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Monday  May 3, 2004

Subject: Abu Ghraib follies


" What I have not heard here is accusations of actual rape of a prisoner."

        Well, that is in fact part of the story.  Claim is that a contract employee, a translator ( possibly an Iraqi?) , raped a teenage boy in this prison, while an American female soldier took pictures.  Anf there's more; unreleased photos of forced sodomy among the prisoners.

         I would guess that such behavior was rare in the American past, but then we're a lot kinkier than we used to be.

         As for pro-American opinion in Iraq - gone, most likely forever.  As for those people who kept saying that things in Iraq were going a lot better than the press was saying - the press was in error all right, but in the other direction.  

         Concerning Fallujah, we've blinked - check it out.

        Odom and I think alike: and our predictions come true.

        Gregory Cochran

Pitt (Lord Chatham) to Parliament in 1778: "My lords, if I were an American as
I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country I would
never lay down my arms- never, never, never".


Greg Cochran is always worth listening to, and he and I were pretty well agreed before this adventure started that we should not begin it.

But we are there now; we must make the best of what we have now; and I for one take no great pleasure in proving that I was right all the time. None at all, in fact.


Nine days after I turned five years old, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We lived a half block from the East Gate of Fort Lawton in Seattle. And I was eight on V-J day.

I don't remember much about the war at that age, except that my dad worked at Boeing Airplane Company and worked the swing shift and always seemed to be gone when I got home from school and asleep when I left in the morning. Oh yes, and the voices of H.V. Kaltenbourne and Ed Murrow and Gabriel Heatter.

But as time went by, certain things filtered into my young mind. Especially the nightly bugles over the P.A system at the Fort to announce the smoking lamp and then Taps. Taps seemed a sad lonely voice without excuse. It had a kind of beauty, perhaps from its regularity as I lay in bed getting ready to drift off to sleep.

Our house being large, and a half block from the Fort, we rented rooms to various personnel with whom we became quite close. Perhaps everyone was closer then, because life was so....

I remember the announcement of D-Day in school, in the auditorium which was really a cramped indoor gym with low ceilings. It was a message from the grown-ups which we did not understand except that they said it was important. And life went on.

Of course, being on the West Coast, we had blackout drills and air-raid wardens to go around to make sure that no light was showing. And on trips from Seattle to Bremerton, there were mine fields that had to be navigated by the ferry.

But the main impression was the soldiers. The soldiers.

There were about six of us kids who would hear the rumble of the convoys long before they appeared and we would run the quarter block to Government Way to wave to the soldiers in the convoys. One day they would be incoming from the trains from all over the country, and a day or two later they would be outbound to the Pacific via troop ship.

Us kids loved to wave to them and they seemed to like waving back. We waved and waved, holding one arm up with the other braced against the bicep, and waved until it seemed that our fingers would fall from our hands and our hands from out wrists. Whenever we could, we would talk to them and they were always nice and smiling and soft-spoken.

The only odd note was our mothers who would go to the highway with us to wave. So often they would return to the house to have some tea or coffee (or Sanka), they would have tears in their eyes. It seemed that that was what grownups did, that was all.

And yes, when we played, we would play WAR and it was either against the Germans or "the Japs." For kids it didn't matter which side you played, as long as you played. And there always seemed to be a kind of delight at being shot, with histrionic fallings over, or "it was only a flesh wound, ya dummy."

These days, these impressions come back as I see pictures on the news, and especially of our president who seems to be playing war rather than leading our nation at war. The unnecessary landing on the aircraft carrier which cost several million dollars for the one video-op. And then his taunting the Iraqi resistance with "bring 'em on!" seems less the behavior of a leader than a kid playing war. And the hundreds of casualties since. And then not attending any of the flag-draped homecomings.

"Bad breeding," is what my mother would say of the current president.

But smiling through tears of anger, sorrow and pride, watching the young men (and now women also) going off to war.


I will say it again: the President's objective is a noble one. Taking liberty to the world, spreading liberty, equality, fraternity, by force if need be, has inspired more than one man of what I would call "good breeding." The view may be wrong. On the conservative view of the nature of man it is almost certainly wrong.

But I take on great pleasure in having been right; and I will be the first to congratulate him if my view proves wrong.

But I fear he has undertaken a task beyond our abilities; and were it not, still one beyond our determination and stamina.  Yet he remains the President, and in a war I will not substitute my judgment for his; I certainly do not want to discourage the troops. If there is a chance that we can do this Herculean task of building a stable and law abiding state in Iraq, the world will be a better place for having done it.


Subject: "We were too clever by half"

 Roland Dobbins



I can hardly believe it (that he would be so blatant that is), but Walter Cronkite said, in his own person "It is unfortunate that democracies are blighted by this necessity that all politicians must get elected before they can serve". Sheesh! What does he want, a coup and a junta?

From an editorial at

Greg Hemsath



Subject: Scientists Develop Self-chilling Beer Can

Important stuff!

Rod McFadden



Dear Jerry:

I watched CSPAN yesterday; a Congressional Hearing about the Guard and Reserve. Several of the two stars testifying are State Adjutant Generals. Some of them also wear another had as the chief of emergency operations for their respective states. Some interesting things came out about the extent of the military overstretch caused by the current deployments to Iraq. One is equipment: All of the HUMVEES that went over are being kept there, because they didn't have enough to begin with and they keep getting blown up. Readiness in another problem. Most guard units operate at 65% of authorized strength. Those is the so-called Ready Reserve at 80%. To get a unit ready to deploy and up to full strength means stripping personnel out the units left behind. That has a negative impact on training as well. The poor excuse for what happened in that prison was lack of training -- a very poor excuse. I had that training. It was two hours, as I recall.

One of the two stars had an interesting take on readiness and expressed the view that the military's TRiCare Health system should be opened to reserve and guard members. Seems that when people are activated, their deployment is often delayed because of medical and dental problems that have to be taken care of first. Especially dental. This too plays hob with scheduling and training. Given the location of some of those units, such access would probably mean sending them to the VA instead. Regardless, access to health care would have a very positive impact on recruitment and retention. Not that there is any money for that in the current budget.. My monthly checkup at the local VA has slid to once every three months. The net impact is that the National Guard has been seriously degraded in its primary mission; emergency response within the state.

Gen. Myers was on "This Week" this morning, and while I believe that he believes everything he says about the prisoner abuse scandal, he admitted he had not yet read the report . That report was written by another two star general, so the next question was why not? He didn't really have any explanation for all of this and he looked like he was seriously embarrassed and might be rethinking his career options. John McCain was on. Sad and angry about it all. Everyone is agreed that what happened was shameful and a terrible thing, but an aberration. No one could explain why the people doing it felt good enough about it to actually take pictures.

The next to last segment of the show was the New York National Guard officer who gave the Democratic response yesterday to the President's weekly address. Again this steps over the line, but if the chain of command is not responsive, then a good officer has little choice. This guy obviously didn't care if he makes Captain and what he had to say about the supply situations is pretty hair raising. Even water was in short supply and he describes a situation where 19 year old kids were being forced to act as untrained diplomats, on the street corners of Iraqi cities. It's an Infantry company and no one, including him, was trained for such duties.

He said that as more Guard members return to civilian life , more will come forward with their complaints. And this from a guy who also said he'll go back if ordered, because he signed up for the Army and will do what he is told to do. (He's a civilian at the moment).

On top of this was Ambassador Wilson, who has a new book out about his mission to Niger and his wife being revealed as a CIA operative. He now says that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby (What kind of grown-up goes by the name "Scooter"?) were responsible for this and fantasized about them being "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs". To the charge that he is acting in a political manner, he simply rolled his eyes and admitted it, as if to say, you expected any other result from attacking my family?

