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Monday May 17, 2004

As usual there was a lot of mail over the weekend, some important. Start there...

We can begin the week with:

Subject: I don't make this stuff up, you know.

Childless couple told to try sex

A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex.

The University Clinic of Lubek said they had never heard of a case like it after examining the couple who went to see them last month for fertility tests.

Doctors subjected them to a series of examinations and found they were both apparently fertile, and should have had no trouble conceiving.

A clinic spokesman said: "When we asked them how often they had had sex, they looked blank, and said: "What do you mean?".

"We are not talking retarded people here, but a couple who were brought up in a religious environment who were simply unaware, after eight years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary to procreate."

The 30-year-old wife and her 36-year-old husband are now being given sex therapy lessons while the university clinic undertakes a study to try to find out if there are more couples with a similar lack of sex education.

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

Comment would be superfluous...

And on the heels of this we have *this*:

Hi Jerry,
Through all of my web travels, I still think you have one of the most interesting sites on the web.
I found this work place harassment story on somebodies website and thought your readship would get a kick out of it.
Al Carnali

Sorry, You Forgot To Give Me A Lobotomy With My Nametag
Just got home from work. Am purple with aggravation, frustration, and disbelief. Cannot possibly speak rationally right now. Also apparently have lost all my pronouns somewhere between the car and here.
Breathe deep. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.......
Okay, I'm better now.
Here's the thing... I was called into the HR office today, because one of my coworkers (let's call her Blondie) wanted to file a complaint against me.
The complaint stated that I made her feel "threatened".
I was slightly reassured, however, that they'd given the problem to the Intern. This bodes well in favor of this being silly enough to count as training for her, apprently. The Intern is approximately 12 years old and has not blood but political correctness flowing in her pre-pubescent veins.
"How" I asked the Intern, "in the world does she think I've threatened her?"
Intern: "You've made no overt action. She feels intimidated by you, however, and wished to make an official complaint. We felt it was better to discuss the matter with you before taking any action, if necessary."
Me: "Exactly what did I do?"
Intern: "Er... nothing, really.... she said she's intimidated by you, because you talk about people and events that she knows nothing about, and she said it makes her feel stupid."
Me: "You're kidding, right?"
Intern: "We have to take it seriously, it's in the manual. "
Me: "Exactly what was it I said that got her upset?"
Intern: "She mentioned something about medical references, and once you talked about Henry VIII.... it bothers her that she doesn't understand what you're talking about most of the time. Oh, and McGuyver. "
Me: "She's upset because she doesn't know who McGuyver is?"
Intern: "We're not writing a complaint on this. We just wanted you to be aware of her feelings and be more sensitive to her cultural framework."
Me: "Oh, you did NOT just say that."
Intern: "Beg pardon?"
Me: "Nothing, nothing.... okay, so basically if I have to talk to her, I should talk slow, use small words, and mention nothing that happened before last Tuesday?"
Intern: "Did you know sarcasm is considered a form of aggression?"
Me: *backing slowly out of the room* "Uh... okay, gotta go, late for my shift... buh-bye now."
I haven't quite decided how to handle this yet. Part of me wants to completely and utterly ignore Blondie and speak nary one more word to her...
And the other part of me wants to start a discussion about quantum physics and watch her head explode.
I'm probably going with the third path.... I'm going to laugh my ass off.

And again, any comment would be superfluous...

Subject: "Public Attitudes Towards Space Surveyed"


There is a report on on a Gallup poll that looked at public attitudes on space and on global warming. The following quotes are followed by the link.

Steve ***** On the space program in general: "A majority of Americans surveyed continue to support funding for NASA and the U.S. space program. "Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed after the Columbia tragedy thought NASA's funding should be maintained at its current level, and one-fourth favored an increase in funding."

On manned space (sorry - I'm old-fashioned):

"Americans also continue to favor human over robotic missions, the NSB report explains. After the loss of the Columbia, 52 percent of survey respondents said they favored manned missions, whereas 37 percent favored unmanned missions. "Public opinion on manned versus unmanned exploration has changed little since 1990."

On Global warming:

"On the topic of whether global warming here on Earth is a problem, the NSB reports 'there is a three-way split in public opinion.' "That is, approximately equal numbers of respondents say it is a very serious problem, a moderate problem, and a slight problem - or not a problem at all."

