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Mail 320 July 26 - August 1, 2004






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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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Monday  July 26, 2004

Subject: the Jacobsen/NW Flt 327 account

I didn't have time to comment on this when the references to the story first surfaced at Chaos Manor. I did at the time think that he account smacked of innuendo and sensationalism, but my interpretation could be wrong, or it could exhibit those characteristics and still be true. Where it falls apart completely for me, though, is: "Approximately 10 minutes later, that same flight attendant came by with the drinks cart. She leaned over and quietly told my husband there were federal air marshals sitting all around us. She asked him not to tell anyone and explained that she could be in trouble for giving out that information. She then continued serving drinks." While little or no official information gets released on the Federal air marshal program, there do appear to be a number of characteristics conceded by those in a position to know. Among those: the "standard" compliment of marshals is 2, when there are any; the program is grossly underfunded and undermanned, leaving a substantial number of flights without marshals. So, how did NW Flt 327 come to have enough marshals to be "sitting all around" the Jacobsens and the allegedly suspicious characters? That would seem to imply that either a] Flt 327 just by coincidence had an unusually large number of marshals and also a group of Al Quaeda terrorists in completely unrelated anomalous events, or b] that the TSA knew ahead of time that Al Quaeda operatives had booked seats on the flight, but stacked the passenger list with extra marshals and allowed the fight to take off with a mix of terrorists, marshals, and ordinary passengers rather than grounding the flight and/or apprehending the suspected terrorists before take-off. Now, I am probably as cynical about the Gomer Gestapo as any man alive, but I find that b] is both beyond even my generous presumption of TSA stupidity and at the same time completely out of character with an agency that appears to be in love with prior restraint as an mo. If there is another explanation here, I'd appreciate it if someone would enlighten me. Jacobsen is a writer, I can't help but wonder if her career needed a boost.

Scott Miller

Many such details struck me as odd, too. My experience with TSA is, as you say, prior restraint; but then Minetta is so opposed to the appearance of profiling that you can't know.


Concerning the alternatives Scott Miller outlined in re the Jacobsen/NW Flt 327 account. A third alternative, that is probably more likely than those he outlined, is that the flight attendant probably lied about the air marshals in order to calm an obviously-frightened passenger.

Miller's ad hominem attack of Jacobson at the end of the e-mail was uncalled-for. Until I hear from other passengers on flight 327 refuting Jacobson's account, I'll take the occurrence as fact. While the Women's Wall Street may not have the cachet of The Wall Street Journal, I'd prefer to assume that the account was vetted by the editorial staff before it was exposed. Perhaps I'm too trusting.

-- Pete Nofel



Here is some advice I think I will not take...

Dear user of,

We have found that your email account was used to send a large amount of spam during the last week. We suspect that your computer had been infected and now runs a trojan proxy server.

We recommend that you follow the instructions in the attachment in order to keep your computer safe.

Sincerely yours, The support team.

Somehow I think that attachment may be a problem. I don't propose to open it... As to who might be the support team I am unaware but it's nice to have one..

Subject: suspicious message

Is there a plot against sci fi writers? Bruce Sterling received a suspicious email, similar in wording to the one you received. 

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

I suspect a LOT of people got that message.


Subject: remove Messenger

If you prefer to remove Windows Messenger manually, click Start, Run and enter the following command:

RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\inf\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove 

Dear Jerry:

I've used the above on both XP and XP Pro, but your mileage may vary. This is probably the 50th such response you've had; coals to NewCastle. Oh, well.

If Roberta needs a basically indestructible Mac, with a big readable screen, but does not need Ethernet 1000, FireWire 800 and other esoterica, look at the new 14 inch iBook - 1.25GHz G4 available, big hard disk, great keyboard, very bright and big screen... all for cheap compared to a PowerBook. Max the memory and she'd be a happy camper for years & years. The battery life is the best of all Macs, too - I used to get 6 hours out of my 14 (933 G4) if I turned the screen down some and wasn't using Airport.