It is my opinion that the deciding factor in the forthcoming election will be disenchanted veterans and military personnel and their families. They all vote and the entire issue of the war has gone way beyond which party you belong to. Expect that taxes will go up as well, regardless of who wins.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Wilson expected his report to make some kind of splash and when it didn't he went public. One doesn't do that, as you and I both know. The Company doesn't forget that kind of thing. He was sent to determine something. Apparently he did a good job of it, but the answer he got wasn't one that was wanted. OK. That happens.

I recall in 1964 looking at strike photos of our operations in Laos against the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As I was looking at them, the TV showed Lyndon Johnson denouncing candidate Goldwater as triggerhappy because Goldwater suggested we ought to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. We were already doing that, as Johnson had to know; but Johnson still used this as an opportunity to denounce Goldwater. I had a fleeting impulse to take the pictures to the Times, but of course I didn't. It wasn't my job to go public with the information, even though it could hardly be kept a secret, at least not from the North Vietnamese or the Laotians, and one presumes they told the Russians and Chinese. But it wasn't my job to go public with that information. It wasn't Wilson's to go public with the report he gave the Agency.

As to who told that Wilson got the job because his wife suggested him, I don't know. Probably Rove asked "How did this guy get that assignment?" and someone said "His wife suggested it. She works for the Company." And Rove or someone like him said that to the reporter when asked "Why was Wilson given this assignment?"

That sort of thing happens a lot.

More important is the first part of your letter. The Empire is being stretched thin here; as we all warned before the Iraqi operation began. Nothing happening in Iraq is a large surprise to anyone who gave a moment's thought to the situation, and most of it was said right here in one way or another.

So what do we do now? Cut and run? That may be the right way out; if so, then we come home to an entirely different nation with an entirely different security strategy. We can't abandon Imperialism and then not convert back to being a Republic. In between doesn't work well.


Intel CEO: Let's end political games and compete



Subject: US Losing its edge in science


Perhaps the Co-Do will have to put a moratorium on all that research in third world countries! 

Thanks, Dave


Subject: Liquid Body Armor


I haven't written in while but I hope this finds you recovered from you allergy bout. I have pollen allergies myself.,2933,118577,00.html 

The above referenced article was forwarded to me by a friend and I immediately thought of Nemourlon armor. This new developement is a liquid that hardens and reinforces Kevlar on impact. It appears to work well against relatively slow, sharp edged missles like arrows (or shrapnel) and might offer some protection from exotic projectiles like flechettes. Looking forward to your next CoDominium outing.

Best regards, Ron Booker

Interesting. Thanks. Allegra seems to be helping with the head cold/allergy by the way.

LOGISTICS: How France Supported the War in Iraq


Most days the stuff on this site is routine, if interesting, stuff. Today it's just fascinating.

April 30, 2004: The General Services Administration (GSA) is doing something right, earning praise for its innovative efforts in supporting 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1MEF) during Iraqi operations. Normally, 1MEF works with GSA's San Diego office to get discounted prices on commercial goods, typically by buying off of a pre-qualified/pre-negotiated "GSA Schedule" contracts. Before departing for the Gulf, the Marines made arrangements to place orders directly from overseas through the GSA Advantage web site. GSA staff also offered to take supply lists (items with brief descriptions) received as email and deal with filling out the web site forms. This was needed because web connections from Iraq are sometimes erratic, but email usually gets through..

Once the Invasion of Iraq commenced, GSA staff ended up handing all procurement, from sorting through vendors to filling out purchasing and shipping orders. The arrangement worked well enough that, from date of order to delivery, was often four to five days. Ordered items were frequently moved through discounted commercial air transport such as FedEx via France and Bahrain into Kuwait. France did not try to bar these supply flights, but probably didn't know what was going on, either. The GSA East Coast vendors and warehouses were often used, instead of those on the west coast, to cut shipping time. With military logistics into the Gulf jammed up with shipments of munitions and large equipment, the makeshift system worked well enough for 1MEF to continue to use it throughout its 2003 deployment.

Items ordered through this route included everything from building materials to toilet paper. For example, more than 70,000 pounds of zip ties were shipped to use as flex cuffs to restrain prisoners. Canned air to clean dust out of electronics and weapons was a popular item, but 24 cans of Silly String stood out. The foamy material was sprayed around unexploded ordnance to check for trip wires. -- Doug Mohney





I posted this on

Pournelle and Cochran are somewhat elitist about it all, lamenting that fertility is inversely correlated with IQ, and suggesting that IQ might fall a point each generation.

In fact, IQs are rising, much faster than that. (I've forgotten the numbers, alas.) This has to be due to environmental effects such as education and nutrition; it's too fast for selection. The moral, then, is that we don't measure intelligence well, and it is distributed through society more evenly than the elitists would pretend.

Smart pills have been discussed in the press a bit lately, without real substance. Cochran suggests some mechanisms for such a thing, though they are visible because they are associated with genetically linked disease. There are, no doubt, undiseased variations that could be triggered through drugs.

I think that for a while, improvement in intelligence will rest with environmental steps. Teach children to appreciate books and to read, and they're smarter. Give them a better diet and they're smarter.

Cochran suggested two kinds of smart pill--one which would develop the brain from infancy, and which would be administered in the womb perhaps, and a temporary smart pill that could get you through an exam or a research brainstorm.

Would people give their children the first? They'd insist on it. And if there were significant risk? I suspect most would do so anyway.

A temporary smart pill would be, perhaps, universal. If continued use carried a risk, I suspect too many would take the risk.

There was some discussion of the effects of seratonin (Prozac, etc.) on intelligence, as well as its psychiatric benefits (gosh-wow book by Kramer, maybe 1991). It acts a little like several years of therapy, without the struggle. Perhaps the confidence that may be a by-product raises effective intelligence. It was sold on campuses as a smart pill, though you have to keep on taking it for it to be effective.

-- Jim Caughran

I don't know what is but presumably it doesn't have any requirement for sources. We have here a number of assertions, but nothing to indicate where they come from. IQ measures are useful in predictions. We have tons of evidence for that. I wrote in the 1970's in A STEP FARTHER OUT about nutritional deprivation and IQ stunting, which continues in many parts of Africa and probably accounts for at least some of the dramatic differences between African in Africa IQ and African American IQ studies: a full 15 points or so. But it hardly accounts for other IQ differences.

It isn't politically correct, but the scientific evidence is hard to refute: heredity accounts for between 40 and 60% of the variance in IQ, and the twin studies would put it at the higher number. Some evidence supports an even higher correlation but 60% is quite a lot.

Greg Cochran is very careful about what he says; if you want to know Cochran's views read Cochran, not a random post about him.

There aren't too many certainties in the human sciences, and fewer still in the "social sciences," most of which are to sciences as bear hunters are to bears.



The mood of the commentary on your site recently has been that there are signs that the Neo-cons are beginning to re-evaluate their position. At least some of them genuinely believed that the Iraqi people would welcome the US into their country, co-operate with the occupation, get a healthy, freedom guaranteeing constitution in place in short order and let the troops leave with a friendly wave and maybe even a ticker-tape parade to see them off.

They may protest that they didn’t believe it would really be that easy, but then why didn’t they plan better? They’re not stupid; other factors must have been at work. I suggest an ideological confusion; they really thought that the people of Iraq would leap at the opportunity to create a free and open society. But their ideology led us all into an expensive experiment against good advice, not least from you. The experiment has been conducted and the results are in: they were wrong. It may not be possible to do what they had hoped at all, and if it is to be achieved, the cost is going to be astronomical.

The point is not that this could be another Vietnam, but rather that it could be another Afghanistan: with the US taking the Soviet role.

So what now? Will the Neo-cons lose influence? Or will they retain their influence and re-form their strategy and view of the region? Will the fall-back position of the Neo-cons be Conservatism or Fascism? To an observer from the other side of the pond who doesn’t really understand the intricacies of US politics, it seems that both may be possible. And what will happen if Kerry wins?

