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Mail 305 April 12 - 18, 2004
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April 12, 2004
> Subject: Article - "Why C is Not My Favorite Programming Language". > > http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/2/7/144019/8872 > > - Roland Dobbins > > Indeed. Nor mine.
Unfortunately, the author of this piece has a very poor understanding of C specifically and programming in general. The piece is riddled with errors.
C is a hard language to use and should not be used without thorough training. It is unsuitable for the novice or even intermediate level programmer and the widespread use of it by such people is an indictment on their teachers, bosses or whoever is responsible.
That said, it is a very powerful and elegant language. In the hands of a competent practitioner can produce excellent, efficient and easily understood and verified code.
C++ fixes many, but not all, of C's shortcomings, but still requires a reasonable level of expertise to be used safely.
Giving a C compiler to a novice is like asking a toddler to play with a butcher's knife. Serious harm is almost inevitable.
Similarly, asking an expert programmer to work with Pascal, BASIC or their descendents is like asking a master butcher to de-bone a cow using a plastic spoon.
Methods for developing high quality software are well understood. However they are expensive and at times tedious, and few organisations have the know-how, or the backbone to implement them. Using easier tools will not solve this shortcoming an any meaningful way.
I read a piece, many years ago, about error rates. The typical for the industry was low single didgets per hundred lines of code - obviously an abysmal rate. They did a case study on a company called "Erickson" who made telephone exchange systems, with a projected (un-patched) life of 30-40 years. Erickson, by good processes and good culture were producing error rates in the low single digits per 10,000,000 lines of code. Their costs were very high, but customers were prepared to pay, given the difficulty of fixing a problem in a critical (and possibly remote) telephone switch.
First, I don't at all agree that all the descendents of PASCAL are "plastic spoons"; and in fact most of the "fixes" to C have been to make them closer to the Strongly typed range-checked languages descended from PASCAL. Even in the days of relatively slow PC's there were some excellent programs written in 30 to 100 thousand lines of Turbo Pascal, and there are some good ones in Delphi now.
It is not true that to write good programs one must use the tricks that C allows. Those tricks are what make the code unreadable, clever hacks that insure job security because it's often easier to start over than to maintain C programs when the original programmer is gone.
Secondly I have never made any secret of the fact that I consider professional applications programmers to be akin to public stenographers, scribes who read and write for the masses who are illiterate; and from the beginning I have encouraged professionals in every business to learn some programming, because there is far more value in teaching the machines to do something useful than simply knowing how to teach them. Yes, there is a place for applications programmers: when I was in the operations research business it was very useful to have a good FORTRAN programmer to change my aerospace conflict models from a series of equations to actual FORTRAN statements that could run on the Aerospace Corporation computer; but it was also very useful for me to be able to go in and tweak things without having to call in a programmer every time, and let the programmers clean up what I had done. Such cooperative efforts can work wonders, generating complex answers in time to affect system designs.
[I have over-stated my position in the above paragraph: I don't mean that there is no need for applications programmers whose task is to make tools, and make programs more efficient; I do say that it is more important now to find things for the computer to do than to be a specialist in how to teach the machine to do it. It's the difference between a stenographer and an author. Authors need to be able to write as well as dream...]
Third, as machines get faster, the need for programs that put code efficiency and speed of operation first lessens, sometimes dramatically; meaning that programmers can devote more time to program logic, and clarity, and ease of debugging and maintenance, because making the program run twice as fast is not particularly useful when it already runs ten times faster than the user needs it to. C was popular because it could, in theory with the proper libraries, run on many platforms and make it easy to "port" programs from one machine to another; and the code generators were efficient because much of the source code was in something pretty akin to assembler. What was sacrificed was readability and, because of the lost of strong type checking, security. We are paying that price now.
I was underwhelmed by the Pascal rant. Yes, C is 30
years old and yes, it shows. But C has always been useful, and still is.
And by coincidence after I wrote that I got:
Subject: "Perfect storm" bug resulted in last year's Midwest blackout
A number of factors and failings came together to make the August 14th northeastern blackout the worst outage in North American history. One of them was buried in a massive piece of software compiled from four million lines of C code and running on an energy management computer in Ohio.
===== -- John E. Bartley, III K7AAY telcom admin, PDX - Views mine. celdata cjb net - Handheld Cellular Data FAQ *This post quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA.*
My twenty-years programming is primarily in embedded systems. For that type of work, you can nearly always rely on there being a working C compiler, and occasionally a C++ compiler.
Sure you CAN use Pascal . .just as soon as you build a working compiler and runtime library. Java? Right.
Now, Embedded Systems is HARD, but the hard part is getting the hardware to do what you want. Most everything else you need to do isn't really all that complicated. C does indeed, on those platforms, serve as the lingua franca among assembly languages, to the point where we were even writing our bootstrap code in C. Much nicer than remembering all the ins and outs of Assembly Language for the C variant of the Superfast chip WITH the memory controller errata from variant A.1 which you keep using because it's "cheaper" not to spin the PWB . . .
On the other hand, you have my deepest sympathies if you're not doing data visualization projects in something like LabView, application modeling in something like Python, Windows programs in VisualBASIC . . .
Given enough time and patience, I can make a perfectly fine table with a drawknife. But when I was making my wife's Christmas present, I was more than happy to have powerful machinery at my disposal so I could finish the task in a hundred hours rather than a couple thousand.
I've nothing but admiration for someone like Steve Gibson who hand-crafts Win32 applications from assembly language. But when I created my quick-and-dirty Win32 logging service, I used Python and was done in half an hour. With assembly, I'd still be working on it.
MORE on languages below
Space Access Society
Concerning Disney's "The Alamo." One hears how it's revisionist from one side and "more accurate" from the other. Tales of the movie say that they portray Crocket as a man looking for a way to sneak out, unseen.
I received the book (a novel) that is based on this movie as an Easter gift. My position on this question became fixed as I turned from page 5 to page 6. The scene is after the battle, as a young Mexican soldier is numbly watching them drag the bodies away to be burned:
QUOTE Jesus hears a cry and turns around. "It is Bowie," cries a soldado in a tone that mixes contempt and awe. Another man is dragging Bowie's corpse from a room on the south wall, near where Jesus has just been couching. Another soldado cries out, "He died in bed, hiding under blankets [[turn page]] like a woman!" UNQUOTE
OK. I'm done and will not be finishing this book. Further, none of my money will go to support the movie on which it is based. May it fail...may it miserably fail!
Respectfully Submitted, (Respectfully to you, that is. Not respectfully towards Disney!)
Robin Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired)
Bowie, by all accounts, was a dying man. He had injured his back falling from the wall, and had contracted some kind of sickness. Unable to stand, he had himself carried on his cot among the men to encourage them. He was certainly in bed in his room in the Low Barracks when killed. He couldn't stand.
"Mexican soldiers burst through the door, and in the words of his horrified sister in law, 'tossed Bowie's body on their bayonets until his blood covered their clothes and dyed them red.'"
But from everything in Bowie's past life, it's likely that when he was tossed on the bayonets his pistols were empty and his knife was gone. He would not have gone gently.
Crockett fell somewhere near the chapel. Travis was shot off the wall, his last coherent command being "The Mexicans are upon us. Give them Hell."
"Now the defenders no longer fought to win. They charged into the Mexican soldiery to kill as many as they could. These troops had seen much cruelty and understood it; but they had never seen the savagery of the Trans-Appalachian American at close range. The Texans had no bayonets, but by Mexican standards they were enormous men, towering a head higher or more. They smashed, butted, used tomahawks and knives. They had fought as paladins, each touchy of his rights and his own section of the wall. Now, they died as paladins, each with his ring of surrounding dead."