The link: 


Now you can go to jail for lying to your own lawyer.

Case Expands Type of Lies Prosecutors Will Pursue

May 17, 2004 By ALEX BERENSON

Defense lawyers and civil libertarians are expressing alarm at the government's aggressive use of obstruction of justice laws in its investigation of accounting improprieties.

But we were born free...

Subject: Immigrant $$ Go Home

As I have maintained for many years now, people don't immigrate to America because they desire to become Americans. They come here to make money. They come here to cool their heels until things get better at home. It's no wonder we have become this fragmented society where people go to church services that are done in their native tongue; they read papers in their native language; they service their communities with specialty stores.



Ain't globalization wonderful?


Subject: US Troops in S. Korea May Go to Iraq

This story makes me very nervous. I don't think the transfer will do enough good in Iraq to make up for the mischief it does in Korea.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "I would like to be able to love my country, and justice too." (Albert Camus)

Well I have never entirely understood why we keep a large army in Korea to begin with; sure you can't just pull out and go home, but South Korea can afford its own defenses now.




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Tuesday,  May 18, 2004

Subject: Company In Action?

-- Roland Dobbins

When you smell fox and see fox tracks, there is a logical conclusion...

I keep seeing statements on your site and elsewhere describing how well the Army is doing at meeting it's recruiting goals. Isn't "Stop Loss" still in effect? Doesn't that mean that noone can retire or get out of the Army when their enlistment is up? If true, it seems to me that the only thing recruitment has to do is replace people who are lost through combat, disciplinary action, accidents, etc.

Am I missing something here? Has that order been revoked?

Steve Crandell

No data. I post what I am sent sometimes on the theory that it will be corrected if untrue. I have no information of my own on recruitment.

I would be surprised if there were no impairment of recruitment with the extended tours of duty and all, but not astounded: young men do join the army to get a chance to fight. At least warriors do.

It is never a big problem to recruit enough warriors, and you can usually get enough Sergeant Bilko types. It's the smart non-warriors who keep things going that are often in short supply.

Think of it as evolution in action: 

Student drinks unidentified chemicals from lab on a dare.

David Burkhead





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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

One Russian who is clearly a friend of democracy, and who knows something of strategy: 

Stop the Moral Equivalence Suicide-bombing and hostage-taking vs. democracy

BY GARRY KASPAROV Wednesday, May 19, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is said that to win a battle you must be the one to choose the battleground. Since the Abu Ghraib abuses were revealed, the battleground has been chosen by those who would blur the lines between terrorists and those fighting against them. The Bush administration has contributed to the confusion with its ambiguous "war on terror." You cannot fight a word. You need targets, you need to know what you are fighting for and against. Most importantly you must have beliefs that enable you to distinguish friend from foe.


Indeed. I met Kasparov in Moscow in 1989 and was much impressed by him. He even paid for dinner, at a Georgian restaurant.






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Dr. Pournelle,

It sounds like some of the information that helped us find Saddam was obtained the old fashioned naive American way: we helped someone and made friends.

I heard this on the radio, but the only web source I've found is here: 


PS According to the article, if a patient dies, in Iraqi culture the family considers the doctor a murderer, so doctors over there don't get near any patient that might die (I would guess oncology isn't a popular career there). Think of all the implications from that alone.

The old fashioned way...


Proof positive the Martians knew about us: 




Iraq is changing...

Clayton Craymer has added a new blogger to his blog roll, and quoted his comments on how things have changed in at least one bureaucracy:

Today, my brother in law and I went to the passports office to get an interim travel document, cause he wants to travel to Syria for some work, so I decided to get a document for me , who knows, probably I might travel oneday.

I was shocked by the new behavior of the officials and the new procedures there, I thought that I were in another country!

There was an organized queues of about 200 man and woman, the boss got out of the building and took the application forms from the elderly people who were standing there checked them and said: Ď thatís it, come here at 1:00 PMí ! We were surprised by the polite behavior of the boss! Not only that, he said: Ď anyone has a problem in getting the document or any obstacle just tell meí !!

We were used to hear: Ď HEY..READ THE NOTICE WELL BEFORE ASKING US ANYTHINGí and Ď BE SURE OF YOUR APPLICATION FORM, OTHERWISE WE WONíT TAKE IT, DONíT BOTHER USí.. And in addition to the bribes, unexplained demands, the disgusting loop between the passports office and military offices with their insults and disrespect....and and and.. If I write about what was going on to an Iraqi who wanted a passport Iíll write a book about different stories, tragedies and those doctors who were imprisoned because they dared to try to get out from Iraq !