As always, I’d be most interested in your thoughts.


Craig Arnold

If I were President I would declare victory and leave Iraq, devoting saved resources into rebuilding the Armed Forces (that is, filling out the Equipment tables again and recruiting units up to strength) first, then energy independence; but I am not President, and neither candidate seems likely to do that.

Following is an interesting article on what's going on around Fallujah, from correspondents in the area

Subject: Who's on first?

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Warflying: Was Chaos Manor one of the 3,151 wireless access points found?

In one brief flight from LAX to 3,151 access points with only 1,026 encrypted. That shows over 2/3 of wireless Angelinos were wide open for hack attacks: 

Of particular interest in the article: "Kismet is able to detect WAPs that NetStumbler misses, like WAPs with cloaked SSIDs. Some WAPs have a "Cloak SSID" feature that allows them to operate without blasting out the SSID to the world."

===== -- John Bartley K7AAY "Clearly, latrines are the forgotten Last Amenity of the Apocalypse. (Other signs.. Michael Jackson as your Best Man (?), Christina Aguilara as your makeup consultant & Cher as your personal shopper.) - ginmar

Not us. My local net isn't on unless I want it to be, and it is encrypted in any event. Not me.

Subject: global warming - on Jupiter

Somehow, this will be (western) Man's fault: 

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

Of course it's our fault, didn't we send a nuclear powered probe?





This week:


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Tuesday,  May 4, 2004

From WinHEC so hectic

Subject: Was There any US Coverage of this Story?

< >

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

I put up a lot of mail last night. Not much came in today, presumably because everyone knows I am off at a conference.

From a George Will Column:

Speaking of culture, as neoconservative nation-builders would be well-advised to avoid doing, Pat Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Here we reach the real issue about Iraq, as distinct from unpleasant musings about who believes what about skin color.Ron Chernow's magnificent new biography of Alexander Hamilton begins with these of his subject's words: "I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be." That is the core of conservatism.

Traditional conservatism. Nothing "neo" about it. This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix.


Fred on the Iraqi Torture situation:

"Ilsa Koch Gets Kotched"

 It's Not A Job. It's An Adventure.

 Fred Reed, FredOnEverything Monday, April 3, 2004 


Subject: Worm attacks buffy willow

Why don't you just use the 15" Mac you brought along? :>) NO worm or virus worries and it would have a salutory effect on all and sundry at WINHEC. The MAIL junk filter works better the more examples you give it. Just put it in Auto and lable the junk as you see it. It soon is catching a high percentage of the Spam.

I just read the INF/Armor debate from 1999. Very interesting in light of our Iraq experiance. Of course our next opponents will have better RPGs and AA missles.

Tom Weaver

That would certainly do it. And in fact did. But I do lots of things: in my case I have SP2 RC1 on this machine and I certainly had to test that; it worked.

But the Mac was always safe..

Subject: The effects of 8,000 Years of Agriculture

Has human agriculture prevented another Ice Age? 

Those who want to prevent Global Warming might want to look at the possible consequences of that act. Fallen Angels is looking more prophetic every day!

Charles Butler


"It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium. "

"That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source. "

Apparantly Mr. Wilson wasn't quite as upfront about what he originally found concerning Sadaam trying to buy uranium as he would like us to believe.

Dennis Clay

Hmm. I haven't time to follow that up but it looks odd...


Concerning alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq. Here's a piece of news for those recoiling in horror. It is not new in the annals of war; it is not even new for the U.S.

We have a family anecdote that we don't often mention. An uncle of mine was in Europe during W.W. II, infantry. They were driving on the Rhine. His platoon would occasionally capture German soldiers. You were supposed to turn the prisoners over to the personnel responsible for such matters, and they did that when they could; but M.P.'s and suchlike were often mighty scarce on the front lines. And they were driving on the Rhine!, not running a @#$% P.W. camp. There was one fellow in the platoon (or squad... this detail was not passed down to me) who always volunteered to guard the prisoners while his fellows moved on a bit. Inevitably, he would soon catch us with his platoon, and damn, whouldncha know it, them @#$# crazy jerries had tried to escape. Had to shoot 'em, Sarge, had to. Jeez, they tried to run, happens every time.

I never heard the story from my uncle (died before I could meet him), but I heard it straight from my Dad, who had it straight from his brother.

I've also just read Omar Bradley's autobiography, and he relates that there was a period during the Italian campaign when an offhand remark by G. Patton was interpreted by some 'over enthusiastic' troops as a go ahead to shoot prisoners.

It has happen. It will happen. But I can still take pride in my country and its armed forces because it has never been policy* to do this kind of thing, and if you're caught doing it by higher authority (and especially if the the press gets wind of it), you're going to catch hell.** Bradley said that when word of Patton's remark and its application reach HQ, it was like setting off an ammo dump, and the Word was passed down the line that WE DON'T DO THAT KIND OF THING!

I had a boss once, who had been a German soldier (Luftwaffe), and he told me of the mad scramble at the end of the war, to get to the American lines! to surrender to the Americans at any cost (he didn't make it, by the way, and spent several years in what was essentially a slave labor camp).

When you try to play war by 'the rules' (whatever the rules of the time may be), in the heat of battle, and under the extingencies and stresses of the time, the rules will be broken. There will always be clusterf%ks. However, our enemies know that the odds are better if you are captured by Americans, than the odds with just about anyone else you can name, that you will not be enslaved, mutilated, or killed out of hand. Things like this are not black & white, they are a bell curve... and I contend that we're further out on the right-hand side of the curve than 'most any other country that's ever fielded troops. And it's been demonstrated that we're now fighting an enemy who mutilates, rapes, tortures and kills prisoners BY POLICY, which must have an effect on the troops. The wonder and the glory of America is not that Abu Ghraib apparently happened... it's that such things are not more commonplace.


* Except perhaps in some of the Indian wars. That was before the time of anyone still living, I think, so it's not too germane. ** Except of course for Senator Kerry, who testified that he witnessed and committed atrocities... and that's part of what makes him qualified to run the country.


Subject: Noah's Ark?

Hi Jerry,

New satellite images of Mt. Arrarat show a manmade object.

" The images, which were revealed at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC today, reveal a man- made structure at the site where the Bible states Noah's Ark came to rest." 


John Biel

This comes up every now and then. Would it last that long?


This is a long letter from Randall to several of us in a discussion group. It is worth your attention:

I somehow missed the accusation that Chalabi is passing info to the Iranians in ways contrary to US interests. Predictably David Frum is defending him. But Noah Millman takes him on.

Noah Millman is underappreciated:

Also go back and read his April 30th posts on David Frum, Chalabi, Robert Kagan, et. al. It is priceless. I like this:
   "I'm not listening to lectures from people who are still backing such a weak and deceptive horse."

And this:

His final sentence of his most recent post (which follows): "This has gotten beyond embarrassing. It's become dangerous."

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Okay, Mr. Frum, let's take it item by item.

Frum: ITEM: Up until now we were supposed to believe that the INC produced no useful intelligence – that it dealt only in fantasies and lies. Now suddenly the INC is accused of being in possession of accurate and valuable sensitive information. How did Chalabi go from know-nothing to valuable intelligence asset overnight?

Me: Um, the old accusation is that Chalabi provided us with lousy or fabricated intelligence to advance his agenda. The new accusation is that Chalabi is feeding the Iranians intelligence about us. Provided to him by, well, us. So, he went from being a useless intelligence asset to us to being a valuable intelligence asset to our enemies because we gave him access to valuable intelligence. Is that so hard to follow?