T. E. Fehrenbach, LONE STAR
Santa Anna lost 670 men killed out of 800 in the Toluca Battalion, the shock assault force. The other battalions had lost about 25% each killed; in all nearly 1600 dead. "These figures are reliable," says Fehrenbach. "They were made by Alcalde Francisco Ruiz of San Antonio, who also indicated Santa Anna left 500 wounded when at last he was able again to march."
Alcalde Ruiz stated positively that the number of Texan bodies burned under his supervision was exactly 182. There was insufficient room in the San Fernando churchyard to bury all the Mexican dead.
"The charred remains of the Alamo dead were dumped into a common grave. Its location went unrecorded and was never found."
"The damage to the soul of Santa Anna's army was not to be revealed for another forty-six days. At the Alamo, only the Mexican loss in blood and bone could be assessed. But this was enough to sate even Travis' and Bowie's bloody-minded ghosts..."
" Then some, taking count,
Bawled out that Bowie was balking them still;
Like weasels in warrens they wound through the fort,
Hunting the hero they hated the most.
Least of the lucky, at last some found him,
Fettered to bed by the fever and dying,
Burnt up and shrunken, a shred of himself.
Gladly they rushed him, but glee became panic.
Up from the grip of the grave, gripping weapons,
Gizzardsbane rose to wreak his last slaughter,
Killing, though killed. Conquered, he won.
In brief is the death lay of Bowie, the leader
re: "Why I Will Not Be Seeing Disney's The Alamo", Perhaps the movie is better than the book. Roger Ebert's review
sounds more like John Myers Myers' version.
I can't comment because I haven't seen the film. It may be that the book was having some Mexican private whistle in the graveyard in hopes that Bowie was really dead.
And for another review:
Thinking About "The Alamo" … and Those Self-Organizing Americans By Steve Sailer April 11, 2004 http://www.vdare.com/sailer/alamo.htm
More on the C issue
"The original C proponents didn't really believe in Moore's Law, and continued to look for ways to bum code, save bytes, and do clever type change tricks to get more speed; and we are paying the price now."
Com'on! You can write unreadable garbage in any language. I've worked in at least a dozen languages and am familiar with a dozen more and not one of them can stop bad programming practices, overly complex code or the engineer that found he could make more money as a programmer. The fact that the C language is capable of being used to create EXTREMELY efficient code is not a bug it's a feature. If someone that's not completely familiar with that use of the language has trouble reading it when it's used that way, that's not the fault of the language but of the reader. To say we're paying a price because C can be written with arcane and complex syntax is just silly. That's like saying that crooked nails are because the hammer was bad. This hammer is fine and there are billions of lines of code out there to prove it. The price we're paying is for allowing anyone that could type IF <something> THEN <do something> to work as a programmer.
In 1996 I took over an engineering software department that was responsible for writing applications that design the steel components of pre-engineered buildings. Code that, if done incorrectly, can cause public harm (I have to sign a document, yearly, indicating that I am aware of this fact). At that time I had two "programmers" with no education or background in software design (one had been a school bus driver) working as developers. These folks had been hired by an MBA in the early 90's when programmers were expensive but people that could type were cheap. So we hired typists and taught them to program (yeah, right). The programming boom of the 80's and 90's led to many people marketing themselves as programmers that never had any business working with software. Because there are no standards and HR departments are woefully incapable of sorting the wheat from the chaff we ended up with a whole lot of people writing code that simply had no business doing so. This has led to a whole lot of garbage code. I've seen 8 page SQL statements, I've replaced 20 page routines with 20 lines of code, 80 line punch cards turned into a database table with two fields (Key and Data), you name it, all from people that worked and marketed themselves as programmers with no education in the field.
The tools are not the problem. The problem is when those tools get into the hands of incompetence.
James Kimble Loveland Ohio
This is a fairly typical response from professional programmers, and I cannot decide if I am just being unclear, or they are deliberately misunderstanding me.
First, you can write unreadable garbage in most any language, but you won't get it to compile, and it very likely won't run. And if by some chance it does compile and run it will LOOK LIKE unreadable garbage; it will stand out as unreadable garbage; and it won't look like a clever hack to be admire. It won't be a feature it will be a bug.
The thing about good programming languages is they reject bad logic. Pascal derived programs (including Ada) famously are harder to get to compile, but once they do compile they generally do much of what you want.
And my point was and is: you will not always have the very best people to get your job done. You will not always be able to hire the finest master masons and carpenters to build your house. You still need the work done.
As computers get faster we can employ languages that don't compile unreadable garbage, and which do pretty well what you expect them to do without your having to simulate the compiler in your head when you write a line of code. Having to spend a good part of your life learning how to teach a computer to say "Hello, World!" is not a feature, it's a bug. What we want ideally is for anyone to sit down and tell the computer to do something useful, and have it do that, and have a record of what it was told in a form that we can understand. That's a goal, and it won't happen soon; but it ought to be what we work toward.
Not toward keeping languages that make it impossible to distinguish between a clever hack to be admired and unreadable garbage.
Dr. Pournelle and Mr. Kimble state differing points of view regarding what programming languages should be expected to do; and both points have merit.
Mr. Kimble believes that the tools should be optimized to produce the most efficient code possible, so that skilled programmers can create wonderful, fast, small code.
Dr. Pournelle, on the other hand, believes that the tools should be optimized to produce functional code, even when used by less than skilled programmers. Code produced in this manner won't be wonderful, or fast, or small; but it will run. And it can be created by many more people than could ever make use of a highly optimized language like C/C++.
From a purely practical point of view, as machines become ever faster, it appears that Dr. Pournelle's view of the future of programming will hold sway. I would suggest that at some point in the future, computer programming will consist of the computer interviewing the programmer, in order to get a clear specification as to what the program is to do; at which point the program will write itself. I greatly doubt that the code thus generated will be particularly elegant; but it will run, and if the machines are fast enough, then it simply won't matter.
I have sympathy for Mr. Kimble's position; I learned assembly language programming on the 6509 chip in my Commodore 64, whose clock ran at a blistering 1 million cycles per second. (I later studied 'real' assembly language on an IBM 360). I take great pride in being able to generate small, highly efficient code. It is roughly akin to the difference between a writer who is able to state a position succinctly, as opposed to an individual who meanders all about the matter, without ever touching the meat of the issue. There is beauty in efficient, compact simplicity.
And I do believe that, while languages that make programming more accessible to the average person make society better as a whole, there do need to be standards for professional programmers who do critical work. There are horror stories galore within the programming community of computer bugs which killed people. I recall one in which operator input error on a cancer radiation therapy machine confused the program, which left the shutter stuck open; thus exposing the patient to an ultimately lethal dose of radiation. Professional standards can help to minimize these instances.
Regards, Charles Worton Constelar Computational
I could tell you many horror stories of programs with strange errors and odd bugs built in by professional programmers. People are neither perfect nor consistent. Computers are consistent: if the compiler will catch a particular bug once it will always catch it. This isn't true of human programmers who are perfectly capable of making the same mistake again when tired or inattentive. Computers are not inattentive.
Computers should do what computers do best, and humans can do what humans do best; trying to turn code writers into compilers simulating the code in their heads rather than concentrating on the logic and readability of the program was the biggest disaster of computer science.
Wirth and Dijkstra understood this well.
Pascal was a teaching language. It wasn't even compiled for some time after it was written, but then a compiler was written in Pascal, allowing the language itself to find flaws in its logic. I have never said or suspected that big useful programs should have been written in Pascal. I have said that had the attention been paid to developing the Pascal/Modula language family that was paid to developing C, we would be far better off now, because Moore's law has made "efficiency" far less important than logic, readability, and maintainability.