All the best--

Tim Loeb

Well, the old armadillo is still with us...


Subject: Dyspraxia

The educational bureaucrats have infected <  > the mother country!


They're everywhere



I don't know if anyone has sent you this, but I have looked at it about 5 times and still cannot stop laughing.

I promised I would not send you any more jokes, but I think I can rationalize that this is funny, but not a joke. 

Brice Yokem

I'll answer when I stop laughing. Thanks!


Subject: Conservatives vs. neo-conservatives

Not a conservative vs. liberal issue at all, Dr. Pounelle!


July 26, 2004

By It's wrong to see the Iraq war in a traditional liberal-conservative context. Although Republicans like to cast war opponents as misguided liberals, there are mainstream conservatives who never liked Bush's war and are lobbying for an early retreat of U.S. forces from Iraq.

In launching this war, Bush not only went against his 2000 campaign criticism of Bill Clinton's "nation-building," but went against the conservative grain of not fighting unnecessary wars. Following an early bipartisan rallying around the flag based on Bush charges of growing danger to America from Iraq, support for the war faded, including among conservatives.

The war created a rift between conservatives and neoconservatives that just goes on growing. John Kerry's centrist position on Iraq is aimed at attracting support from conservatives offended with Bush's misuse of American power in launching this war.


Find this article at:

Gary S. Rogers PhD

What I learned from Pearl Harbor and 911 is:
1. If you are going to put your nose in other people's business on moral grounds (Japan in Manchuko, The Archangel Expedition against the nascent USSR, Lebanon and the Middle East prior to 1989) have a powerful fleet and keep your powder dry.
2. "Isolationism" doesn't come cheap. Machiavelli noted that wealthy Republics need strong military forces, no matter their intentions.

3. We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own. Deviation from that policy dictates a large Navy. Moral superiority on the cheap is usually costly.

-- Dr. Jerry Pournelle

I see you have included my thoughts already!


Subject: Debunked Jacobsen/NW Flt 327 account

Snopes has debunked the Jacobsen/NW Flt 327 account. 

Thanks, -Cameron

Given the Snopes bias and agenda I expected nothing else. They may be right on this, but their "debunk" consists of confirming all the facts of the story but then saying the interpretation was all wrong. That may well be. Their sources for the interpretation they like are "sources", none identified that I could see.

Given the nature of Snopes I would hardly expect them to have said otherwise. And the point in any case is that we are hardly safer now...


Subject: External hard drive vs external DVD R/W


What is your thinking re external hard drive f/backup (i.e. Maxtor, Seagate, whatever) of entire computer? My .pst file is quite large…you mentioned yours is also. I thought my computer came equipped w/R/W DVD drive—turns out it didn’t. In thinking about an external DVD drive ran across article about external hard drives and their capabilities and thought that might be better choice.



I am a belt and suspenders man myself, but having an external hard drive has some great advantages: it's quick and it is easy to get in the habit of saving a copy of critical files over there on that drive. Backups are faster.

THEN burn a backup onto a DVD. I used DVD RAM for backups because it is safer than either rival RW but it's rare and getting rarer. It's getting cheap enough now to just burn a DVD/R and be done with it.

But I have the equivalent of external hard drives on all my systems. And I save important files in multiple places.


SCO again and again

Subject: heh heh heh

-- Roland Dobbins

Lie down with dogs....


Subject: Proposed NASA Cuts Draw a Veto Threat

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Although I doubt you would have seen Dick Armey call NASA a "sure economic investment."  DeLay, whose newly drawn district includes the Johnson Space Center in Houston, has been one of the plan's most vocal supporters. In a June 3 speech on the House floor, he acknowledged that funds were tight, but added that "for four decades, America's mission in space has been one of the surest economic investments the federal government has made. . . . Despite the costs, risks and hardship, we can get there from here."




Subject: from the 911 commission report

This isn’t getting a lot of play…

In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests “over there” should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America “over here.” In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet. But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism —especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.