Frum: ITEM: Chalabi has been caught talking on the phone to the Iranians. But wait – hasn’t the State Department been arguing for months that the US should talk to the Iranians about Iraq? In testimony to Congress in October 2003, State number 2 Richard Armitage explicitly disavowed regime change in Iran and called for discussions with Iran on “appropriate” issues. In January 2004, Secretary of State Powell openly called for “dialogue” – and the Bush administration offered to send Elizabeth Dole and a member of the president’s own family to deliver earthquake aid to Iran. (The British sent Prince Charles.) Since then, the hinting and suggesting have grown ever more explicit. What, pray, is the difference between the policy Chalabi is pursuing and that which his State Department critics want the US to pursue?

Me: Guess what: the State Department and other departments of the American Executive branch had discussions with the Soviet Union all through the Cold War. We had an embassy there and everything. Does that mean that any soldier of fortune claiming to be a friend of America wouldn't be under suspicion if he had regular contacts with the Kremlin? He would? But why? What's he doing that's different from what we're doing? Maybe - just maybe - the difference is that he isn't an officer of the U.S. government, charged with protecting and advancing American interests, and entitled to the presumption that he is acting in good faith until proven otherwise?

Frum: ITEM: Chalabi is now accused of playing a “double game” in Iraqi politics, an offense for which he must forfeit all rights to a role in Iraq’s future. This “no double game” rule is a new and impressive standard for judging our allies in the Arab Middle East. Question: Will that same standard apply to those former Republican Guard generals whom the State Department is now so assiduously promoting? Will it apply to the former Baathists that Lakhdar Brahimi wishes to include in the provisional Iraqi government? Will it apply to Lakhdar Brahimi himself? Will it apply to the Saudi royal family? Will it apply to the Iranians? Or is it only Ahmed Chalabi who must swear undeviating loyalty to the US policy-of-the-day in Iraq?

Me: Ahmad Chalabi is a 100% creation of the American taxpayer. He has no local support, no independent source of funds, and no power base other than the United States Armed Forces. He may or may not be a good guy at heart, but he's not an ally; he's a client. It is one thing for us to deal with countries in the region that have interests that differ from ours, and - guess what? - sometimes rank those other interests higher than keeping America happy. Even the Kurds can plausibly claim that they helped us get rid of Saddam, so they don't just owe us, we owe them. Chalabi has no right to independent interests.

Frum: ITEM: Salon magazine last night published a lengthy attack on Chalabi by John Dizard. In it, former Chalabi business partner Marc Zell calls Chalabi a “treacherous, spineless turncoat,” for failing to deliver on Chalabi’s alleged promises to open Iraq to trade with Israel. I don’t know that these promises were ever made – and if made, I wonder whether Chalabi ever suggested that they would rank first on a new Iraqi government’s list of priorities. But never mind that: Chalabi has not exercised executive power in Iraq for even a single day. How exactly was it ever possible that he would carry out any promise about anything to anyone?

Me: Hey, don't breeze by the fact that key Chalabi promoters picked their man because he promised to normalize relations between Iraq and Israel. A legitimate case can be made for that goal as a foreign policy priority, but it seems to me the neo-cons have been spilling a lot of ink denying that Israel had anything to do with the case for war against Iraq. But even letting that breeze by: is Frum claiming that Dizard made the line up? Or is he saying that Dizard was a fool for taking Chalabi's promises at face value? Or what, precisely, does he mean by "How exactly was it ever possible that he would carry out any promise about anything to anyone?" Is he seriously suggesting that the problem with our war effort so far is that we haven't installed Chalabi as dictator yet, so that he'd be able to fulfill his promises to guys like Zell?

Frum says that Chalabi is "one of the very few genuine liberal democrats to be found at the head of any substantial political organization anywhere in the Arab world" and "compared to just about every other political leader in the Arab world - the imperfect Ahmed Chalabi is nontheless a James bleeping Madison." Note what he doesn't say: that if Ahmad Chalabi - James bleeping Madison though he be - were on a ballot today in Iraq, he would not have a prayer of getting elected. I suppose Frum would say that the people of Iraq have not yet learned to appreciate the James bleeping Madison in their midst, but with time and tutelage they'll no doubt see the error of their ways.

This has gotten beyond embarrassing. It's become dangerous.








This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

On your current mail page, you posted the link The following URL:
pt/cpt?action=cpt &

which causes the page to have a huge width that requires horizontal scrolling to view. May I suggest that you replace that monster link with the following short link, which works the same?

< >

When you get one of these monster links, all you need to do is go to <>, paste the monster link into the box, and click the button. You get a link in the form shown above. If you're using IE, the site even copies the new small URL into your paste buffer.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Actually, SHIFT-RETURN will break them into manageable lengths, and I normally do that unless I am working in an airplane with tablet because the seat in front is too close to let me set up the keyboard, and forget to do it. Thanks.

Subject: Shooting Prisoners

I've seen a study of this. In the WWII ETO (Germans/Italians/Western Allies, ignoring the SS), your chance of surviving your surrender was about 50% (unless you were part of a mass surrender). You can imagine what the figure was like for the SS and for the Eastern Front. Made it hard to get the other side to surrender. Also irritated the intelligence officer.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

Indeed. We had problems with North Korean prisoners in 1950 after some of the NK atrocities were discovered. It is hard to keep troops properly moral in a war environment, he said in a plonking tone...

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

How about an update on your latest Jannisaries novel "Mamelukes"? I'ld really appreciate it if you would. Thanks.

Sincerely, Timothy Kirby

I am dancing as fast as I can... I have even tried finding someone to work on it with me, but Stirling is too busy and other attempts didn't work out. It's just time problems.



Normally I find Fred quite offensive, but I have to agree with much of what he says in his latest column. If all this torture went on without the knowlege of higher ups, then what were the higher ups doing when they should have been supervising?

From my perspective there is a bigger message here that we ought to pay attention to as a society. I believe that the constant consumming of violent movies, sex-filled television, and in-your-face talk show hosts has created a culture void of human kindness. America has become a land of ignorant harassers and abusers.

And let's face it, the folks who did the torturing are probably not the military's best and brightest, but rather those who have been taught to follow orders-- people who enlisted because they couldn't do much else and the military was a job with three squares.

Note what my own homeschooled, 15-year old daughter told two members of a philanthropical foundation yesterday. She was at the library studying and volunteering. These two men were looking to donate money to the library. They peppered her with questions about homeschooling. One asked her, "Don't you miss the socialization at school?" My daughter said no, she had other friends who were homeschooled. Then she said, and besides, socialization at school is name-calling, harassment, abuse, and drugs. She told the man she didn't miss going to school.

So, I believe many of these soldiers who are willing to abuse also come from these high school environments where they learn to either give or survive abuse. And let's face it, abusive behavior trickles down.

Also, note Fred's historical observations on past wars. Where is that taught? Unless one reads and analyzes that information no one is going to learn it in a public school. We have lost our history lessons to teachers and politicians who are more concerned about memorizing dates and passing state exams.

Sadly, the America I see today is fat (look at the obesity among children!), lazy and xenophobic. We no longer strive to be the melting pot, but rather we have become a nation of enclaves.

Maybe I have just lost that idealistic glow now that I am 50? What's the Winston Churchill quote? He who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart. He who is still a liberal at 40 has no brain.

Sue Ferrara

The tendency to dehumanize the enemy is ancient in war. And as you say, history is no longer taught in our much vaunted public schools. Blame the teachers unions. Teachers would have to learn history in order to teach it, and while there remain good teachers the structure is set up to protect the worst to the frustration of the best.

Sue also sent this :

Syracuse, NY, and Iraq:

Kidnapping victim found in Syracuse Police say pair took man from Fulton and held him captive in apartment. Wednesday, May 05, 2004 By Delen Goldberg Staff writer

Two Syracuse men are accused of kidnapping a Fulton man on Tuesday and severely beating him, Fulton police said.

Police said they are looking for as many as three other suspects who may have been involved in the attack.