Well, sir, you ARE in another country. Here's hoping you like it better than the old one....

................................Karl Lembke

Another country, and Mesopotamia at that...

Subject: Rumsfeld & Wolfowitz

He said that by contrast, he had been "struck at how many fairly senior officers have come to me" to tell him that he and Rumsfeld have made the right decisions concerning the Army.

But you note that neither quote comes from anyone we can identify.

After the example set with General Eric Shinseki and his pre-war estimate of the larger required Iraq occupation force, not identifying yourself is a sign of self-preservation. These people have mortages to pay and kids to put through college. If they are fired no one will hire them for mega million jobs such as await Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz irrespective of the outcome of their war.

Given that former CENTCOM CINC General (Ret) Anthony Zinni publicly opposed the war before it began and has since all but joined the anti-war movement, I'm confident there are a great many pessimists in the active serving GO Corps.

From my very distant perch it seems the new Army CofS, General Schoomaker, is trying to do wonderful things to restructure the Army for the 3d Millenium. Rumsfeld's contributions came earlier in killing a series of useless Cold War dinosaurs such as the 100 ton Crusader SP artillery system. It's a neat question whether Rumsfeld did this from deep insight into the future of land warfare or he simply got lucky in the course of arbitrarily asserting himself against The Generals. The present results in Iraq support the theory of random coincidence.

Mark & Elena Gallmeier

Crusader was an Imperial weapon. Properly run empires don't fight a lot: they keep equipment with the capability of defeating any client state, and let the client states fight the wars. Crusader was that kind of weapon.

A proper empire would have heavy combat legions capable of taking on and destroying any army they would ever face; and smaller special operations units for the smaller missions where imperial power is to be employed directly. But most power projection would be through client armies.

That kind of military and attitude isn't really suitable for a self-governing republic.

The problem with the American military at the moment is that no one knows what the mission is; and many are persuaded that the only way to stand between their loved homes and war's desolation is to be ready and willing to meddle in other people's countries, and if need be rule overseas for our good (and persuade ourselves that it is for the good of the people ruled, without regard to their consent). If that be true, if the only way to be safe at home is to rule others for our benefit, we will not remain a republic.

Understand: that may be correct. But I at least am persuaded that it is not a correct view, and that America can be defended in America, by forces that believe that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. But I seem to be nearly alone in that belief.

Empires need heavy legions. An empire that has only a new model lightly armed army has many problems.

Subject: Department of Pre-Terrorism

- Roland Dobbins 

Ain't freedom grand?

Subj: Marines' alt TV in Iraq - gear arrives in Iraq 


Sometimes things go right.


Yesterday on Court TV - Catherine Crier Live - they had an interview with one of the lawyers for Lyndie. One of their defenses is that she had no where to turn to. Her superiors were telling her to do these things. If she refused she could be Court Martialed for refusing a direct order! They did not consider that she had a right to refuse an illegal order.

Now back in 1971 in Basic Training we were brought together and had a session on the Geneva Convention. We were told that we could not use the excuse of "Just Following Orders". We were told that we had the right and responsibility to refuse illegal orders.

Has the Army stopped giving this training?

History repeats itself.

Chris Landa US Army 1971-1974

It is one thing to be told you must not obey illegal orders, and quite another to stand up to a superior and disobey.

One can also ask for written and signed orders.

The usual recourse for soldiers in those circumstances is to go to the Chaplain, or make a formal request to see the Inspector General. That latter often gets attention. But it takes some courage to do that.

Do not believe this is the last time this sort of thing will happen.

And see below

Subject: What's the passage from that letter you so often quote?

The one refering to the "blood of the Legions"; I can't quite remember. Just as well, most of our Congressthings have neither heard nor contemplated it in the first place. 

What's Needed in Iraq Soldiers are up in arms over up-armoring.

BY BRENDAN MINITER Tuesday, May 18, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

"We spent the entire day running through a gauntlet of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). Four in all. These were big rounds, not soda cans. They were mortar rounds and 152/155 mm artillery rounds. Big explosions. I was inside the blast radius on the first one, but no scratches. By the Grace of God we have no casualties. We put armored doors on all of our vehicles, and the reinforced glass on the windshields worked. I pulled golf ball size pieces of shrapnel out of the windshield that were stuck in it, but did not penetrate."