As we mentioned in chapter 2, Usama Bin Ladin and other Islamist terrorist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam (a minority tradition), from at least Ibn Taimiyyah, through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb. That stream is motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by Bin Ladin and widely felt throughout the Muslim world—against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the “head of the snake,” and it must be converted or destroyed.

It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.


Well, the important thing is to identify the enemy; then do decide what to do about him. We are good at breaking things and killing people. We need to be careful in selecting whom to kill and what to break. I do not mean there are not people who'd be better dead, nor to adopt Gandalf's philosophy (which you will note he applied quite selectively: he let Wormtongue and Gollum live, but he had his moments of smiting enemies...). I mean merely that we need to select targets and objectives carefully.


Dr. Pournelle:

This tendency of some bureaucracies to lump white and Hispanic together caused a big flap in Florida recently. The recent voter lists which were supposed to show who were felons unable to vote, came out with only a tiny fraction of Hispanics on the felon list, and a lot of blacks. There was much howling of indignation, about the "fix" being in. Blacks being generally Democratic voters, and Florida Hispanics tending to lean Republican, there were accusations of dark conspiracies by the Republicans.

In fact, the voting officials had tried to make the list more accurate by adding more parameters that would have to match exactly for a name to be added to the list. One of these was race.

The voting registration lists have "Hispanic" as a category describing the voter. The prison administration, like California, lumps them in as "white." Naturally, these two did not match when the lists were compared in the computers, the names of Hispanic felons were kicked out as "not matching," and they were not added to the "not eligible to vote" list.

This is now being corrected, but it was a data fluke, not the conspiracy that many tried to make it.

Tom Brosz

I have always held that we ought not officially know the races of citizens. There are some medical reasons for collecting such data, but I am not convinced that the good that comes from racial knowledge outweighs the potential evils.


Subject: Fahrenheit 9/11 Impact on Military

Greetings Dr Pournelle,

You may get this from others -- it appears in the LGF blog, but the 9/11 film has an impact that I hadn't considered ...

Amy Ridenhour's blog  quotes 1st Cavalry Division Specialist Joe Roche's letter describing the impact of the 9/11 film on his fellow soldiers -- many of whom are in their late teens and early 20's.

Bill Mackintosh

I presume Moore is proud of this achievement.


Subject: Browser wars


I was just reading your latest column about browsers. I wonder, why not Netscape? No one mentions that as an alternative to IE, and I wonder why?

I have Netscape 7.1 on my machine and it seems OK. I don't get third party pop-ups with the proper settings. I get tabbed browsing if I like. Mozilla seems like a makeover of Netscape.

What I do get with both Mozilla and Netscape is empty pages (pages that just come up as white space). I don't really see a difference between Mozilla and Netscape.



In fact none of the anti-IE people advising me suggested Netscape. I used to use it and it seemed all right.

I'll try them all if I can get past all these trips and deadlines.







This week:


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Tuesday,  July 27, 2004


On the Road. Very Short Shrift

Regarding Farenheit 9/11

Specialist Joe Roche takes the disappointing position that Moore is "abusing his free speech" by making this movie. Actually, it's not so much disappointing as it is troubling, though when you're in such an emotionally stressful job like the one he has it is also a lot easier to understand. What exactly is free speech for if it's not for the ability to say something other people won't like?

There are a lot of silly conspiracy theories in that movie -- things that I wish Moore hadn't put in it, because it detracts from the parts of the movie -- about two thirds of the movie -- that don't deal with conspiracy theories at all, but rather goes into public record and shows public statements before and after 9/11 that needed to be brought up. It also shows a piece of the war we've never seen on TV -- a piece that no-one supporting the war would *want* you to see. Wounded soldiers, angry soldiers, grieving families.

The film is flawed, but it has raised issues that the media hasn't. Which suggests that the media is even worse. There are many people who email you with tales about how the mainstream media isn't covering all the good things happening in Iraq now -- which is true. It's equally true that when the war started there was no attempt to investigate or confirm any of the justifcations made for the war. Not in the parts of the news anyone paid any attention to, at any rate.

