps preferable to being governed from Brussels or UN headquarters. I don't know. The lords of the Non Governmental Organizations are hard masters when they get the reins of power, and when they do get them, they don't let go easily.

We need an Army available to deal with things other than Iraq.

We need to assure our troops that their lives aren't being expended for no reason; which means we must have a feasible goal. Building democracy in a few months is not a feasible goal.

Now what?

The following is almost unreadable due to an entire want of paragraphing, but his point is valid:

Dear Dr Pournelle, In all the vast amount of words written about American policy in the Middle East and the difficulties it faces one factor, which for me is vital, seems to hardly be mentioned. That is the prevalence in the Middle East (and also Central Asia and the North-East portion of the Indian subcontinent) of consanguineous marriage. The map at this location  gives a good idea of how distinctive this phenomenon is. This fact, of a strong preference for first cousin marriage, explains both the distinctive features of Middle Eastern society and why that part of the world has such problems with modernity. It also explains why the neo-con project of 'modernising' that part of the world is probably doomed. A society with a high level of consanguineous marriage is going to be a family or clan based one, in which people are primarily loyal to, and define their identity by membership in, an extended kin group. This means amongst other things that people will tend to trust their relatives but nobody else, that they will have two standards of morality, one for relatives and another for outsiders. (Islamic works against this but in practice is trumped by the sociology). This makes it very difficult to create and sustain modern institutions whether in government or commerce as they are based on hostility to nepotism. In particular it means that governments are family businesses in which one clan rules everyone else. As long as the clan sticks together it is usually ok but if it doesn't then forget it. This crucial quality of asibiyah (roughly team spirit/group loyalty) tends to last for about four generations so on historical precedent the Saudi state (a classic family regime) has about ten years to go. In Iraq it means that the idea of implanting democratic institutions is a fantasy. What the US has to decide is what the British and Turks had to decide before them i.e. which clan(s) do you pick to be your subcontractors? The alternative is to stop people there from marrying their cousins but that would require a totalitarian regime. The high level of consanguineous marriage has cultural consequences as well. It goes with an honour culture with associated high levels of violence and in particular killing of women to preserve familial honour. It also goes with intensely patriarchal structures within the family in which the male head of the family is an autocrat (even if manipulated by his wife) and boys are pampered and spoilt, above all the eldest ones. This together with the lack of general social trust produces the following pattern of social relations - if you are in the inferior position you grovel and seek favours (while secretly hating and resenting the favour giver), if in the superior position you alternate between treating people badly and graciously giving them favours. Showing compassion is seen by the recipient as weakness and far from inspiring gratitude will lead them to lose respect for you. Every US official should be made to read Ibn Khaldun's Muqhadimah which describes the sociology of this kind of society. This link is also useful  . Not a good part of the world to get involved in, to put it mildly, unless you understand how it works.

Steve Davies

I have commented on the effects of this practice in other places. It was prevalent among the Rothschild's and some other financial dynasties, and is very common in the Middle East.





Google's Architecture


My boss forwarded this to me this morning: . It's a fascinating analysis of Google's architecture - 100,000 servers!

I've been watching this trend for a number of years now - applying RAID-like technology and concepts to servers. Why buy a 100,000 CPU supercomputer for $100M+, when you can buy 100,000 servers and cluster them together for <$10M? And get more redundancy, flexibility, and net power to boot. This could easily be referred to as RAIS (Redundant Array of Independent Servers). I can just see the marketing now: We'll RAIS your business up to peak efficiency!

Best regards,


"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide." ~ Jim Burnham

"I swear, by my Life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." ~ John Galt, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

BYTE gave clustering technology a Best Technology award back about 1990 as I recall. It certainly makes sense. And with 100,000 servers you can bet they are not using Microsoft for the operating system...




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  April 9, 2004


Dr Pournelle,

Mac OS X Trojan


"Paris, France: 4:15pm, April 8, 2004 - Intego, the Macintosh security specialist, has just released updated virus definitions for Intego VirusBarrier to protect Mac users against the first Trojan horse that affects Mac OS X. This Trojan horse, MP3Concept (MP3Virus.Gen), exploits a weakness in Mac OS X where applications can appear to be other types of files."