I know that good programmers are not supposed to put in quick fix hacks in a major program; I also know that management can come down hard on those who are behind schedule, and people are human beings. I would far rather trust a compiler to make a buffer overflow error impossible (or at least harmless) than the best programmer in the world if that programmer is working late at night on deadline with kids in school...
And this is probably enough of this discussion. I have considerable appreciation of those who learned a bag of tricks to make primitive tools do wonderful things. I am one of them: my first programming experience was trying to invert a matrix with the IBM 650, and in those days there wasn't even an assembler. It was all hand coded, and optimized by hand with the aid of charts of the memory drum and tables of how long each operation took. And I know the crazy tricks we had to develop to get things to run at all.
And that is my point: I didn't find it a pleasant experience simulating the computer in my head. I was far more interested in predicting grades than in inverting matrices in order to generate linear regression equations, and I was far more interested in inverting the matrix than in putting the address of the next instruction in the optimum place on the drum.
Render unto the computer the things that are the computer's, and render unto humans the things that are human.
--- Roland Dobbins
Moqtada al Sadr does NOT have universal support in Iraq. He doesn't even have universal Shia support! His followers are a decided minority in Iraq and even Baghdad, despite the scenes you see on television.
In a society that reveres its elders and looks with disdain on youthful exuberance Moqtada al Sadr is 28-29 years old. The Hawsa barely tolerate his presence as respect for his father and even more so for his descent (note the black turban) from the Prophet (all praise to him and his progeny). He is considered a novice at best in those circles.
Despite his standing as a Sheik and descendant of the Prophet (all praise to him and his progeny) Moqtada al Sadr is woefully educated, ignorant of most things outside of the Quran and teachings of the 12 Apostalic Imams. He has been often described as a thug. His actions and pronouncements are brutish at best.
However, Moqtada al Sadr is surrounded by better educated young firebrand clerics who use his standing as the son of the revered Muhammed Baqir al Sadr as the pulpit to spew their views. These young firebrands are supported by fanatic factions within Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. Theirs is an opportunity to seize control in the hierarchy of Islam. They routinely denigrate the elders of Islam as doddering old fools. This message does NOT resonate within the majority of the Shia community.
Moqtada al Sadr's flame will be hot, but brief.
Lieutenant Colonel of Marines;
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Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time;
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Check out my homepage at
And I suspect the old Ayatollah has found that he is sowing the wind in allowing this young firebrand to stir the soup. We will see.
Subject: Tag! You're it!
--- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Lessons from the Cawnpore rebellion
"Sgt Mom" has some wonderful stories. This is not one of them. It's sad, telling of the Cawnpore rebellion the British had to put down in India. Starts slow, but wow, what point she makes!
Those who do not read history . . . .
Respectfully Submitted, Robin K. Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired)
And we have this lesson as well:
There will always be a group of Arabs ready to torment their conquerors, on the theory that the best defence is to be offensive.
History repeats itself like a cracked record in Mesopotamia.
THE SURAFEND AFFAIR
The following description is from Chapter XLV, pages 787 to 791, of Volume VII of "The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914 to 1918" by H. S. Gullett, reprinted by permission of the Australian War Memorial.
The Australians and New Zealanders in Gallipoli were shortly withdrawn. In their camps at Tripoli and on the Philistine plain the light horsemen waited, eager in the prospect of early return to Australia. But an unfortunate incident was destined to throw a shadow over the last days in Palestine of Anzac Mounted Division.
Close to the camps of the three brigades in December was the native village of Surafend.
All the Arabs of western Palestine were thieves by instinct, and those who dwelt close to the Jewish settlements were especially practised and daring.
Throughout the campaign the British policy, as already noticed, was to treat these debased people west of the Jordan as devout Moslems, kin not only to the Arabs of the Hejaz but to the Mohammedans of India.
And the Arabs, a crafty race, quick to discern British unwillingness to punish their misdeeds, exploited their licence to extreme limits.
They learned, also, that there was a disposition in the British Army to assume without justification that any looting and other similar offenses practised by the troops against the natives had been committed by the Australians.
Consequently, if the Arabs missed a sheep from their flocks, they were emphatic that a soldier in a big hat had been seen prowling in the neighbourhood.
Seldom punished, they became very impudent in their thefts from all British camps, and at times ventured to murder. All troops may have suffered equally; but, while the British endured the outrages without active resentment, the Australians and New Zealanders burned with indignation, and again and again asked for retaliation, but without obtaining redress. After the armistice a few men of Anzac Mounted Division were shot by the Arabs, and the resentment in Chaytor's division became dangerously bitter.
The natives of Surafend were notorious for their petty thieving. Prompted, perhaps, by the knowledge that the Anzac camps would soon pass for ever from their midst, and emboldened by the immunity they enjoyed, they grew audacious in their pilfering. They were reinforced, too, by a body of nomad Bedouins camped close to their village.
The Australians and New Zealanders, sleeping soundly, were a simple prey to the cunning, barefooted robbers, and night after night men lost property from their tents. One night a New Zealander of the machine-gun squadron was disturbed by an Arab pulling at a bag which served him as a pillow. Springing up in his shirt, he chased the native through the camp and out on to the sand-hills, shouting to the picquets on the horselines as he ran. As he overtook the native, the man turned, shot him with a revolver through the body, and escaped. The New Zealander died as the picquets reached him.
The camp was immediately aroused, and the New Zealanders, working with ominous deliberation, followed the footsteps of the Arab over the loose sand to Surafend. They then threw a strong cordon round the village and waited for morning, when the head men were summoned and ordered to surrender the murderer. The sheikhs were evasive, and pleaded ignorance. During the day the matter was taken up by the staff of the division, but at nightfall the demand of the men for justice was still unsatisfied.
Meanwhile they had resolutely maintained their guard about the village, and no Arab was allowed to leave. That which followed cannot be justified; but in fairness to the New Zealanders, who were the chief actors, and to the Australians who gave them hearty support, the spirit of the men at that time must be considered. They were the pioneers and the leaders in a long campaign. Theirs been the heaviest sacrifice. The three brigades of Anzac Mounted Division had been for almost three years comrades in arms, and rarely had a body of men been bound together by such ties of common heroic endeavour and affection. From the Canal onward men had again and again proudly thrown away their lives to save their wounded from the enemy. Not once in the long advance had a hard-pressed, isolated body ever signalled in vain for support.
The war task was now completed and they, a band of sworn brothers tested in a hundred fights, were going home. To them the loss of a veteran comrade by foul murder, at the hands of a race they despised, was a crime which called for instant justice. They were in no mood for delay.
In their movement against Surafend, therefore, they felt that, while wreaking vengeance on the Arabs, they would at the same time work off their old feeling against the bias of the disciplinary branch of General Headquarters, and its studied omission to punish Arabs for crime. They were angry and bitter beyond sound reasoning.
All day the New Zealanders quietly organised for their work in Surafend, and early in the night marched out many hundreds strong and surrounded the village. In close support and full sympathy were large bodies of Australians. Good or bad, the cause of the New Zealanders was theirs.
Entering the village, the New Zealanders grimly passed out all the women and children, and then, armed chiefly with heavy sticks, fell upon the men and at the same time fired the houses. Many Arabs were killed, few escaped without injury; the village was demolished. The flames from the wretched houses lit up the countryside, and Allenby and his staff could not fail to see the conflagration and hear the shouts of the troops and the cries of their victims.