There are a lot of people who would like to write the entire film off as a pack of vicious lies and distortions. There are distortions there, but if you removed that entire section from the movie there would be plenty of movie left over.

Christopher B. Wright (

I along thought one  should approach one's country's

flaws as the wounds of a father Not with glee.

SPC Roche is an adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. The opinions expressed in his writings accurately reflect those of the Center, but do not assume that they accurately reflect his fellow soldiers attitudes. Knowing many soldiers there who have the same questions regarding both the truth of the asserted reasons for invading Iraq and the wisdom of having done so, his assertions I know to be generally an overstatement at best. I have a conservative friend there now who is heading the Abu Gharaib prosecutions who does not share many of the views of Mr. Moore, but is certainly glad the film was made. No one he knows or I know over there have experienced any kind of morale loss from F9/11. However, another JAG there did tell me that morale is low due to a lack of a finite goal combined with constant threat of attack. "There is no green zone," was his most recent comment from Baghdad.

Yes, Mr. Moore should be proud of what he has done even if he has done nothing more than make people examine more closely that which this administration has represented to the American people and that which they have done and propose to do to the freedoms that make America what it is. Oh, and for those who found the David Kopel "59 myths debunked in F9/11" compelling, they should look more closely at Mr. Kopel's "facts". His assertions have been similarly "debunked" at I find neither commentator completely believeable, as each is on an extreme end of the political spectrum, with an axe to grind and little interest in objective fact.

You previously noted that you would hesitate to vote for Mr. Kerry because (presumably among other reasons) you think he might be too quick to use the military in inappropriate ways. If so, how does that differ from the current administration? In fact, you can rest assured the current administration believes fimly in the ready use of the military for questionable political, and perhaps personal political, gain, as they have demonstrated.

Heinlein once wrote, to paraphrase, that it is important to vote, even if you don't have anyone you wish to vote for, as it is almost always more important to vote against someone. Me, I don't support Kerry, but I will vote against Bush. I don't want an American theocracy. I strongly oppose amending the constitution to restrict someones freedom. I oppose a man who uses fear as his primary means of achieving political goals. I certainly oppose a man who has repeatedly shown me that Bill Clinton had no corner on the market of adeptly parsing a phrase. I oppose an administration as crass as Bush/Cheney. And, I oppose any administration who so desparately wants to govern in complete secrecy.

bryan broyles LTC, US Army


I have not yet reached that conclusion. My objection to Moore is the glee. I wish the Iraq operation had gone as they wished with a turnover to a stable democratic coalition. The neo-Jacobins were sure they could do this. They couldn't, and we now have a difficult situtation and tough choices. But I am not sure Moore raised any questions not asked previously by, among others, me.

I am astonished at his success, for a number of Hollywood dynamics reasons. But we'll see.

And Bush spends money freely, but cuts taxes. I fear Kerry will rescind the tax cuts and spend even more. We spend enough now.

Michael Moore and "The Movie which ripped off Ray Bradbury"

Michael Moore is often an obnoxious jerk ... very few people deny this, including Mr. Moore. The importance of Mr. Moore's work is not in saying what has not been said in learned discourse, but in shouting what has not yet been heard by the less well-informed. Your average Joe Six-pack hasn't already looked at three sides of every issue Moore raises in his latest film. Joe is smart enough to realize that Moore and his movie have an agenda and that the audience should be taking away questions, not answers. Water-cooler talk is democracy in motion. I dare say there are very few people suggestible enough to swallow Moore whole, but then the pablum peddled by the establishment press requires a shaker of salt to get down.

Best, Ben Pedersen

P.S. I think you have to give Mr. Moore credit for his own success, he simply does not understand the word NO.





A reader asks you why no one recommends Netscape anymore. Simple: it's dead.

The Netscape web browser suite is no longer being maintained. It gets no new features; it gets no security fixes; it's just dead.