--Sgt. Maj. Dale W. Miller, First Battalion, 24th Marines

The above dispatch was sent from the frontlines to thank Marine acquisition officers for "up-armoring" their vehicles before shipping them out for Iraq a few months ago. "Myself and several other Marines are alive and grateful to you all for spending the money," Sgt. Maj. Miller wrote in an e-mail in March.

As the Abu Ghraib scandal swirls around the Pentagon, this is also a message many soldiers in Iraq hope isn't lost on Donald Rumsfeld. There's a war on, and chief among the soldiers' concern is whether they will get the gear they need to win. <snip>

For if we find that we have left our bones to bleach in these desert sands in vain, beware the fury of the legions.

Subject: Syria, North Korea, and "fertilizer" explosion paranoia?

from, click "nealz nuze"

Monday, May 15, 2004


First ... let me ask you this question. If we discovered that Syria was not only hiding some of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, but was producing some of its own, what would we do about it? What should we do about it?


Let's go back a few weeks. Remember that huge explosion in Korea? At first we heard that thousands were killed. That number was eventually reduced to hundreds. The explosion, however, was huge. North Korean authorities are trying to float a story that it was fertilizer. Are you buying that? Now we learn that there were technicians from Syria on that train .. and that these technicians were accompanying some unidentified equipment. The damage from the explosion was greatest in that portion of the train carrying the equipment from Syria. Reports in Japanese newspapers say that North Korean military personnel arrived soon after the explosion and removed materials, but only from the Syrian portion of the train. The soldiers doing this work were wearing protective suits.


Jim Woosley


" It was time U.S. occupying troops left Iraq, said Chalabi, who lost U.S. funding for his political party earlier this week. "


Gregory Cochran



I didn't know there were quite so many groups. Seems incomplete.

It also seems to me that the gung-ho imperialists includes the Telegraph people. That is, the people really urging capital-E-Empire (as opposed to controlling the oil, or spreading democracy or just assisting the Israelis) are all British or Canadian and long for jodphurs and afternoon tea service from turbined servants under the tropical sun. La Belle Epoche II 1.0. (If they can't get it from the Queen, then the Americans will just have to do. Still in beta, evidently.)

ash ['Not exactly the American ideal there.'] 

Where are conservatives on Iraq?

Reihan Salam has a great TNR Online piece that breaks down where the various tribes of conservatives fall on Iraq -- or, as Salam puts it, a "Guide to the Right on Iraq Gone Wrong." The relevant categories (NOTE: I've added some names that Salam omits where I think they apply -- my additions are in italics):

1) "The Neo-Paleos: We Shoulda Known": Burkean conservatives who never bought the democracy-building line, but did by the "Iraq has WMD" line (George F. Will, Tucker Carlson, Fareed Zakaria);

2) "The Neo-Neocons: Operation Chalabihorse": True-blue believers convinced that Colin Powell is the devil and Ahmed Chalabi is the answer to all of the troubles in Iraq (Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Michael Rubin, David Frum, Laurie Mylroie).

3) "The Standard Neocons: Dude, Where's My Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy?" Cared more about democracy-building than WMD but are flummoxed by the Bush/Rumsfeld insistence on insufficient troop strength, suspecting that this is due to an aversion to casualties that impairs the mission (William Kristol, Robert Kagan, David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, and yes, Daniel Drezner).

4) "The Neo-Imperialist: Bush Gets the Boot from Boot": Gung-ho empire-builders that share the Standard Neocons' discontent with the Bush administration -- but unlike them, believe that constructive engagement with the Bush administration is pointless, and have gone full frontal with their criticism (Max Boot, Niall Ferguson)

For the immediate future, I'm interested in two things:

A) Will the latter two groups merge? What separates them is not the ends but the means of advancing those ends -- gentle vs. not-so-gentle criticism. I've been feeling myself shift slowly over this calendar year, and I strongly suspect others are as well (Matthew Yglesias shares my suspicions).