I think you have stated the point and missed it at the same time: this is the way of the world. It will always be this way. Empires can be more or less competent, and organizations can begin lean and mean and efficient, but given a bureaucratic structure the results are inevitable.
I thought I had been saying this; perhaps I was reluctant to belabor what to me is obvious.
This is the reason conservatives are always skeptical about what splendid deeds governments set out to accomplish. Make no mistake, sometimes they succeed. As Max Hunter was fond of saying, a herd of American dinosaurs all running in the right direction at once is a wonderful thing to see. But the usual result is that the bureaucratic dinosaurs run in random circles and trample much that is good.
It is the way of the world.
And those who have not seen Parkinson's Evolution of Political Thought, his "serious" work although his other works had serious points, should do so. The late C. Northcote Parkinson was a brilliant man.
Democracy in Iraq
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 strictly 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 intersting to see if we are at a point of such transition.
I blather on... -- Oliver Richter
The Christian Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem endured more than a century until the Kurd Saladin united the Arab world behind him...
The U.S. Army has built and tested a humvee equipped with a laser gun turret that can quickly destroy unexploded munitions and roadside bombs. The system, called Zeus-HLONS (HMMWV Laser Ordnance Neutralization System), uses an industrial solid state laser, normally used to cut metal, but can also ignite explosives up to 300 meters away. Normally, engineers have to approach such munitions (shells, cluster bombs aircraft bombs) or roadside bombs, place explosives next to it, then move away, trailing a detonator wire behind them, and then set off the explosive to destroy the bomb or unexploded munitions. Using the Zeus laser is a lot cheaper (a few cents per laser shot) and safer than the traditional method. Zeus is particularly useful when you have an area with a lot of unexploded munitions just lying about. The munitions are often unstable, meaning that just picking them up could set them off. The Zeus system can be fired up to 2,000 times a day. Last year, a Zeus-HLONS was sent to Afghanistan for six months last year, where it destroyed 200 items, including 51 in one 100 minute period.
However, Zeus is currently stuck in development because no one in the army wants to "own" it and pay for manufacturing it. While destroying unexploded munitions is an engineering task, Zeus-HLONS was developed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Development is continuing, including the use of a more powerful laser. One thing the engineers would like to see is some way for Zeus to destroy buried munitions and land mines. But the laser cannot penetrate earth very effectively. As things stand now, Zeus-HLONS will remain on the sidelines until someone decides it's important enough to spend money on and adopt as another item of equipment. ******
You just know, that someday soon, an engineer unit with one of these will be out clearing a road for a truck convoy, and there'll be some idiot with an RPG who sticks his head up at the right moment...
This is sad, but not unexpected :-( I don't suppose NASA can be turned away from just being an organization designed to employ tens of thousands...
X prizes are the way to go!
Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
< http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/04/13/nasa.culture.ap/index.html > Survey: NASA workers afraid to speak up
Tuesday, April 13, 2004 Posted: 10:34 AM EDT (1434 GMT)
The board investigating the Columbia disaster found that NASA's culture played a part in safety failures.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- Many NASA workers feel unappreciated by the agency and are still afraid to speak up about safety concerns, more than a year after the shuttle Columbia was doomed by those very problems, according to a survey released Monday.
Report site at NASA
Executive summary is on page 3.
Snippets from Executive Summary:
Safety: "Open communication is not yet the norm and people do not feel fully comfortable in raising safety concerns to management."
People: "People do not feel respected or appreciated by the organization."
Excellence: "Excellence is a treasured value when it comes to technical work, but is not seen by many NASA personnel as an imperative for other aspects of the organization's functioning..."
Integrity: "...there appears to be pockets where the management chain has (possibly unintentionally) sent signals that the raising of issues is unwelcome."
As you say...
April 14, 2004
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.
As my daughter says, just because they're generous and say "Howdy" doesn't mean they aren't dangerous.
Remembering fallen heroes... a good story out of Iraq:
Dr. Sandoz, as you know I've been saying this from the beginning. The CPA and the administration's apparent fear of an electorial Islamic state's victory is unfounded. Provide for FAIR and SECRET BALLOT elections and the Iraqi people will choose a secular government. They see what the Iranian state looks like and they want no part of it! Furthermore, the marjority of the Shia want to distance themselves from any extremism. We conducted municipal elections in An Numinaya last June. In a city with a population of ~45000, there were ~27000 votes cast! That's 60% of the population who voted - and those 18 years or younger were not allowed to cast ballots! Thus the actual voting percentage would have been around 90+! These people are hungry to flex their democratic votes. AND, I feel they will still choose secular government (of course, with Islamic overtones).
This needs to ignite the CPA and the Administration to conduct elections at the local levels; towns, cities, districts, and provinces. Democracy starts at the bottom and works it's way up. When this starts happening, President Bush's (and the US) prestige will skyrocket everywhere EXCEPT in totalitarian regimes and islamo-terrorist circles. The Islamic extremists will be embarrassed worldwide by the very people they purport to speak for.
Lieutenant Colonel of Marines;
Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq;
Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time;
Lover extrordinaire; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance;
Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work
Again a consummation devoutly to be wished; and we can only hope you are right. It is a fearful chance we take, but the rewards are great.
And an alternate view of why we are there:
>Is this the time to point out that having civilian contractors do >"civilian" jobs in military structures is probably a poor idea?
This is time to point out that REAL reason for being in Iraq is to continue the emptying of the treasury. The Pentagon is lamenting that many of our best operatives and human assets are leaving the military and black ops agencies to join the mushrooming security industry and getting 10 times or more in salary and OUR TAX DOLLARS are now supporting this.
This is a national security risk and reveals the ungodly passion that this Empire has to rob from us all to enrich their friends.
Of course if that is the true motive, and the troops learn it, we are in for interesting times.
Let me hasten to add that while I have my doubts about many around the President, I to not believe him insincere. He believes he is called to bring freedom to the Middle East. God Wills It.
Subject: Palestine Welfare Islands?
Reading the message on "Welfare Islands" in VIEW, a comparison struck me: the Palestinian Territories are Welfare Islands.
The comparison is not exact. Palestinian welfare doles come from the UN, not from Israel or (directly) from the surrounding Arab states. (There's even a seperate agency devoted solely to caring for the Palestinians. The mind boggles...) But, like CoDominium Welfare Islands, Palestinians are in slums (the only possible descriptor for those refugee camps) with little or no useful education, economic prospects, or hope; and little way of getting out. Like Welfare Islands and the Rio slums, the most effective form of government in these conditions are street gangs.
And, true to form, now the Israelis are building walls around them.
Palestine seems to me to be an excellent example of what happens when you take physical, political, psychological, and economic freedom away from a population...
--Catfish N. Cod (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Microsoft Discloses Huge Number Of Windows Vulnerabilties By Gregg Keizer, TechWeb News April 13, 2004 (4:01 p.m. EST)
Microsoft took it on the security chin Tuesday as it released April's round of security vulnerabilities. The total number of vulnerabilities in the four security bulletins tallied an astounding 20 separate flaws in Windows and Outlook Express.
This is simply an unprecedented number of vulnerabilities, said Vincent Gullotto, the vice president of Network Associates' AVERT research team.
April's mega collection includes 20 new vulnerabilities, 8 of which are rated as Critical, the most dire assessment in the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's four-level ranking system. Sixteen of the 20 vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely, the most dangerous type of bug because hackers can conduct an attack over the Internet.
Microsoft even took the unusual step of ganging together multiple vulnerabilities under two of the four security bulletins.