The future of web browsers is the Mozilla project. You have your choice of the older Mozilla suite, or the newer Mozilla Firefox web browser. (Firefox is only a browser; if you also want email, you can get its companion, Mozilla Thunderbird.)

The 6.x and 7.x versions of Netscape were based on the Mozilla browser. AOL took Mozilla, added lots of AOL ads and similarly dubious "features", presumably did some quality testing, and released. Even when these were new, most experts recommended using the Mozilla suite, since it was the same browser without the AOL ads.

Of course, Mozilla could not exist in its current form if Netscape hadn't donated the source code from its web browser suite as a starting point. So if it makes Netscape fans feel any better, the Mozilla web browsers are direct descendants from Netscape.

Netscape 7.1 was based on Mozilla 1.4; Mozilla is now on version 1.7. Both Mozilla 1.4 and Netscape 7.1 worked pretty well as web browsers, but it makes no sense to stick with an old web browser when the newer ones are more secure and have all the same features plus more.

I highly recommend using Firefox. This is a lean, stripped-down web browser, fast and a pleasure to use. It has a plugin architecture so that you can add features easily; there are over a hundred different plugins with all sorts of nifty stuff. The latest version of Firefox is 0.9.2, and this corresponds to Mozilla 1.7 as far as security fixes. 

P.S. One reason Internet Explorer starts up quickly is that Microsoft made Windows pre-load IE into RAM. If you want similar startup speed, you can set Mozilla or Firefox to pre-load, and then they will start up as quickly as IE. You need to have enough RAM, though, because if your computer starts swapping to disk, you will lose the speed gain. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Dr. Pournelle:

Don't recall if you previously posted this information, but an indexed PDF version of the 9/11 report is here.  .

Wired Magazine reports other web-based reports in various formats here:,1283,64346,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1 

Although I've only been through perhaps a dozen pages, these searchable versions might be more convenient to read.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Jerry, I thought that the conjunction of these two articles was interesting. "X Prize Flight Set" ;  . "Aerospace engineer, Burt Rutan, leader of Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, has formally announced a timetable for back-to-back flights of the firm's SpaceShipOne rocket plane." Meanwhile James van Allen is questioning the use of men in space. <A leading space scientist has called to question the validity of human spaceflight, suggesting that sending astronauts outward from Earth is outdated, too costly, and the science returned is trivial.> <James van Allen, Regent Distinguished Professor at the University of Iowa, is the noted discoverer of radiation belts encircling Earth.>  Maybe Professor van Allen is getting old?

John Vogt

Van Allen has not changed his position in 30 years. He always says this. I took Undergrad physics from him at Iowa a long time ago.

He wants the universe reserved for robots, but taxpayers should pay for sending them.


I took a look at the web log that undertakes to debunk Mr. Kopel's list of 59 myths in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Mr. Kopel's thesis is that Mr. Moore is a master of stringing together true or partially true statements and images, and leaving the viewer with a false impression.

Mr. Sirius, in response, most of the time points out that Mr. Moore's statements were true, providing a minimum of references and making some insulting comments towards Mr. Kopel and people Mr. Kopel references. Sometimes Mr. Sirius replies with simple handwaving.

For example, Mr. Kopel says Mr. Moore claims that Al Gore would have won the 2000 election using "any" recount method, and then discusses (with references) which recount methods would have resulted in an Al Gore win and which would not. According to Mr. Kopel, any recount method that was legal under Florida law at the time resulted in a George Bush win. Mr. Sirius, with no references, says the following:

"If all the votes had been recounted, using any method (individual standards in each county, or uniform standards in all counties), Gore wins.

"The Dems can't admit they botched the post-election fight. The Pubs can't admit their boy didn't actually win. Both sides look like losers, if Big Media would only tell the truth."

As another example, Mr. Kopel describes Mr. Moore's claim that George Bush contrived to stack the election in his favor by throwing out the votes of black people. Mr. Kopel points out that George Bush had no power to do that; the only votes thrown out were the votes of convicted felons, and that wasn't done at the request of George Bush anyway. Mr. Sirius "debunks" this with these words:

"Oh please. Moore's claim? It's called snark. Black voters were disproportionately stricken from the rolls, and black voters are more likely to vote Dem. Period."