About 1 a.m., three men stormed into an upstairs apartment at 401 Utica St., Fulton, where Donald J. Hastings III, 23, had been staying for about two weeks, according to court documents filed in the case.

The menforced Hastings to strip naked, beat him with a vacuum cleaner, then threw him into a van and drove to Syracuse, police statements say. Once in Syracuse, a group of five men beat Hastings with metal chairs and golf clubs, sodomized him with a cane and shoved a loaded 12-gauge shotgun into his mouth, documents say. <snip>



Subject: Apple patented by Microsoft.

-- Roland Dobbins

Not quite what you think...

Subject: Prison abuse

Dr. Pournelle:

There's been much talk of recent abuse by prison guards, and speculation about the nature of war, or our current culture being to blame.

I'm sure that wartime and cultural coarseness exacerbate things, but prison tends to be a demeaning environment for both prisoners and guards alike. I'm thinking of the Stanford prison experiment, back before ethics rules ended the really cool psychology experiments: , and anecdotal evidence of guards being able to completely compartmentalize their sometimes brutal work and their otherwise normal home lives. NAZI concentration camp guards are the extreme example, but we hear about lesser acts in various American prisons. (Of course, I am aware that many prison employees take their work seriously, and I don't mean to impugn the good ones.)

I'm a criminal prosecutor, so it may seem funny for me to say, but it seems we're just not meant to keep people in cages. We're not good at it, anyway. But, alternatives are scarce, so what to do?

Sincerely, Christian J. Schulte


Sasser Removal

Dr. Pournelle:

Microsoft has published some clear instructions on how to remove the Sasser infection; the main page is here  , with instructions for Win2K and WinXP (the techniques are slightly different). They also have a removal tool, but you still need to install the patches.

Microsoft reports that they got 1.5 million hits in two days related to the Sasser detection tool they have. There are also reports that they are seeing 4 times as many people getting Windows patches than they saw during the "Blaster" series. Other sites (the Internet Storm Center at report similar stats.

I'll have more info on my site at  later today (Wed).

Note that although 'conventional wisdom' says that dial-up users aren't as vulnerable to worms, this is not true. As a test, I used a dial-up connection on an unpatched (isolated) system, and was infected as I tried to download the updates. I was on-line less than 30 minutes before becoming infected. This shows the amount of infectious traffic on the net.

So, I remain:

Rick Hellewell "the Man of the Mantra"


Subj: Iraq: AEI briefing on anniversary of end of major combat operations

I caught part of this on C-SPAN:,eventID.811/transcript.asp 

Overall I found it more useful than the current round of "The sky is falling! This proves conclusively that Bush and the neocons are idiots!" fulminations.

Steven Metz of the Army War College asked whether we are asking the right questions, especially questions about our assumptions.

Do we understand the nature of the conflict? Do Iraqis see the conflict the same way Americans see it? And does that matter?

Which view of the conflict -- the American or the Iraqi -- should guide our strategy?

Why are Iraqis not more publicly supportive of the Coalition's efforts?

Are we basing our response to the low level of Iraqi publicly demonstrative support on the way we would expect an American public to behave?

Iraqis don't ask, as Americans would, "What do we want the future to look like?"

Iraqis ask, "Who is still likely to be around, in five or ten years, with guns?"

Iraqis also ask, "Who is more likely to provide a little stability?" The insurgents, evidently, could "turn off" the instability more or less instantly, if they wanted to. The Coalition, evidently, cannot.

Metz also cautioned against an overly optimistic interpretation of the absence of a *popular* uprising during the recent upsurge in violence. Historically, successful insurgencies have not needed popular uprisings: they've done quite well with popular *passivity*.

Metz suggested considering a wider range of alternative possible outcomes:

Favorable extreme outcome: US victory establishes a pro-US democracy.

Unfavorable extreme outcome: The insurgents win.

Other possibilities: = Establishment of a pro-US government that is not in complete control. = Establishment of a "government of national unity" that includes (some of?) the insurgents.

Metz described Bush's vision of a stable, democratic Iraq as attractive and bold, but suggested that it's time to debate some assumptions on which the current strategy is built:

1. Outside (US) force can play a *decisive* role in removing obstacles to democracy in the Middle East.

Historically, in recent waves of democratization, in various areas around the world, outside influences have *contributed* to democratization, but *not*decisively*.

2. A democratic outcome would be worth the cost.

2A. A democratic outcome will undermine "sacred terrorism".

2B. New democracies will be pro-US.

It's possible that new democratic governments will be fragile and will seek popular support by being *anti-US*.

3. A democratic Iraq will seed a wider democratic movement in the area.

Later, in the Q&A, Metz said he thinks we have a "disconnect" between our strategy -- seeking victory over the terrorists -- and our lack of full mobilization in support of that strategy. Our level of (non-)mobilization is more consistent with a strategy of "management". So we can choose between increasing the level of mobilization and cutting back the strategic objective to something an acceptable level of mobilization can support. Iraq is making us aware of that disconnect, but Metz doesn't know whether we'll have to face it squarely.



Subj: No Empire, No Emperor

This from a Larry Seaquist piece in the CS Monitor, on the goings on in the detainee gulag:

"It is not credible that a few juniors and some sleazy intelligence types worked on their own. For frontline commanders the daily cycle - scour for bad guys, squeeze the detainees, and use whatever information turns up to go after more bad guys - must have become the main engine of each day's work. If the US is to get back to helping Iraqis, not jailing them, the whole military command apparatus in Iraq and its upper branches running all the way to the top of the Pentagon must go under an accountability microscope."

link to story in <url= >CS Monitor.</url>

He's right, except I see no hope of rehabilitating the military's reputation in Iraq. And he stops short, in my view. Bush must be held accountable.

Sure, I know. 'This is what empire means. This what you have to do to stop insurgents.' Except it ins't. Stopping insurgents through violent repression actually requires a lot more than this. Probably a hundred times worse. This is just enough to mobilize the whole country against us. Staying this course wil mean Iraqi megadeaths before it's done. The hell with this course.

And there's another danger. The defense and security apparatus are being to an unprecedented extent merged. How much do you want to bet that the people running a gulag overseas wouldn't run one here?

This is a lot worse than "read my hips." This Bush has to go too, I say.

Mile Juergens

I won't go that far. We have here the actions of reservists, in a politically correct army. Combat units can clear up such situations. Reserve units often cannot. Then they are called up to deployment they never thought they would have.

Of course if one is trying to be an empire, this sort of thing will happen; but as you say, it is not planned repression nor is it useful.

The American political theory is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. That makes it very hard to govern people who haven't consented.

I suppose I am trying to put the best face on a venture I did not want us in because I didn't just fear, but had certainty, that it would lead to this sort of thing. Inevitably.


From the Washington Post. 


Subject: Deducing Political Parties Real Intentions - a Theory -

Dr. Pournelle,

Here's an interesting theory: you can tell something about the kind of country people want at home by looking at the type of nation they want to build elsewhere (e.g. Iraq, but Haiti and Afghanistan also work).

As a demonstration case, your suggestions for building a nation (post-war Iraq) are consistent with your views of the type of country you'd like at home. Essentially local control of government, consent of the governed, restricted central government, property rights, rule of law, institutions of civil society, and so on. National democracy in Iraq is desirable but might be a problem right away due to their culture.

The Republicans have tried to build a certain kind of country in Iraq. They have removed local control (or tried to), used deficit spending to fund their plans and expanding budgets, preferentially gave work to out-of-country contractors (who are often financially connected to them) over local contractors, etc, etc. Crime has been allowed to run rampant. The accurate advice of experienced people not in the in group was ignored or disparaged - criticism even more so ('with us or against us'). No mistakes have been admitted, ostensibly because they don't think they have made any (so either they are lying for political purposes, or they believe the current situation is essentially okay and/or unavoidable - even though it's much worse than they predicted).