Also: Links to specific bulletins: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-011.mspx http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-012.mspx http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-013.mspx http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-014.mspx
===== -- John E. Bartley, III K7AAY telcom admin, PDX - Views mine. celdata cjb net - Handheld Cellular Data FAQ *This post quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA.*
Subject: Critical Microsoft patches, FYI
--- Roland Dobbins
April 15, 2004
It Ain't The Ides of April
April 15 is not the Ides of April.
Everyone knows that March 15 is the Ides of March, but most people don't know that the Ides only falls on the 15th of the month one-third of the time. The Ides was one of three dates each month by which the Roman calendar was calculated. They fell on the following days:
The Kalends: March 1, April 1, May 1, June 1, July 1, August 1, September 1, October 1, November 1, December 1, January 1, February 1
The Nones: March 7, April 5, May 7, June 5, July 7, August 5, September 5, October 7, November 5, December 5, January 5, February 5
The Ides: March 15, April 13, May 15, June 13, July 15, August 13, September 13, October 15, November 13, December 13, January 13, February 13
How to remember it
Everything can be summarized in three simple rules, one of which has a poem associated with it.
The Kalends always falls on the first of the month The Nones falls on the fifth, except as described by the following poem: March, July, October, May The Nones are on the seventh day The Ides falls 8 days after the Nones.
Thomas E. Kastan
The things one does not learn in Latin classes. I managed a rather good classical education without finding this out, or if I did, I managed to forget it as soon as I was out of range of people who would test my knowledge...
Subject: Just when you think Apple might have a success
When Steve Jobs starts sounding like Bill Kristol ("We will be greeted like liberators") you know they are headed for disaster.
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/8441648.htm In an interview earlier this week with The Wall Street Journal, Jobs said Apple has little incentive to open its popular digital music player to others.
"The iPod already works with the No. 1 music service in the world, and the iTunes Music Store works with the No. 1 digital-music player in the world," he said. "The No. 2s are so far behind already. Why would we want to work with No. 2?"
April 16, 2004
Subject: The Gulag
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
You said about the Soviet labor camps, "The camps were run badly and did not perform their missions; but does that negate the theory of human malleability?"
I think that depends upon how you define their "missions".
The entire point of the Stalinist purges and the lower level terror which they punctuated was to preclude the possibility of a challenge to Stalin's power.
The vast majority of the victims of the purges were guilty of no crime, not even a political crime. As others have said, actual guilt and innocence were never a factor.
The way Soviet society functioned under Stalin was to make terror an integral part of daily life. One's everyday existence was always informed by the need to guess how not to be a victim. I say guess, because objective criteria played little part in the selection process for victims. Since anyone could be a victim at any time, for any reason or no reason (even knowing a previous victim), one's existence was always under the threat of instant destruction. In such an environment there was simply no opportunity for actual sedition. The vast majority of the population was too consumed with mere survival to contemplate even solitary, silent dissent. As the Chinese saying goes, "Kill the chicken to scare the monkey." Soviet society until Stalin's death was a society of scared monkies, willing to say or do anything to not share the chicken's fate.
And as you note, the camps largely payed for themselves. Further, researchers such as Robert Conquest have shown that slavery, as embodied by the Gulag system, was an integral, essential and calculated part of the Soviet economy.
The purpose of the Gulags was to create terror. They could hardly be said to have failed in this goal.
Well, yes, but my essay was in the context of the theory of the labor camps, which was to create New Soviet Man. Terror was an unfortunate necessity not a goal. If you want more data on that ask your local Marxist professor; they are not hard to find, since western universities, and particularly American ones, are the last bastions of Marxism, Eastern Europe having pretty well had enough of them.
Robert Conquest is an old friend and colleague, and his analysis, like that of Richard Pipes, of how the USSR actually operated was very much on target, and I have always said so. My remarks on the theoretical justification for labor camps was in the context of rebuilding society.
The US has adopted a view of the nature of man that says men yearn in their hearts for freedom, and once we provide it they will embrace it. It is a terribly expensive experiment. The game is worth the candle -- but only if it succeeds. The question is, can it?
The administration ignored all the advice of all the people who have had experience in these matters; we will now see if they are correct.
== Over the past year, a successful technology entrepreneur named Jim Hake has been working with the Marine Corps to help their reconstruction projects in Iraq. The Marines identify local equipment needs, and Mr. Hake's organization, Spirit of America, after raising the money, acquires the stuff, typically for schools and medical clinics. It flies directly out of Camp Pendleton in California. Jim Hake and the Marines are a coalition of the can-do, bypassing the slow U.S. procurement bureaucracy. ...
The First Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Army in Iraq want to equip and upgrade seven defunct Iraqi-owned TV stations in Al Anbar province--west of Baghdad--so that average Iraqis have better televised information than the propaganda they get from the notorious Al-Jazeera. If Jim Hake can raise $100,000, his Spirit of America will buy the equipment in the U.S., ship it to the Marines in Iraq and get Iraqi-run TV on the air before the June 30 handover. ==
Is this "nation-building"? Or something better?
Something better. I am donating to this and I urge everyone to do so. This is the kind of effort that we need, badly. And see below
"God Wills It"
In a response to someone else's letter, you write (regarding President Bush):
"Let me hasten to add that while I have my doubts about many around the President, I do not believe him insincere. he believes he is called to bring freedom to the Middle East. God Wills It."
I don't disagree with you, but I take no comfort from it. It keeps reminding me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes (from "In Freedom"):
"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
I believe that Bush is sincere, devoutly sincere, in his belief that he is doing the right thing... but in the end all that tells us is that he believes he is doing the right thing. It doesn't tell us that it *is* the right thing -- though it does suggest that if it is the *wrong* thing he will continue to do it anyway, precisely because he is *convinced* of its rightness. History is full of people who believed they were doing the right thing and wound up being wrong. Paul the Apostle (before his encounter at Damascus, when he was still "Saul") springs to mind...
What are the things that Bush's actions have *wrought*? We are less free, we are more at the mercy of the "justice" dispensed by bureaucracy, the American people were pushed into an unneccesary war by being told things that were, if not lies, at least disturbingly large exaggerations. We are certainly no safer than we were before. Perhaps Bush has surrounded himself with a brood of vipers, and it is not he who is coming up with the bad decisions that are being made, but he *has* surrounded himself with them and he *does* listen to them, and there is no sign that he is going to *stop* listening to them.
Bush believes, apparently with a righteous fervor, that the ends justify the means. I do not. That means, despite his sincere desire to do the right thing, I see nothing but the wrong thing. Alas, the intent to do good in the world is not enough for that good to actually be done.
Christopher B. Wright (email@example.com)
Keep in mind I did not want to go in there. Yet:
My Norman ancestors led the First Crusade, and Robert of Normandy rode the length and breadth of the Saracen lands, challenging all to come out and fight him. I am as susceptible to the lure of the old deeds of glory as any man alive.
The heart pulls to places the head warns us to stay away from. We are there now. If it be possible to put a land of freedom in the heart of the Middle East, 'twould be a glorious thing...
I believe the American people would have supported a more reasonable war with Iraq had the entire facts been laid out for us. It would have required a much larger effort with more international participation; and it would have required that Rumsfeld listen to those who told him that military victory would be easy but the aftermath of victory would be terribly terribly expensive. He was convinced that the American people, told of the real costs, would not support the war, and therefore no accurate assessment of those costs would be allowed.
God help us now. We are there. And a trillion dollars may not overstate the final costs.
In 1998, Democrat Gray Davis (the one recently recalled) was elected Gov. of California in the largest California landslide in 40 years. He spent something like 50M on advertising during his campaign (comparable to about three times what Bush is spending nationally in his), and the free media coverage of the top-of-the-ticket race was probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
One month after the election, a highly credible statewide poll showed that only HALF of California registered voters even knew whom they had been elected governor the previous month.