B) Who will be the last neo-neocon standing? To be fair, I haven't read Frum and Perle's An End to Evil -- and I'm sure there are a lot of ideas in there that the current situation in Iraq does not undercut. However, a key tenet of this group has been the inherent goodness of Ahmed Chalabi, and the U.S. decision to raid his headquarters today (plus the decision earlier this week to terminate his funding) may just signal a souring of the DoD-INC relationship [UPDATE: Chalabi's home was also raided]. If that doesn't do it, this anecdote from Salon's Andrew Cockburn just might:

Why did the Bush administration turn against its former favorite Iraqi? Almost certainly because it realized that Chalabi, maddened by the realization that he was being excluded from the post-June 30 hand-over arrangements, was putting together a sectarian Shiite faction to destabilize and destroy the new Iraqi government. "This all started since [U.N. envoy Lakhdar] Brahimi announced that Chalabi would be kept out of the new arrangement," says an Iraqi political observer who is not only long familiar with Chalabi himself but also in close touch with key actors, including U.S. officials at the CPA and Iraqi politicians....

U.S. disenchantment with Chalabi has been growing since it dawned on the White House and the Pentagon that everything he had told them about Iraq -- from Saddam Hussein's fiendish weapons arsenal to the crowds who would toss flowers at the invaders to Chalabi's own popularity in Iraq -- had been completely false. Some months ago King Abdullah of Jordan was surprised to be informed by President Bush that the king could "piss on Chalabi." (emphasis added)

Who will the neo-neos go with -- Bush or Chalabi? My money is on Chalabi.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has further thoughts on Chalabi and the neo-neocons. One point he makes confirms my theory about which way the neo-neos go: "I don't doubt that some of Chalabi's Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Just got one of Laurie Mylroie's mass e-mails. She condemns "today's outrageous, and totally uncalled for, raid on Ahmed Chalabi's compound" and asks, "Just what is the U.S. doing in Iraq?"

Yeah, she's stickin' with Chalabi. posted by Dan on 05.20.04 at 12:56 PM


There are a few who didn't buy the WMD claims as well as "democratization": 

I used to think they were nuts, but their stock has definitely gone way up with me. posted by: tc on 05.20.04 at 01:59 PM [permalink]


Call me Paleo-Paleo, I guess. I have been a Burkean Conservative for most of my life, once I got over my youthful fling with Communism. Somehow lukewarm social engineering never appealed to me.

I neither bought nor cared about the WMD issue. Saddam clearly once had such weapons; he clearly was willing to use them; and if he were in control of a national state he was only months from having them again even if all had been destroyed. That is a non-issue.

If he was a danger to the US he should have been removed; and I was willing  reluctantly to rally around the flag once the President decided to send in the troops. My differences were first that I thought we had a better used for the resources this cost, and that we would be safe spending the money on the Fleet, a Space Navy, and energy independence; and second that if we were going in, it ought to be to topple the madman and get out again.

You will recall I asked many times here just what would we do with Iraq once we had it.

Well, we will find out.

So Our Man In Iraq, the Frum Favorite, turns out to be a con man with ties Iran. Imagine my astonishment.

Subject: Not "nearly alone"

Hello, Jerry,

You wrote:

"But I at least am persuaded that it is not a correct view, and that America can be defended in America, by forces that believe that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. But I seem to be nearly alone in that belief."

You are not even close to being nearly alone in your belief. I have been surprised and encouraged that more and more people seem to be coming back to "that belief".

It is as if Americans went into a coast-to-coast star-spangled, blurry-eyed, daze: the slogan last April was "everyone wants to take Baghdad; real men want to take Tehran!" (from "New Yorker" article describing the neo-con delirium around Washington). We're coming out of the is clearing...people are beginning to ask the questions they should have asked in 2002, like:

- why do we need to do this?

- how will we know when we've done it?

I don't have much hope for the professional politicians...absolutely none for those whose loyalty is to their party first, and to the country second (or third, or only by accident...). But others, normal people, seem to be moving, shifting, waking up, becoming alert.


I'm encouraged that people are waking up, but discouraged at the depth of the hole we are in over in Iraq, a place to which one of my kids will be deployed. I've been reading Dante lately...finished the Inferno, and now most of the way up the Purgatorio. Sometimes, I think we need a Beatrice and Grace, right now, because human reason does not seem able to save us.

Yes, this is ending in a grim way, but, at least on views of our government and America, we need not be without hope.


John Welch


I can hope you are right.