The Democrats want to bring in the UN and have them rebuild the country, which could be expected to involve a large not-so-effective foreign bureaucracy and again, not much recognized local rule. That seems to be the extent of their plans.

Both groups appear to be considering doing a half-baked job building Iraq, then giving up ASAP.

The idea is to deduce intentions by actions in similar endeavors, and not by heavily spun words. There seem to be similarities from Iraq to the US in there, although you can't transfer everything exactly. It does seem to hold somewhat, though.

Tom <Name Withheld>

BTW, I think that if history was taught the way you often use it, as a yardstick for current events, it would be a far more relevant and popular subject than it is today.

Well, I am certainly not part of the in group. Frum read me out of the entire conservative movement...

I also find myself short of words. I knew this would happen. The reasons are both obvious and part of the things we can't talk about.


Subject: my worm attack

My aunt caught this Sasser worm that is going around over the weekend. So I went out to her house Sunday, removed it, applied patches, and installed a router with a built in firewall. But Sasser wasn't the only thing she had; she also had something identified as a varient of polybot. McAfee would eliminate it; however, it was back the next time she rebooted. Even if her DSL was disconnected. I finally went home without cleaning it up.

At one point after I thought all was clear, I connected my unpatched laptop to her network. When I got home, I decided against connect it back to my home network. It's been waiting for me ever since. Tonight, I scanned it with Stinger and it found the Nacci worm. I cleaned it and rebooted. It was back. Then I came up with this theory. Suppose the thing is successfully hiding in memory and writes itself backout late in the shutdown process. All scans show the worm is gone after the initial detection. So to test this theory, I reached over and pulled the plug. Afterward, I rebooted and no more worm.

I wonder how many other people think they have cleaned up but aren't?

Greg Brewer

Wow.  That's one I have not encountered before. And a salutary lesson...


Noah's ark pictures: 

I have to plead "not convinced", but would like to know why we don't have better ground-based pictures (and a few tons of samples) if they were able to get photo #7 during a past expedition.

Ah -- National Geographic picked up the story and added some details about past expeditions. 

--Gary Pavek

I would be astonished to find this was real. Delighted, I suppose, but astonished.

Subject: The rights of Englishmen, part xvii.

-- Roland Dobbins

What can we say?

Of course the terrorists have won. We are crippling ourselves from fear.











CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, May 6, 2004


Dr. Pournelle:

It's not just Microsoft with problems. Apple has released big patch for OS X. Although their description is bland ("to improve the handling of long passwords"), the security hole may be bigger than that.

The problem was discovered by @stake, here are the details  . It says "A remote attacker can execute arbitrary commands as root". It's a buffer overflow problem, but I haven't found details of the actual way the exploit could work (or even if there are exploits in the wild).

Apple has an update for Mac OS X 10.3.3 ("Panther"), Mac OS X Server 10.3.3, Mac OS X 10.2.8 ("Jaguar"), and Mac OS X Server 10.2.8 .

So, although Microsoft is attacked more often (didn't Willie Sutton, famous bank robber of the early 1920's <?>, say he "robbed banks because that's where the money is" ? ), nobody is immune from security problems.

So, the mantra applies to Apple users also (admittedly, not as often, most like due to smaller market share).

Rick Hellewell Information Security and "Man of the Mantra"

Is nothing sacred?


Subject: Electronic version of the Stars and Stripes

MAY YOU BE POOR in misfortune, Rich in blessings, Slow to make enemies, Quick to make friends, But Rich or poor, quick or slow, May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward, And may you live to be a hundred years with one extra year to Repent.

That is one fine blessing...

Events vindicate Pournelle--again


A retired Marine officer send me an email that read in part,

"As I listen to AM talk radio from state-to-state, as is my wont so to do, I am particularly distressed that the word "torture" has been co-opted by a set of pictures that ought more commonly be found in a fraternity pledge's scrapbook of not-so-funny-at-the-time memories.

"Out of bounds from our interpretation of the Geneva Accords? Most certainly; and judicially fry, the American perpetrators shall. But torture? Not for a second. ...and it will devalue the previous definition of torture if this "sticks."

"Equally distressing is the seeming inability of the Administration to spin this news cycle into an early end. It's as if 3500 American lives and 100 billion dollars are going to be trumped by the Pledge Maters of Sigma Epsilon.

Hell of a way to lose a war."

When I read this, several things came to mind. I recall that there was a scandal several years ago involving Navy SEALs harassing newbies in a way similar to what the soldiers were doing to the Iraqi prisoners. I also find the frat-prat comment telling, because one thinks of our Pres as a former frat boy. But most of all I recall your many warnings about putting soldiers--trained to kill--to tasks other than killing the enemy. You predicted that results would not be pretty. You were right.

Perhaps we should have turned the whole place over to the Marines.


As I have said before, I take no pleasure in being right. I would rather have been wrong.

And as you and your correspondent point out, yes, there were a couple of instances of actual torture; but mostly what you saw was humiliation, simulation of sex acts, boys showing off for girls and girls showing they could be one of the boys (and probably egging each other on). For this warriors will be punished, and moral in the armed services will fall, and our reputation around the world will be ruined.

But it was all predictable and predicted. God save us.

Dear Jerry:

The classified report that detailed the abuses of Iraqi prisoners is now available at I found it on a link from Yahoo's news page. It's 53 pages long and pretty damning. Worth reading though as an example of what happens when you rush into something with untrained and unqualified reservists who seem to be unable to take the smallest effort towards self correction. Some of it is material that the Army would probably prefer to keep to itself , but I'm not sure why, that aside, they classified it. It is indicative of how the new units going in which are Guard and Reserve may perform. Not all will do this badly. It was a major failure of leadership at several levels and the report does the Army credit for its thoroughness. Reading it made me recall my days as a General Staff NCO. Thank God I never saw a screw up of this magnitude. One starting fact: The Reserve limits its people to two years of active duty out of five and has no way to replace the people they lose because of this limitation or for other reasons. Also traditional command and control is undermined by friendships formed in civilian life. Then there is the Company Commander who is being court martialed for taking nude pictures of his female soldiers without their knowledge. Too many prisoners and not enough people to guard them are other significant factors.

Recommended reading. It doesn't hide anything and will give people an idea of what the Regular Army does and expects from its people.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Given the source I would take prodigious measures to be certain that this is the document, the whole document, and nothing but the document. I don't trust those people.

Dear Jerry:

The copy I got of the Taguba report looks like the real thing to me, and I spent two years dealing with these "back in the day". I was, in fact, the reviewing officer for all the Annual Historical Reports that went from lower units through our HQ to the Pentagon. No outsider could fake that style. It screams "Army". More to the point, the report is so damning that the anitwar people would be wise not to mess with it.

It makes their points far more eloquently than they can. It was classified SECRET/ NO FORN ( No Foreign Distribution, even to our friends). Someone risked their career and prison time to make sure it saw the light of day. Disseminating material of that classification to anyone not cleared and with the need to know, is a felony. Of course the cat is now out of the bag. I'm of the opinion that the Army brass were willing to fall on their swords, so to speak, to expose the grave shortages and problems caused by the rush to war in Iraq. Must be an interesting time to be a general officer.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

As you say





Dear Sir,

In considering the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, we've been here before and should have known better.

In 1971, Philip G. Zimbardo conducted what became known as the "Stanford Prison Experiment." In that experiment, volunteers were placed in the role of prisoners, guards, and other personnel, in what was intended to be a two-week investigation into what happens in prison life.

The experiment was canceled after six days as ALL of the participants took on their roles to such a degree that they became for all intent, the roles they were playing, including their associated pathologies.

The "Stanford Prison Experiment Website" (see: provides an overview, and the slide show includes in discussion, an observation of the recent abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Dr. Zimbardo's website (see also provides a PDF download of the report of the experiment published in the September, 1973, Naval Research Reviews "A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison" on his publications webpage.