And it really is true that national surveys in 2000 showed that a significant fraction of Bush voters believed that their candidate was the same man whom Clinton had so wrongly turned out of office in 1992. I recall that in follow-up questioning, one Bush supporter kept saying that a few years out of office had done Bush a world of good and made him look so much younger, and repeatedly argued with the questioner when he was told that there were actually TWO different George Bushes..
This is a clip from China News:
China had over 24.2 million cars in 2003 and the figure is expected to top 30 million in 2005 and China will become the largest car consumer within ten to 15 years, according to statistics from the Development Research Center of the State Council. However, China will need 450 million tons of petroleum by 2020,of which 60 percent will be imported. Chinese big cities have been fighting against exhaust pollution and the country has been listed as the second largest country polluted by carbon dioxide after the United States. I could not make up a clearer scenario of future trouble for the US. The mainland Chinese economy does not produce enough gasoline for the current cars, so finished product imports are also rising.
Note that China has been mostly exempt from the any provision of the Kyoto Protocol. And, they are determined to "generation skip" if they can (go to hydrogen or what?).
The present trend of world energy costs has already been transferred to the "China and India imported oil demand requirements" rather than Japan, Europe and the US energy demands (These three need to reverse the big balance of payments outflows for energy). And, China can not ignore that their positive balance of payments situation could rapidly change, thus affecting world economic flows dramatically.
The US better find a way to move on to some other non-fossil energy supply ASAP.
"The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back."
Indeed we should. With the money we are spending on Iraq I could do it...
Subject: Leif Ericson model
A gentleman at the Starship Modeling site is offering resin model kits of the Leif Ericson galactic cruiser, the model that you used as inspiration for the INSS MacArthur.
The models are much smaller than the original, only about four inches in length. There are two versions, one is $22, the other is $26
More information is at http://www.starshipmodeler.com/news.cfm scroll down to "Cruise the Galaxy"
Take care, Winchell Chung
Thanks. I have a couple of the original models now thanks to kind readers.
Subject: This is ridiculous.
-- Roland Dobbins
I can think of many phrases I would use before 'ridiculous' comes to mind...
Subject: Why the patent system is, er, ummm......
I can't say that word here. However, this article has a few useful tips to anyone seeking patents.
<snip> "Is your patent application classified in a high-profile art that is presently undergoing extensive media attention for issuance of controversial patents (e.g., genetic engineering) or poor quality patents (e.g., business methods)? If so, you should expect extensive and sometimes unexplained delays in receiving office actions, and it is less likely that you will receive a notice of allowance for your patent application." <snip>
"You can increase the odds in your favor by limiting the number of claims in the patent application to a reasonable number (e.g., 20 or fewer). Perhaps a major flaw in the USPTO examination process is that a patent examiner is not normally granted extra hours to examine patent applications with excessive claims. In cases involving a large number of claims, it is likely that the examiner will come up with a restriction requirement, or provide a blanket rejection for a large group of those claims. Unless the patent application is examined by an exceptionally conscientious examiner, an excessive number of claims will most likely decrease the quality of the examination.
"Always be courteous when speaking with the examiner even if the examiner is being unreasonable. While complaining to the supervisor or the director about an examiner may solve immediate problems, the examiner may hold a grudge and can purposely delay your notice of allowance for years by creating new and seemingly odd rejections. Beware, for the next patent application that you file may be assigned to the same examiner."
===== -- John E. Bartley, III K7AAY telcom admin, PDX - Views mine. celdata cjb net - Handheld Cellular Data FAQ *This post quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA.*
After reading this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110004958 describing the Marine Corps desire to build alternative news sources for the Iraqi people I checked out the web page http://www.spiritofamerica.net/req_12/request.html which describes in more detail what the project is about. What convinced me to make a donation was the tag line at the end of the WSJ article referring to “the Marines' now-famous saying: "No better friend, no worse enemy."
After the fact, I decided to look at efforts that Spirit of America had funded earlier, and I came up with this page:
http://www.spiritofamerica.net/req_2/request.htm describing the response to a request by Lt. Col. David Couvillon, a name I remembered from his postings on your web site.
It is a testament to what makes our nation great that we can still produce soldiers who after signing up to risk and suffer life and limb to defend our country decide to ask for money not for themselves, but to make a better life for the civilians in Iraq.
Agreed. I would not have sent them, but we did send them; and we owe them whatever we can do to make their mission a success.
Subject: FW: British School of User Interface
In the week ending at 8:45 EDT this morning, I received 5499 pieces of spam and 106 pieces of legitimate e-mail. That's a rate of 1.9% legit. Last fall I received 105 pieces of legit e-mail in one week, but only 2829 pieces of spam, for a rate of 3.6% legit. Clearly, it's getting worse.
I continue to hold the view first put forth by Eric Pobirs: nothing will be done about spam until something very physical, very painful, and very public happens to a significant number of spammers. Nothing else will deter them.
First word from Sgt. T in Iraq:
I am alive and well in Baghdad, Iraq. We have been here since the 9th and are just getting used to our new surroundings right now. We will be busy soon, but I don't know exactly what kind of information I can discuss over e-mail, so I will be very limited in details. We drove up from Kuwait on the 7th and got to see a lot of both countries. Though the majority of it was open desert and rolling wadis [streambed in southwest Asia that remains dry except during the rainy season], the sights were fairly impressive none the less. The capital is like no city I have ever encountered in my life. Filthy beyond belief. Riyadh [he spent an overseas tour in Saudi Arabia] looked like Toronto in comparison.
I don't have a lot of e-mail use right now and mail is somewhat slow, but I will try to write when I can. They shut down the e-mail and phones whenever there is a KIA until the families are notified. We are still at war and there is a lot of work to do, however I am not worried, though sometimes I know that I should be.
I know what I am doing and I believe in what we are doing, and I have other lives to think of than my own--I'm also loaded for bear. You name the weapon and I probably have at least one kicking around so we are at least ready for anything.
So far the enemy is a lousy shot and not much of an engineer either. I have to get going but let everyone know that I am doing fine.
I don't know what is being reported in the news about this place but most of the people seem to like us being here. There are a lot of countries involved in this coalition and there seems to be only a small minority of people who think that they have a chance of fighting us. Please ask any questions as I don't really know what people want to hear about. Anyway, take care--
= And a letter from an officer to his father, a retired Marine officer:
Things have been busy here. You know I can't say much about it.
However, I do know two things. One, POTUS (President of the United States) has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on terrorism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of innocent folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah).
There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. I'm hoping they stay and fight.
This way we won't have to track them down one by one.
This battle is going to be talked about for a long time. The Marine Corps will either reaffirm its place in history as one of the greatest fighting organizations in the world or we will die trying. The Marines are fired up. I'm nervous for them though because I know how much is riding on this fight (the war in Iraq, the view of the war at home, the length of the war on terror and the reputation of the Marine Corps to name a few). However, every time I've been nervous during my career about the outcome of events when young Marines were involved they have ALWAYS exceeded my expectations. I'm praying this is one of those times.
I am reminded of Pat Frank's account of the Marine at Chosun. "They would fight, and they were dangerous."
Subject: Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder
The latest theory from a Professor of Social Work at Portland State University.
Ain't social "science" wonderful?
Subj: Racial stress / Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder
The original link your correspondent sent -- http://www.gazetteextra.com/raceconference030504.asp -- throws a "404 Not Found".