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Friday,  May 21, 2004

Subject: Google's anti-spyware principles

There's an article on google, , stating its ideas on how to fight spyware, and how software should be set to install, work and uninstall. It says, among other things, that any programs that collect data, "call home," show ads or otherwise change your surfing experience should tell you up front that they're doing this. They should also be easy to remove and not hide afterwards ready to reinstall or reactivate.

I found this through slashdot, and there's one *very* interesting comment at
thread&cid=9208565  that you might want to check out as well.

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


Subject: How to go through channels to refuse an order

"The usual recourse for soldiers in those circumstances is to go to the Chaplain, or make a formal request to see the Inspector General."

Very true. However, I'll bet few if any enlisted personnel know that. I do know that back when I was in boot camp in '70, we were taught that we were expected to refuse an unlawful order, but not the right way to go about it. I'd be very astonished if that's changed.

It's not so much that they don't really mean what they teach you; they do. It's more that nobody ever expects to need to know, so the people setting up the curriculum forget they need to explain how to go about it.

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

I expect you're right, and perhaps that will change.

I agree with Joe that the military does not make it easy for someone to come forward when the Chain of Command is broken, but I don't think it is supposed to be easy; otherwise people would do it for reasons which didn't rise to this level of concern. You will note that someone did come forward, probably at some risk to career, and possibly to life and limb. And that was enough to get the whole thing investigated and exposed. Proving once more that the system works and as long as there is always one such soldier who places duty above self, it always will.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit




Subject: None of these guys get what an army is really for

Not sure about Bennett's record but it wouldn't surprise me if he's another chicken hawk. This reminds me of Allbright asking what good is this military if we can't use it? 

What kind of training does someone need to know that it is wrong to abuse other human beings like that, mugging for a camera, knowing such images will travel somewhereóif not everywhere? This was not a matter of poor military training any more than it was a matter of poor military judgment. This was a matter of poor human training and poor human judgment. We don't need to read the Geneva Conventions or the Code of Military Justice to know this. This was basic stuff. You can find it in the Bible; you can find it in Aristotle. If you need the armed forces to be trained in decency, you've waited too long. This was not the fault of our armed forces any more than it was the fault of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or President George W. Bush.


Alas, public high school civics is no longer based on any kind of principles I know of. Products of Catholic schools absorb Aristotelian ethics through their pores, and I am sure that's true for many other private schools. It used to be true of the public schools as well. Compulsory Public education paid by compulsory taxes is justified as generating good citizens; in fact it doesn't, and is now treated as some kind of right that one acquired when one's father lay with one's mother: somehow their act of coition laid burdens and obligations on the rest of us without imposing any responsibilities on either the parents or offspring.

We have sown the wind, and the teachers unions are busily cultivating the harvest.

subject: New evidence confirms of what we already knew

Dear Jerry:

The latest evidence that phonics is the way to teach reading, this time from brain scans: 

At the end of the school year, only poor readers in the experimental program showed marked gains in reading accuracy, speed, and comprehension, the researchers report in the May 1 Biological Psychiatry. Good readers still exhibited the strongest literacy, but the poor readers who received phonetically based instruction had closed the gap considerably.


Best, Stephen

We have always known this. But California destroyed its school system and ruined the chances of half a generation when Bill Honig decided he knew better than the evidence, and imposed the ridiculous look-say (ideographic) system of reading instruction on the state.

Fools -- I do not use words like that lightly -- can do great harm if they achieve high office. They need not be evil; but sometimes the results of folly are more evil than if evil were intended. And the folly enriches some as well.

Reading is an essential skill. Some children will learn to read no matter what method is used to teach them, or indeed without any instruction at all, and they will probably be the best readers. Others, though, will never learn to read unless explicitly taught phonics. The good news is that if the instruction is done right, virtually any child can learn to read. (Yes, we know about dyslexia, which I've covered before; there are ways to overcome that, too, although true neurological dyslexia is quite rare.)

The children who are most harmed by Honig's maniacal folly are those who are of normal intelligence but who simply will never learn to read unless taught by the Honig-forbidden phonics method; and there are plenty of teachers in California from the Honig era, teachers who never learned how to teach phonics and don't think it is a good idea.

One wonders how Honig and the other Enlightened Arrogants feel now.


Subject: Command and Control Research Program free pubs

Subj: Command and Control Research Program free pubs

I just discovered what looks like an archive of free publications your readers may find interesting:

 CCRP Publications    

And in a slightly different place on the same Web site:  "Historical Analysis of Terrorist Campaigns"


Indeed. And thanks!