Admittedly, this one study is not enough to serve as a basis of policy. However, it does illustrate that we've known for a long time about the potential problems associated with prison life, both for the prisoners and the jailers. That the Iraqi prisoners were abused is inexcusable, but certainly foreseeable.

-- My best regards,

Art Russell 

"Laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt." - Tacitus

Foreseeable, and given mixing female and male soldiers, inevitable. Yong men show off, and young women want to show they are one of the gang, and...


Subject: CACI at least admits "minimal supervision"

 One can just imagine how industry's "Pro Outsourcing Shills" are huddling to spin this debacle . . .


Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead Asst. Baghdad, Iraq... Assists the interrogation support program team lead to increase the effectiveness of dealing with Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition Forces in the CJTF 7 AOR, in terms of screening, interrogation, and debriefing of persons of intelligence value. Under minimal supervision, will assist the team lead in managing a multifaceted interrogation support cell consisting of database entry/intelligence research clerks, screeners, tactical/strategic interrogators, and intelligence analyst.




And here is a different take:

Dr Pournelle,
Our "CIA agent in Iraq" translates arabic comments from the BBC Arabic site on the Prisoner Abuse Scandal.  It's not surprising that the Iraq take on the situation is sometimes different than the Middle East in general ... and different than the US media.
Bill Mackintosh


When many worms are running amok on the Internet, it's busy and you have problems even if your own system isn't affected by the worm. Here's a web site that keeps track of the "storms" on the Internet, with an "INFOCon" threat level color code. It was yellow when the Sasser worm was peaking, but right now it's at green. If they had been doing this when the Slammer worm was at its peak, that would have been orange.

I have a little indicator on my desktop that shows the current weather near me. I'm tempted to write a similar indicator for "Internet weather", linking to the INFOCon level from the Internet Storm Center.

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Subject: Mac FUD


From a prior submission: "It's not just Microsoft with problems. Apple has released big patch for OS X. Although their description is bland ('to improve the handling of long passwords'), the security hole may be bigger than that."

I dunno. The way it looks to me, Apple released a patch to fix an (already rare for OS X) security hole, within five weeks of learning of the potential for abuse. There is no indication that anyone knows precisely what the exploit is; there is no indication that any such exploit exists "in the wild"; and the original report of the exploit (from @stake) reports that the affected system is set by default to "off" - thereby giving lie to the persistent canard that OS X is obscure only through obscurity.

As a Mac user, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this.

(It was also amusing to read this dire warning so close on the heels of the report by another user of his travails in trying to cleanse his aunt's Windows machines of viral infections.)

-- John Dorsey

Well, it's a certain amount of bother to include warnings about MAC and since you seem to think that's an insult to the machine, I can simply not bother in future; is this what you are asking me to do?


You were right again. This from StrategyPage:

"More American soldiers were killed in April, 129, than during the initial three week invasion of Iraq."



I would rather have been wrong.

Whose ox?


As usual, StrategyPage has a whole other take on the prisoner thing:

"Shias and Kurds have been watching with interest as the Arab world gets indignant over charges that American soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. Shias and Kurds recognize that the vast majority of these prisoners are Sunni Arabs arrested for attacking, or supporting attacks, on Shias, Kurds and coalition troops. The pictures of abused prisoners bring feelings of satisfaction, not disgust, to Shia and Kurds who have lost so many family members to decades of Sunni terror. Al Jazeera's indignant coverage of all this gets a different response from Shias and Kurds, who consider this the "Sunni News Network" because it supported Saddam when he was still in power, and now it laments the treatment given to Saddams diehard supporters. All of this reinforces the feeling that Shias and Kurds have much to fear from the Sunni Arab world. Shia know that many Sunni clerics in Saudi Arabia regularly preach that Shia Moslems are heretics. The Kurds are hated because they are not Arab (but Indo-European), even though most are Sunni Moslems. The Shia and Kurds know well that Saddams thugs are still threatening, and murdering, people. Al Jazeera doesn't cover this violence. To al Jazeera, the only thing wrong in Iraq is that the Sunni are no longer in control, and the Sunni struggle to regain control is portrayed as a valiant effort by an abused people to assert their rights. But to the majority Shia and Kurds, the main thing the Sunni want to do is run the country for their own benefit and kill lots of Shia and Kurds along the way." From

As in so many other things, it all depends on whose ox is being gored. But if the above is true, the Moslem world's media has suffered a fundamental split.


Well -- yes. I am sorry I have been so busy I haven't been able to comment much here. Look. This is a land where it is routine to rape prisoners of both sexes, and all our POW's were raped with the possible exception of Jessica and maybe she was also. Everyone there knows this.

So the humiliation of prisoners is a big deal to us, and should be; but over there it's mostly a propaganda opportunity.

The Sunni don't know much but war and governing by force.

One of the costs of this war is putting our people in that context.

Subject: Operations Other Than War

Dr Pournelle, I thought that you might find this commentary on the LA riots interesting, both from your local perspective and in relation to operations in Iraq.

 < >

the article touches on a wide range of issues, from the on-the-ground practicalities of armin positions, up to how to coordinate "media spin" on such operations.

The initial quote highlighting the difference of interpretation of the phrase "cover me" is of relevance to Marine operations in Iraq and for those of us old enough to remember the case of Derek Bentley and Chris Craig in the United Kingdom (one unarmed man says to an armed man, who is pointing the weapon at a police officer, "Let him have it, Chris" < >), it is not a new one.

But the phrase which did catch my eye was: "the American proclivity for satisfying political decisions by using conventional military forces to produce effects that are foreign to their nature." (See William Mendel, "Low Intensity Conflict Forces for `Engagement' Policy," Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement, 4 (Autumn 1995), 217. (This well-turned phrase draws on Clausewitz and Colonel Harry Summers; see also page 213.) Mendel recommends the creation of a Joint Engagement Command, with specifically trained forces, that would be assigned the responsibility for OOTW)

I would submit that the use of conventional military force in Iraq has produced such "foreign effects". But as you comment on your current view, that much should not come as a surprise.

Regards, STF

Empires need both Legions to win battles and garrison troops to colonize and settle in and hold the territory. They are not the same although warriors can be recruited from the garrison troops and often are: Diocles became Diocletian became Emperor through such a process.

In my novels I have Fleet, Garrison, and Line Marines, and there is a reason.

I take no pleasure in being right about the consequences of this invasion. This is my country, and the troopers being killed are my fellow citizens. I wish them a success I think may be beyond this nation's ability.



On Bob Dylan:

Subject: Bob Dylan

Actually, with respect to his name, Shelton reports that Zimmerman was enamored of Matt Dillon and Gunsmoke. In fact, I believe that when he went to Denver on his first real "road trip" there is a poster with the spelling Bob Dillon. I'm sure there is from a Duluth concert.

Shortly afterward, Zimmerman saw the spelling used by Dylan Thomas, whose name we used to pronounce DI-lun (long i), and changed from Dillon to Dylan, rhyming it with Dillon. Again, if I'm not mistaken, this caused us to begin pronouncing Thomas' name in the way we now pronounce it, since " a rollin' stone.." quickly eclipsed raging against the dying of the light .

James Reynolds

Indeed. I hadn't known any of that.

Subject: Bush the Human Being


I am not at all astonished at this one. Or that it is not in the news.








CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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We can open with a bizarre story:

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Detective spends three years trying to pin the villain in court. Villain sees him in the local pub and wagers a guilty plea against a song from the copper. Copper was once a professional singer. Villain pleads guilty. 

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

Heh. One more reason not to drink...