Looks like gazetteextra.com flushes articles after about a month.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), Google cached a copy at
Scholar examines racial stress in America | The Janesville Gazette | Janesville, Wisconsin, USA
I don't know whether the cached copy is volatile; I found it by using the "search" box at the upper left of gazetteextra.com on "racial stress", which invoked Google.
The implications of the combination of (a) flushing by the original publisher and (b) caching by Google are at least as interesting as the content of the article, I think.
How long will it be, before someone combines this "a black person inescapably has a low quality of life" with Professor Peter Singer's "a baby with predictably low quality of life is a candidate for infanticide" and concludes ... ?
"Abolition of Man" indeed! 8-(
We do live in interesting times.
And I missed this one when it first came:
This is very nice summary of Conrad Black's...career, which matches what I've seen and read from the Telegraph and the National Post for the last coupla years.
Conrad Black: A crusading neocon among English Tories
Geoffrey Wheatcroft IHT
Monday, March 15, 2004 BATH, England With every day, the career of Conrad Black seems more like something from a lurid Victorian novel. An adventurer arrives from the colonies, buys London newspapers, becomes a peer, cuts a dash. His colorful wife flaunts her $1,000 shoes and $75,000 dresses, while telling interviewers, superfluously (and hubristically, as it proves), "I have an extravagance that knows no bounds."
Investors in New York start wondering just how that extravagance was paid for, and turn nasty. With his financial position crumbling, Lord Black of Crossharbour tries to sell his papers behind the backs of that "bunch of self-righteous hypocrites and ingrates," while adding, in words a novelist might have hesitated to attribute even to the most eccentric character, "I'm not prepared to re-enact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of nobility."
But a judge in Delaware rules against him, calling him "cunning and calculated ... evasive and unreliable." In the latest and cruelest blow, Black is unceremoniously kicked off the board of his Telegraph papers in London. As the novelist might say, our hero's fortunes have sunk very low.
At such a moment, it is worth recording that Conrad Black was not a bad newspaper proprietor. He may have harangued his editors with midnight calls, and written weird letters denouncing journalists in his own papers, but he didn't censor those writers, and the editorial policy of his papers was not simply tailored to his corporate financial interests.
And yet there is a fascinating and important political sub-plot to this story. Black's ambition was to become the godfather of neoconservatism. Anyone who wants to know the names of the neocon elite has only to look at the masthead of his Washington magazine The National Interest. Luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle were recruited onto his boards and handsomely rewarded, even if they seem to have taken their fiduciary duties somewhat lightly.
In his London papers, Black promoted a group of writers whose devotion to American power was all the stronger because they belong to that curious category, self-hating Canadians. Black himself, his wife Barbara Amiel, David Frum, and Mark Steyn all loathe their native country, evidently under the impression that Canada is on the brink of Bolshevism because it has a national health service.
It was Frum who, as President George W. Bush's speechwriter, coined the phrase "axis of evil," which Europeans thought a dangerous and absurd way to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea (evil, yes; axis, no). Having tried, at the time of President Bill Clinton's travails, to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the number of dirty jokes any journalist could print, Steyn insisted that Bush would win a landslide victory in the presidential election, and now insists that "George Bush is winning at home and abroad." Undaunted by earlier unhappy predictions, he also said last December that Osama bin Laden "will continue to be dead throughout 2004."
But the most fascinating of the group is Lady Black of Crossharbour, otherwise known as Barbara Amiel. With her privileged position at the Daily Telegraph, she has been able to say the unsayable, and thus give us a glimpse of the ideology in raw form. Even the headlines of her columns make a kind of neocon prose poem:
"The UN is fast becoming a threat to world peace"; "Why protecting the peace will make a mockery of justice"; "No more Mr Nice Guy: the lesson America has learnt"; "The BBC has become an open opponent of America's policies"; "Islamists overplay their hands but London salons don't see it"; "British journalists just don't understand the American way."
Where the standard neoconservative line is aggressively optimistic - Israel is here to stay, and don't forget it - Amiel is revealingly different. While lamenting that "it is too late to kill Arafat," she suggests that "this conflict in the Middle East is not amenable to a peaceful solution and can only be solved by the total victory of one side."
"This means the Arabs annihilating the Israelis or the Israelis being forced to use every means, not excluding nuclear power, to defend themselves." Or, still more bleakly: "Sharon or the next Israeli leader might conclude that the dream of an Israeli homeland is finished and the Israelis will not get out alive."
"If so," she continued, "he might further conclude that if we Jews cannot have the sliver of land for which we never wished to hurt anyone, if we must be pushed into the sea either literally or by demographics and attrition, we owe it to the memory of our forefathers to extract the highest price and not to go alone. After all, some ancient Asian cultures believed that whomever they killed would be their servant in the next world."
Apart from anyone else, Israelis might raise their eyebrows at such arcane urgings to massacre and self-immolation, all delivered from the front line of Palm Beach.
Whether or not she realizes it, her strange worldview is simply not shared by most readers of The Daily Telegraph, an old-fashioned Conservative (rather than neoconservative) paper. Most British people broadly support the United Nations, and the recent campaign against the BBC by Prime Minister Tony Blair's former press aide Alastair Campbell was followed by opinion polls in which, on the question of the government's dossier on arms of mass destruction, three times as many voters said that they believed the BBC as believed the government.
Although England is not, as Amiel says in her scolding way, awash with hatred of all things American, it is true that Bush arouses mixed feelings here, and not only on the left. When he paid his state visit to London last year, the visit was more unpopular with Tories than with Labor voters.
While the Conservative leadership supported the Iraq war, many ordinary Tories did not. Boris Johnson, a Tory member of Parliament who is also editor of Black's weekly magazine The Spectator, has said that a majority of members of the party committee in his constituency were opposed to the war, and another Tory legislator says privately that his party members were two-to-one against.
The truth is that the zealous brand of North American neoconservatism is quite at odds with traditional English Toryism, which is stolid, pragmatic, skeptical and profoundly nonideological. That could explain why the British indeed don't understand "the American way" as interpreted by Washington - and why they increasingly resent Blair's policy of following the American lead at all times. Along with the nostrums of Lord Black's coterie, this may yet prove to be a transient episode in British political and journalistic history.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft's books include "The Controversy of Zion" and "Le Tour: A History of the Tour de France."
Roland points out that Mark Steyn is not David Frum. I can think of a few good things to say about Steyn.
And of course the above piece is polemical. Still, it is worth noting. Wheatcroft is much closer to the pulse of the Old Tories than many; and of course Frum has read all of the old American Conservatives out of the conservative movement entirely.
I am not one who says there was no good to come of the invasion of Iraq. I would not have advised it. Entanglements in the Middle East are less productive than investments in energy. I would rather have 40 new nuclear power plants than control of Baghdad. But this much remains: a tyrant is deposed, and the lesson should be plain to every country contemplating harboring our enemies.
I'll comment on the WMD another time. Suffice it to say that every member of the Clinton government establishment believed in 2000 that Saddam had them, and that he was hell bent on obtaining a nuclear capability; and everyone seems agreed that given fissionables he could had had a nuclear weapon in 6 months to a year. Fissionables aren't as common on the international market as they were in the days just after the collapse of the USSR, and the Company hasn't bought any for a couple of years to the best of my knowledge; but with the Oil for Food program putting money in Saddam's pockets, he could afford to bid a lot, and we know that at least some components of nukes were for sale to the highest bidders from people who have nuclear weapons...
Subject: Death of a true Roman.
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: iron - global iceage?
-- Chris C
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx
Shades of Fallen Angels. It was our thesis in that book that we are due for an ice age and the trick will be to prevent it...
And as Casey learned, the dog did not hunt.