This week:


read book now


Saturday, May 22, 2004

We have several letters pointing to this one:

Subject: Thor buffy willow

Dr. Pournelle:

If you have not seen it, you might take a look at the June issue of Popular Science. Thor made the cover. The article is on five weapons systems that are in various stages of development. Thor ( the article does not use that name) is the fourth they talk about. They credit you with popularizing it although they give Rand Corporation the nod for the original idea. Their description is somewhat different than you described but still recognizably Thor.

On training soldiers about the Geneva Convention; I was in the Army from 81 until 92. I received the training several times ( I was infantry and probably expected to need it more than combat support troops). We were specifically told that there was no excuse for following illegal orders but I do remember one officer telling the group that we did not need to worry about that as he would never give an illegal order.

It was always assumed that if you ran into the situation it would be handled like any other Chain of Command issue. If the immediate superior was involved, go to his superior. While all Army officers that I ever had contact with had an open door policy, if was somewhat hazardous to use it unless you were sure you were in the right. Even though the problem would always be taken care of (if indeed there was a problem) you still might end up charged with violating the Chain of Command.

On reading the article Why We Fight by Mr. William J. Bennett, I am reminded of you comment that we should have had a surrender ceremony for the Iraqi forces to let them know that they had been beat. Imagine if Lord Howe had declared an end to major combat operations in December of 1776. The only difference might have been fewer American casualties and more British casualties but we probably would still have won. While not an exact duplicate, the situations are analogous. The difference being, we don't yet know the out come of this war. We will have trouble here until the Iraqis cry "uncle".

Keep up the good work. There are people out here who listen to you and even in disagreement you give us something to think long and hard about. This is part of the exercise of democracy at the grass roots level that was promised when people like you were writing about the Internet back in the '70s. It may take time away from your other writing (which readers like myself regret) but this web salon is important to our version of civilization.


Patrick A. Hoage

I believe RAND got the concept from Aerospace Corp which got it from Boeing. At Boeing Corlin O. Beum was in charge of crazy ideas and came up with Thoth Missiles, which were air launched guided birds for close support. I worked on that proposal. Later I got the notion that if the darned things could be in orbit they'd really be effective, but until GPS was developed they weren't very practical: terminal guidance looking ahead at the target is very difficult.

We should indeed have kept enough of Iraq's government intact to allow a formal surrender.

Chalabi was an Iranian spy


You probably know it by now, but here's a link to a story on it:


I would not put it quite that strongly: Chalabi is in my judgment a politician, Middle East small-mouth sub-species, who probably believes he would be good for Iraq, and is absolutely certain that no one will be better or more deserves to establish a new monarchy.

The Company was disillusioned with him a long time ago. It took somewhat longer for Frum and Perle to realize they had been had -- if indeed they realize it yet. They hadn't when their latest book came out.

From Salon's article on Chalabi

"Why did the neocons put such enormous faith in Ahmed Chalabi, an exile with a shady past and no standing with Iraqis? One word: Israel. They saw the invasion of Iraq as the precondition for a reorganization of the Middle East that would solve Israel's strategic problems, without the need for an accommodation with either the Palestinians or the existing Arab states. Chalabi assured them that the Iraqi democracy he would build would develop diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, and eschew Arab nationalism. "

About the writer
John Dizard is a columnist for the Financial Times.

But of course anyone who pointed out that things might be more difficult was denounced by the neo-cons as an anti-Semite.

It is that tactic that disgusts me. They had a strategic view and they were more than welcome to expound it, to present it, to argue for it, to counter arguments against their view, which seems to be in part that given the chance intelligent people will opt for liberal democracy no matter what their traditions and religions. I presume that is their view because it is the only one that makes sense of the notion that invading Iraq could be done on the cheap and the occupation would be painless.

The neo-cons now demand more troops on the ground in Iraq, and try to pretend they thought this way all along; but in fact had the real costs of this war been presented to the President it is likely we wouldn't have done it, or if we had, we would have done it quite differently with more preparation for the aftermath.

But there was never an honest debate on these issues.

Well, a day. We are there now. And we have to Do Something, and fairly soon.





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 23, 2004

One view of Chalabi (from another discussion group):

I think that the problem with getting an opinion out of pundits here is their great wariness towards the hall-of-mirrors, bazaar-trading aspect of ME politics.