This seems such an unlike story from such an unlikely source, I wonder if it might just be part of a cunning plan by the music industry to discourage people downloading mp3 music files. On the other hand, maybe I give EMI & co. too much credit for lateral thinking.

Jim Mangles

Interesting. I had not thought of that angle.


Dear Jerry:

I heard about this organization on the television news. When I was in Vietnam my unit used to get similiar packages from the USO . I am going to pull some of the surplus from my bookselling sideline and send them to one unit. but it occurs to me that your readers might also want to get involved. Leigh and I will try to get some other people involved as well.

-------- Original Message -------- Subject: Re: sending books directly Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2004 12:14:22 -0400 From: Books For Soldiers <> To: <>

HI Francis!


To get other addresses, go to  and click on the big ENTER button in the middle of the page. You will see all five military branches listed. Click on the name of a branch, like ARMY. You will then see a long list of requests. Click on a request and the address will come up.

And my deepest thanks for your service to our country.

Storm Williams Founder BFS

Thanks. Sounds like a very good thing to do.

And here is welcome news:

"The privately-backed SpaceShipOne suborbital rocket plane made its second powered flight today.

Built by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, the piloted vehicle was powered by a hybrid rocket motor to over 105,000 feet. The engine burned for 40 seconds, zipping to Mach 2, or two times the speed of sound, according to a source that witnessed the test flight high above Mojave, California." <snip> 

-- John E. Bartley, III 503-BAR-TLEY (503-227-8539) K7AAY This post quad-ROT13 encrypted; reading it violates the DMCA. ..We're living in a collaborative SF novel... and now, of course, it's Philip K. Dick's turn. In a back room somewhere, Vernor Vinge and George Orwell are currently arguing about who gets to take over in 2025. (Ross Smith)

I am no fan of hybrid engines, but this design will very likely be good enough to win the first X Prize.


Dr Pournelle,

Algerian oil

…the result is likely to be Algeria with oil

Algeria has oil, and quite a lot too.

They’ve got even more gas.

Jim Mangles

And guns, and utter chaos.



You said

>>What the United States needs is a sense of war and urgency here. The Department of Justice and the FBI want to catch criminals and prosecute them. That's not quite the same thing as protecting the nation from enemy aliens and traitors. It takes different measures, and we traditionally haven't used those means. For a while during the Cold War we did: it was called McCarthyism, persecution of those who were, or very probably were, or associated a lot with those who were disloyal to the United States. Alger Hiss. Harry Dexter White.  Judith Coplon. And a very large number of Russian agents. Read the Venona documents for details. Those people were real, and were allied with a power with nuclear weapons, and still it was difficult to get the nation to take security seriously.<<
Yea, we may need to do that. But as has been said, it's not a nation I want to live in. Especially when we'd rather persecute the innocent than violate political correctness.
On a related (sort of) note: Fred might not know much about Evolution. But I think he hit it pretty close to the mark on:
Driving Down Unknown Roads: The Feminization Of America
While some of the conclusions are not what most of us want to hear, it's certainly makes for interesting and uncomfortable reading.
Randy Powell

The price of telling others what to do is that they seek to do the same to you; and if you have a monopoly on large military forces, they use the weapons of the weak. Subversion, terror, wearing down the will. It will happen.

The United States, for good or ill, has decided to be involved in the Middle East. Since any US involvement there will be seen as support for Israel, the result will be hostility toward us. If we then respond to that by massive use of force and invasion of Middle East countries, even if all we do is restore Kuwait to the Kuwaiti Royal Family -- not seen by most Middle East militants as friends of the Arab and Muslim movements -- that brings us even more to the attention of those trying to liberate the Middle East and restore the Muslim Caliphate.

Anyone could see that. Certainly I did: I wasn't in favor of the first Gulf War, because I was pretty sure it would lead to a second.

If we had left Europe and Asia to deal with European and Asian affairs, and concentrated on developing our own resources, building nuclear power plants and developing the energy potential of space solar power satellites, we would by now be a long way ahead for a lot less money.

If we are to suppress domestic terrorists, what are we to do? Internal surveillance, infiltration, the classic method of MI5 -- not the FBI -- are required. McCarthy was a ham handed drunk; but he was about the only Red Hunter we had. Read Buckley's book The Red Hunter for more details. Or de Toledano.

I'll talk about what we should have done to prevent 911 in the first place. You may not like the answers.