Bureaucracies and org charts are people. Once an organization's culture and elan are destroyed rebuilding from within is often impossible. (Absent a real and non-American style purge). Hence the Enterprise.
People view Casey differently. To me he is an American hero. Regardless, the overall lesson remains for today.
Angelo and others wanted to green field it all in 1980 during the transition and start over. He was ideological. Was he perhaps right for the wrong reasons? What has America really learned in 24 years?
They should have made Possony DCI in 1980. That would have accomplished something. And see next week about NASA
Dear Dr. Pournelle;
Thank you for a cogent and insightful commentary on one of the questions facing us concerning our 'adventure' in Iraq.
Your consistency in trying to remind us that there is more at stake than the simplistic statements made by either the press, the current administration or their opponents is refreshing. It's unfortunate that few in positions of authority are listening.
I also appreciate your efforts to remind us that our country was constituted as a republic. Thank you, though it may seem you are shouting into the wind, some still hear.
Dennis C. O'Neil Earth is too fragile a basket in which to put all our eggs. -- Robert A. Heinlein
Thank you. I know some listen, particularly in the Pentagon. And the stakes are very high.
Warnings ignored, says retired Marine By Rick Rogers UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER April 16, 2004
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wondered aloud yesterday how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.
"I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus," said Zinni, a Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"
At a Pentagon news briefing yesterday, Rumsfeld said he could not have estimated how many troops would be killed in the past week.
Zinni made his comments during an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune before giving a speech last night at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice as part of its distinguished lecturer series.
For years Zinni said he cautioned U.S. officials that an Iraq without Saddam Hussein would likely be more dangerous to U.S. interests than one with him because of the ethnic and religious clashes that would be unleashed.
"I think that some heads should roll over Iraq," Zinni said. "I think the president got some bad advice."
Known as the "Warrior Diplomat," Zinni is not a peace activist by nature or training, having led troops in Vietnam, commanded rescue operations in Somalia and directed strikes against Iraq and al Qaeda.
He once commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.
Subject: A cautionary tale.
--- Roland Dobbins
It's more than that, actually. Thanks.
April 19, 2004
2nd Sunday in Easter commonly called Low Sunday
A comment made in another conference; posted with permission:
J is in fact here channeling one of the persistent political themes of the modern world, part of the driving force behind both fascism and communism: the desire to do away with all that messy, illogical nonsense about democracy & hand over public affairs to a brisk technocracy of trained, high-IQ engineers and economists. The dream never dies, though nobody has ever been able to make it work. The USSR -- which grossly over-produced engineers -- was its most conspicuous failure.
I have been tempted by this fantasy myself. When the temptation strikes, I summon up my stock of counter-wisdom:
---Wm. F. Buckley's remark that he would rather be ruled by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University.
---Robert Conquest's rhetorical question about Disraeli & the Tsar: "The Tsar went to the opera while Disraeli went to the races: Which nation was better governed?"
---Incoming British prime minister Harold Wilson's promise to harness "the white heat of the technological revolution" to get his country moving again. (The principal results were devaluation, recession, industrial collapse, mass immigration, and Concorde.)
Etc. etc. If all else fails, I cure myself by reading the this conference. I would most certainly prefer to be ruled by the first 100 names in the Austin, TX phone book than by some of the high-IQ preposterentsia who flaunt their world-rectifying prescriptions on this site.
In fact, if R, Jim, Jack & G were running the USA, I rather seriously suspect I should be driven to underground terrorism....
I wouldn't mind being ruled by Jerry Pournelle, though.
I am sure the final sentence is whimsical; but his point is important. Democracy is messy, and often makes the wrong decisions. Aristocracy looks neater; but an aristocracy of the self-chosen doesn't usually work very well. As Derb says, it's hard to find a good example, at least in modern times.
Subject: Toryism and Iraq
"traditional English Toryism, which is stolid, pragmatic, skeptical and profoundly nonideological. " They sound like ruddy Gods.
By the way, the Iraqis have stopped cooperating with us. We are not allowing US civilians out of the Green Zone, most Iraqi employees have stopped showing up at our offices, major roads are being closed. Construction efforts have stopped. We rule the parts of Iraq we stand on. You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.
As for your correspondents who are sure most Iraqis like us - they are mistaken, and unimaginative. The important question is whether most young men, those who fight, like us - and of course they don't.
Al-Sadr is holed up in Najaf. We can't afford to let him stay there unmolested, if we intend to run the country, nor can we afford to attack him, since such an attack is the official last straw for the Shi'ites. I figure that means that we'll attack, at which point things will get _much_ worse.
But I still can't see any way of getting into Dien Bien Phu or Chosin Resevoir-type trouble.
Mr. Cochran doesn't see the possibility of Dien Ben Phu or Chosen Reservoir style events in Iraq? Well, militarily, I would agree, but the war is now political and we are proceeding with slightly less finesse than the Israelis, who Arabs see as our surrogates and direct responsibility. Recent events have done nothing to correct that impression.
One of the basic rules on Intelligence Analysis is to rid yourself of delusions of reference (i.e, everyone will do as we would) and look at it from the other person's point of view. Did it occur to no one that if the people of Iraq really wanted a western-style democracy they would have one? Saddam would have never gotten into power if there had been a democratic tradition across the culture there. The Russians are having difficulty making their democracy stick. And the fact is that we can't afford true democracy because the probable outcome is either a Iran style theocracy or a three way civil war and a failed state. What would happen here if the situation were reversed and we were occupied? This was a staple of science fiction a few decades ago. "Not This August" by August Derleth comes to mind, as does "WASP" by Eric Frank Russell. The latter book was supposedly drawn from a never used British Secret Service plan against Japan during WW II and the first serious work on asymmetrical warfare. In short, we would do what the enemy in Iraq is doing.
Democracy cannot be imposed from without and how democratic would such a solution be? The arrogance of the neocons is a source of continuing amazement. So is their haste. Subtlety is not their strong point. Change the culture rather than the government. It takes longer but works better. In fact cultural change is what has the Jihadists upset. Like the neocons they seek to impose their view of how the world should be upon others.
The sad fact is that when the Cold War ended , many people assumed that is was, as Fukuyama said, "The End of History" and we stood down a lot of military and intelligence forces. We started worrying about the money these things cost. As we drew down we exposed ourselves to the danger that we would lack the capacity to respond to new threats. In fact, no one wanted to hear about new threats. The Government/Industry Conference on Terrorism that I attended in 1991 had briefings from State, CIA and FBI officials, plus some comedians from the aviation industry. The possibility of 9/11 was well known even then among those whose job is to keep watch. It is not that we didn't know it could happen. We did. The problem was that no one outside that group cared to listen.
Sincerely, Francis Hamit
In Iraq it would seem to be a race between Islamists and the West's cultural weapons of mass destruction (rock, Victoria's Secret, hip-hop, Guess, Calvin Klein, etc. etc.)Dr Pournelle,
The case against Sadr
The story of how an Iraqi judge cornered Sadr—
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_It seems Moqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric holed up in Najaf trying to negotiate a way out of his predicament there, had already been charged with several very serious criminal offences including murder by an Iraqi judge who has spent some considerable time putting together the case against him.
It seems that under Iraqi law, the judge is responsible for overseeing the gathering of evidence, including the testimony of eye-witnesses. I don’t know the details of the system of course, but although this sounds strange to Anglo-American ears, it looks on the face of it similar to the French system of the examining magistrate. If so we must presume that it is a reasonably fair way, as it is in France, for a criminal legal system to operate.
I believe most legal systems in that part of the world have some similarity to the Code Napoleon but I am not certain. I know Syria does.
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