 Is Chalabi

(a) A gifted con man, who bamboozled the US (and France, Britain, Germany, the UN, etc. etc.) on WMD for his own ambitious purposes, and is still leading the Bushies by the nose; or

(b) As close to being an honest patriot as things get in the ME, with an eye to self-enriching side deals, no doubt, but prob. the best we can hope for in the way of interim leadership for Iraq?

There are very powerful & well-financed interests pushing both points of view. None of those interests has the slightest scruple about fabricating evidence, spreading rumors, etc. etc. So which should we believe? Without a couple of months of intensive research into Chalabi and his background -- which of course I don't have time for -- I'll pass.

All of the strong opinions on the matter that I have seen just extend in a straight line from the writer's previously voiced opinions about Bush & the war. These writers have taken the opinion about Chalabi that suits their larger views. I therefore discount them -- unless one of them can show me he's done the 2 months' research -- and remain agnostic on Chalabi.

Which was followed by this reply:


If we are unable to form an opinion after reading the opinions of various well known figures and use the track records of those various well known figures then how can we form opinions on a great many other subjects? How can democracy work?

Like you I do not have 2 months to study each major political figure. So then I guess I can't, say, form an opinion about John Kerry, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and countless others.

While I originally supported the war the quality of the decision-making by the policy makers who promoted it has been so poor and their predictions have been so wrong that I think it only makes logical sense to discount their opinions of Chalabi.

If I can't trust the reports that prominent INC figures were running a kidnapping ring and that they were warned by US authorities to stop then I can't trust a great many other things I read in the media and I have absolutely no idea what is going on.

Here's this huge breaking story:  and my tour yesterday of  blogs turned up very little about it.  I can understand why any one blog might have a focus somewhere else at the moment. I certainly shift my focus on whim or to pursue some single issue in detail for a while and I'm only one busy person. So I may skip some big story for reasons other than a desire to avoid bad news. But this is huge and I kinda expected better of the hawks.


Meanwhile some comments from someone whose background I respect:

Subject: US Falls For Iranian "Trust"?,0,4141685.story?coll=ny-worldnews-headlines 

Even if media over-hyped, also shows how ill-equipped the US is to wage intelligence war in this religious and cultural context. The enemy has Perception Management Dominance across so many layers.

And "Resolve" is not the answer.

*IF* DIA is correct and the Iranians did actually control INC's ICP, professionally ranks near the Soviet Trust and penetration of Gehlen Organization (also by a deputy).


who follows up with:

Some replied arguing inaccurate to say U.S. is ill-equipped "to wage intelligence war in this religious and cultural context".

Claim is that CIA, State, etc. labeled Chalabi a charlatan since late 1990s. And some suspected Karim.

Point proven 2 ways:

(a) Community worked enthusiastically with INC until late 1990s. INC was almost our *only* window into the Iraq target. Virtually ZERO penetration of the Iraqi target on our own. We were blind. And largely still are;

(b) Even after 1999, USG remained porous for INC manipulation, burn notices or not.

We still do not understand the war we are fighting. Nor the enemy. Nor what constitutes "sustainable victory." Deficiency in perception control far greater than settling parochial scores with neocons.

And note to Tenet: renting foreign networks is part of the problem, not the solution . . .

To which I can only say a rousing AMEN. There was a time when we could recruit bright young Princeton and Yale men into the Company. No longer.


It's not an excuse, but it may be a bit of explanation:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

This aspect was neglected until now:

"Many of the worst abuses that have come to light from the Abu Ghraib prison happened on a single November day amid a flare of insurgent violence in Iraq, the deaths of many U.S. soldiers and a breakdown of the American guards' command structure."



And Jeremy Sivits was sentenced in a rather telling haste...

A. Romain


Iím writing to thank you for a note you made in your last subscriber e-mail. Iíve had allergy problems since I was a teenager and I purchased a Hydro-Med after hearing your experience.

Itís prime grass and tree pollen season, at least for the species that Iím most affected by, and Iím breathing clearly without any medication.

Well worth the premium subscription, even if you donít write another word.


That's good to hear...

Subject: Collecting Bullet Proof Vests

That's the request one soldier in Iraq sent his parents. So now police departments across NJ are collecting their outdated vests and sending them overseas. I guess that's one way to clean house!















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