Subject: Incompetence.

---- Roland Dobbins

Shades of Robert S McNamara

No general ever has enough troops; but if you are to do something like Iraq it is best to understand that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. It may take longer than you think for your plans to come apart, but they will. And you need reserves to deal with whatever those unexpected events turn out to be.


Dr Pournelle,


And guns, and utter chaos.

I know what you mean, but then I thought I’d just take a look at the current situation; it seems that to be fair to Algeria, things have been getting better there recently—

It is a long time since Algerians had much to celebrate.   ... Yet, unnoticed by the rest of the world or even by many Algerians, the country shows signs of emerging at last from the gloom.  ...  The turnaround owes something to hard work but as much to luck.... Prices for the oil and gas that earn Algeria 95% of its trade income have been high for three years in a row, and the near record levels of the past six months have produced windfalls all round.  ...  On the surface, Algeria's political life appears to be steadier, too. Since becoming president in 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has engineered a partial reconciliation with the Islamists who revolted violently in 1992, following the army's abrogation of elections that would have brought them to power.  ...  Presidential elections are now scheduled for April, and Mr Bouteflika appears likely to secure a further term.

Could Algeria be slowly turning into a sort of Islamic (although not strictly Arabic*) democracy? On the face of it, it would seem so. So this tale maybe holds out a glimmer of hope for other places; Iraq, for instance?

I wish the Algerians well; I have pleasant memories of their rather unusual mixed French/Arabic way of life on my visits there a quarter of a century ago.

Jim Mangles
*The Algerians are principally Berbers. Remember the Barbary Pirates? Yet they speak Arabic.

I too wish them well, but they had decades of hell, and it isn't over. And as you say, they are not Arabs, and Algeria is not the Middle East.

Decades of clan warfare following the overthrow of the French. At least the KGB, GRU, and CIA are no longer fishing in those troubled waters.

And we have, in reply to my "what we could have done":

You do realize that some number of young Arab appearing men would be killed or maimed by the crowds. I recall a backlash against skinheads in the late 80's where a Marine was killed because they thought he was a skinhead.

I do, however, agree with you that it would have been just about the only way to prevent 911 and I would have done that knowing the consequences. But it also would have been political suicide and I strongly suspect that most of the elected members of our government would not do anything that would end their career, even if it was best for the country.

Clayton Wrobel




Subject: The Burning Village.

------ Roland Dobbins


Subj: Google architecture

It's not quite a 100,000-CPU cluster. 

=To provide sufficient capacity to handle query traffic, our service consists of multiple clusters distributed worldwide. Each cluster has around a few thousand machines, and the geographically distributed setup protects us against catastrophic data center failures (like those arising from earthquakes and large-scale power failures).=

And not all applications are as easy to implement on clusters as Google's.

For a good introduction to the technical subtleties of clustering, your readers might find Greg Pfister's _In Search of Clusters_ useful.







This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 10, 2004


Subject: They just don't understand the Arab mentality.

---- Roland Dobbins

Nor, I fear, do the inhabitants of Fallujah understand ours, or the Marines. They will learn. But little good can come of all this.

Subject: Article - "Why C is Not My Favorite Programming Language".

- Roland Dobbins

Indeed. Nor mine.

Subject: Bachevich warns of our potential Algeria.


-- Roland Dobbins

With good reason. One man, one vote, once, followed by decades of savagery.

Dr Pournelle,

Illiterate vigilantes

Talk of confusing skinheads and marines reminded me of this…,7369,361031,00.html

… back in 2000, when vigilantes confused the words ‘paediatrician’ and ‘paedophile’. Obviously there is an urgent need for more literate vigilantes.

Jim Mangles

The problem in this world is that there will always be problems; and centralized attempts to fix all things usually result in a cure worse than the disease.


From the USMC grapevine:

Update from LtCol K

...the last two days have been the hardest two days this battalion has faced in over 30 years. Within the blink of an eye the situation went form relatively calm to a raging storm. You've known that since arriving there has been violence; attacks have been sporadic and mostly limited to roadside bombs. Your husbands have become experts at recognizing those threats and neutralizing them before we are injured. Up to this point the war has been the purview of corporals and sergeants, and the squad they lead.

Yesterday the enemy upped the ante.