Back to computers:


I was dismayed at your reports that P4 Prescott on 90nm runs so much hotter than the previous 130nm CPUs. Based on this report, Intel sees the future as multiple Pentium 4 M (aka Centrino) cores integrated into a single CPU package... true SMP over (or in addition to) HyperThreading, even at the XEON level. Apparently, low power consumption and more "work" per clock cycle is important on the desktop and in the data center, not just in the mobile sphere.

From the Register 

Brian Stewart, Database Administrator

We will have a lot more on this as time goes on. For now, let's collect comments from this reader universe.

Understand that the next generation will be on an entirely different form factor and will use different thermal management technology. HyperThreading is not going away.

But: this is an astonishing announcement. I am lunching with Peter Glaskowsky and we will talk about this.  It seems a surprise to everyone including him, and when he's surprised you may be sure the industry is.

One thing is sure, AMD's star is rising.


Subject: More TSA Foolishness

Dr. Pournelle,

Yesterday evening I was in the New Carrollton Metro Station (part of DC's Metro rail system).

There was a notice that the TSA would be conducting tests at the adjoining Amtrak/MARC station of procedures of testing luggage etc. for explosives etc.

I can't wait for roadblocks for those of us who continue to drive cars and trucks rather than stay at home like good little subjects. On the plus side, that might cause the complete collapse of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Traffic around here isn't just bad -- it's becoming vicious. It can take hours to get anywhere -- and I'm seeing some of the worst aggressive driving anywhere I've driven in recent years.

I'm also working on a comment about Dvorak's little piece about what's happening with 50+ employees. It also ties in a bit about today's aerospace majors. It's not pretty.


Chuck Divine

Why am I not surprised? The purpose of TSA is to expand and employ more TSA agents.

Subject: Another problem with the public school system

Thomas Sowell once said something like:

"Not only can Johnny not read. Johnny can't think. And he doesn't know what thinking is."

Given articles like this: 

we learn that some teachers are getting diplomas for pay raises, without doing any course work. So they won't be able to teach Johnny anything, well maybe they can teach poor Johnny how to cheat.

-- -- * * * * Henry Cate III <> * * * * "Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others." -- Jacob M. Braude


And the latest on warflying:

Subject: Two planes, this time.

- Roland Dobbins








This week:


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Subj: Tearing down Abu Ghraib

The matter came up in the Senate hearings, of which I caught a little on C-SPAN.

One of the general officers testifying said the problem is (or was) that there isn't (or wasn't) enough prison capacity, and it'd take time and resources they didn't have to build a replacement.


The cost of not tearing it down has already far exceeded the cost of building new facilities.

One of the many things the neocons did not consider was where to put the Iraqis who did not welcome us with open arms when we invaded their country. Of course anyone who thought about what would happen after we went in and defeated their army would have anticipated the need, but a moment is a long time and thought is painful.


On Sunni unhappiness:

The Suunis are pretty cross about losing access to Shia oil fields, which probably contain at least 50 billion barells of oil. Thats about 10,000 barrells of oil each for the 5 million or so Suunis.

If my maths is right, thats worth about $400,000 over a period of 100 years, for each and every Suuni at current oil prices ($40 bl).

This works out at $4,000 pa in oil income that regime change has deflected from the pockets of the "average Suuni".

Admittedly you have to deduct the costs of economic production and political distribution from that. Even so the US regime change has essentially engineered the halving of average Suuni life time income.

In return for that the Suunis get a democracy that they do not appear to want very much in the first place, which is dominated by people they dont care for very much.

No wonder they are unhappy.


No regime change without someone being unhappy. But if we had given primary attention to getting the oil flowing, it wouldn't be at $40/bbl. Of course we didn't give primary attention to anything once the war was won.



Part of a letter from France: 

I do not believe it's a question of impact on foreigners instead of Parisians (all are victims), but of multiculturalism gone mad.

Since the end of the seventies, many national campaigns have been launched against "racism & xenophobia", and they have known their top under Mitterand (1981-1995). During this period, it was impossible to criticize a foreigner for any crime, because as a foreigner he was necessarily a victim of the oppression of the racism from the whites. As a result, police hasn't been allowed to fight against crime when this was from a foreigner. Of course, some populations have been more protected by laws than other : the darker the skin, the more protected by law. Example: a journalist was not allowed to tell the origin of a crime if it was the fact of an African (Arab or black), but was obliged to tell it if it was the fault of a white French.

Still now, it is forbidden in France to emit the hypothesis that may be it could appear in some circumstances that non whites could show some slight signs of racism, it is easier for an illegal alien to obtain social assistance than for a tax paying French, it is strictly forbidden (and enforced severely) to speak of an Islamic invasion, etc. etc. I've already written here that an Imam has been expulsed because he had told publicly what is in the Quran and the Hadiths. Brigitte Bardot (the old actress) is now in a tribunal for having denounced the islamisation of Europe.

Aux armes, citoyens..


Roland sends the following URL on the hafnium bomb. Warnings: first, I have no way to evaluate what is said here, and I doubt the Washington Post does either; but there is a good presentation of what is publishable.

The Jasons group includes Greg Benford, Freeman Dyson whom I regard highly, and IBM Fellow Richard Garwin who once seriously proposed what may be the silliest strategic weapon system ever devised.

The URL below locked up Explorer with POPUP Blocker enabled. I was only able to read it after turning off POPUP Blocker and allowing some stupid advertisement to appear on my screen. Shame on the Post.


Subject: Naval gun shockwave

At this site -

The photographer caught a gun's discharge at the moment of firing. Fascinating pic.



Subject: When Liberators Become Tyrants

Are we like them?

Solomon Ray

It is worth contemplating. And the North Viet Nam army itself became the tyrants. The American principle is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Empire governs for other reasons, and the just powers of Empire are measured more in the principle of law and fairness, not consent of the governed. The civilized govern the barbarous for their own good.

But America doesn't know how that works, nor should.


Subject: Polywater

As I recall back in those exciting days of experimentation, the polywater problem was not the result of dirty glassware, rather it was the problem of using ultra pure water in very thin capillary tubes made of silica.

As you are aware, water is extremely corrosive in its pure form. Silicates easily go into solution forming complex polymers of silicates -- water glass chemistry. When the researchers tested the material they kept getting different results. Nothing unusual since there is no standard molecular size for the metasilicates, just as there is no single size for cellulose. Impure water would not have attacked the tubes, so the problem basicly resulted from using the best materials available.

Add in the interesting properties of capillaries and you had a continuing mess in which nothing ever stayed constant.

Earl Smith

I expect your recall is better than mine on this. I do know polywater turned out not to exist...


On Bush and the prisoner scandal:

1) Bush's apology is essentially useless internationally and domestically except to the tiny slice of American Tom Friedman-type liberals. Consider:

a) The Muslim world hated us before - enough to dance on 9/11, fund Wahabbism, call us the Great Satan, etc. - well before Iraq, and an apology only makes us seem weak to them.

b) The Europeans and far leftists are clapping their hands now that America is being "outed" as the barbaric imperialist regime they always imagined it to be. R's talk about "Iraqis rounded up at random" is characteristic of this school of thought. It is not enough for them to deplore torture, because that is not their interest. No, their interest is in making insurgents who blow up police stations into "innocents targeted at random". Bush's apology does nothing for this group either - like most Arabs, they hated America well before Iraq.

c) The Republican base is very different from the Republican (and pseudo-Republican) punditariat. They will be behind the president and the troops whether it's fashionable or not, because patriotism is a religion to them. I'm not up for debating whether this is good or not, but it is a fact.

d) Thus the only ones who will pay any attention whatsoever to Bush's apology are the goo-goo liberals like Tom Friedman. The Arab world will continue clamoring for our blood, the left will continue hating America, and the right will continue backing America.

Given this analysis, IMO it would be a very bad thing to sack Rumsfeld and thereby show weakness.


And the question remains: what do we do NOW?







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This week:


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