Early in the morning we exchanged gunfire with a group of insurgents without significant loss. As morning progressed, the enemy fed more men into the fight and we responded with stronger force. Unfortunately, this led to injuries as our Marines and sailors started clearing the city block by block. The enemy did not run; they fought us like soldiers. And we destroyed the enemy like only Marines can. By the end of the evening the local hospital was so full of their dead and wounded that they ran out of space to put them. Your husbands were awesome all night they stayed at the job of securing the streets and nobody challenged them as the hours wore on. They did not surrender an inch nor did flinch from the next potential threat. Previous to yesterday the terrorist thought that we were soft enough to challenge. As of tonight the message is loud and clear that the Marines will not be beaten.

Today the enemy started all over again, although with far fewer numbers, only now the rest of the battalion joined the fight. Without elaborating too much, weapons company and Golf crushed their attackers with the vengeance of the righteous. They filled up the hospitals again and we suffered only a few injuries. Echo company dominated the previous day's battlefield. Fox company patrolled with confidence and authority; nobody challenged them. Even Headquarters Company manned their stations and counted far fewer people openly watching us with disdain. If the enemy is foolish enough to try to take your men again they will not survive contact. We are here to win.

The news looks grim from back in the States. We did take losses that, in our hearts, we will always live with. The men we lost were taken within the very opening minutes of the violence. They could not have foreseen the treachery of the enemy and they did not suffer. We can never replace these Marines and Sailors but they will fight on with us in spirit. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves nor do we fear what tomorrow will bring. The battalion has lived up to its reputation as Magnificent Bastards.

Yesterday made everyone here stronger and wiser; it will be a cold day in Hell before we are taken for granted again.


The Karl Rove War 

From the start, this has always been a Karl Rove war. Lots of photo-ops, lots of talk about "I am a war president," lots of premature banners about "Mission Accomplished," but totally underresourced, because the president never wanted to ask Americans to sacrifice. The Bush motto has been: "We're at war, let's party — let's cut taxes, forgo any gasoline tax, not mobilize too many reserves and, by the way, let's disband the Iraqi Army and unemploy 500,000 Iraqi males, because that's what Ahmad Chalabi and his pals want us to do."



Blows against the Empire


You said "Examples of imperial control in the name of doing good are endless."

This reminded me of a recent small conflict between the sovereign State of Oklahoma and the Imperial Bureau of Environmental Protection ( Cough! ) EPA. Seems that because of Tulsa's industrial base, Muskogee's coal fired power plant, and the natural geography of the Arkansas River basin the regulations regarding air quality are violated on a regular basis during the very hot & still Oklahoma summers. The bureaucrats of the EPA threatened to impose growth curbs and "at the tailpipe" testing of auto emissions along with the annual auto safety inspections.

The State of Oklahoma's response to this threat was simple and direct, the annual auto safety inspection was eliminated statewide. Now if the EPA wishes to impose their will on the citizens of Northeastern Oklahoma they will not find a ready made instrument to use. They will have to create their own inspection bureau, and most importantly, find the funding for it. Not so easy when one of Oklahoma's Senators holds the EPA's purse strings in Congress.

Mark Gosdin

But note what had to be done, and the cost. Defiance of the Imperial City is always punished.

An alternate history:


In a parallel universe called 'what if.'
Kathleen Parker

April 10, 2004

NEW YORK - President-elect John F. Kerry's rise to the nation's highest office came as little surprise following almost four years of remonstrations against President George W. Bush for his bizarre attack on the defenseless people of Afghanistan.


(Presumptive dateline Wed. 3 Nov 2004.)  Ms. Parker goes on to describe how the outrage at President Bush's preemptive attack on the Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan on September 10, 2001, following the administration's "baseless" arrest of 19 foreign nationals who attended American flight schools, outraged the nation and the world.  Administration terrorism advisor Richard Clark denied responsibility for the President's actions based on his talking paper.  Intelligence sources continue to speculate that the Al-Qaida remnants, including surviving leader bin Laden, may seek WMD from Iraqi leader and terrorist supporter Saddam Hussein, although President-elect Kerry is committed to continued sanctions and the UN oil-for-food program. 

Kerry gave his acceptance speech from the Windows on the World Restaurant on the top floor of the World Trade Center's Tower One.

--Jim Woosley







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter Sunday

Family day.





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