I am therefore left with the impression that Mr. Kopel is the more credible here. I cannot judge it any better unless I actually see the movie, but I'm not willing to see that movie.

P.S. I know Mr. Kopel by his past writings. I have never heard of Mr. Sirius before today. Going by past track records, again I would assume that Mr. Kopel is the more credible. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Michael Moore's full of shit, of course, but would it be OK for the the average American soldiers over in Iraq to believe that our invasion was a mistake, as I rather think you do? . And if that is true, don't they have a right to know?

It's going to hard to decide how to vote this November - on the one hand, sodomy and theft, on the other, aggressive war and national bankruptcy. Decisions, decisions.

Gregory Cochran





This week:


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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Actually, Netscape is literally a makeover of Mozilla, only about 6 months behind. Netscape will periodically take a snapshot of Mozilla, do some more work on it (most of which appears to be pointless branding, but I believe they may add some other things and do some more stability work) and then release that as Mozilla. Many of the people working on Mozilla are actually Netscape employees. So, Netscape literally IS Mozilla. Specifically Netscape 7.1 is based on Mozilla 1.4 and there's been a LOT of work on Mozilla since 1.4 (it's on 1.7 now).

So, don't waste your time with Netscape - just get the latest Mozilla (if you need the whole suite of programs) or Firefox (just for the browser). I recently installed Firefox on a friend's WinME based laptop and it's perceptible faster and more stable than IE on the same machine (even after I removed the adware infestation in IE, which I never get in Mozilla).



Subject: Whoops, Netscape not dead yet

On Slashdot today there is a story about Netscape 7.2; there will be one! It's promised for August 3, 2004.

AOL announced months ago that they would discontinue Netscape development, but they did change their minds and now there will be a Netscape 7.2, based on the Mozilla 1.7 codebase.

So, anyone who really wants a Netscape browser can grab this next week. I still recommend Firefox, which is small and fast and can be customized with plugins. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Subject: Phishing

Apparently 28% of the time it works, outstanding return on investment. 

Brice Yokem



Subject: Transportation Futuristics

This is a delight. Images from the past, imagining the transportation of the future. It's the 21st Century now, so where's my hovercar?

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Does anyone know more on this?

Hello, Jerry,

Take a look at: 


Basic Training Doesn't Guard Against Insurance Pitch to G.I.'s


Nicholas Stachler was 19 years old when he reported for basic training with the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., before shipping out for 11 months to Iraq.

A gentle, trusting man, he had only weeks earlier graduated from high school with a handful of trophies in hockey and soccer, middling grades and hardly a clue about how to handle his money. He had held only casual jobs baby-sitting and mowing lawns and had never opened a checking account. The bus trip to boot camp, from the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Ohio to the kudzu-covered fields of western Georgia, took him farther from home than he had ever been.

About six weeks into his training - six weeks of combat drills and drummed-in lessons in Army ways - he tasted one of the less-honorable traditions of military life: a compulsory classroom briefing on personal finance that was a life insurance sales pitch in disguise.

As he remembers the class and as base investigative records show, two insurance agents quick-stepped him and his classmates through a stack of paperwork, pointing out where they should sign their names, where they should scribble their initials. They were given no time to read the documents and no copies to keep.

Specialist Stachler says he thought he had arranged to have $100 a month deducted from his pay for some sort of Army-endorsed savings plan or mutual fund. When he returned from Iraq, he found that he had not been saving the money at all. He had been paying $100 a month in premiums for an insurance policy that promised him some cash value far down the road and a death benefit that was almost certainly less than $44,000, a small amount compared with the $250,000 in life insurance he had through a military-sponsored plan that cost him $16.25 a month.

"I asked him what this money was coming out of his paycheck for, and he didn't even know," said his mother, Pamela M. Stachler of Athens, Ohio.

Specialist Stachler's experience is not uncommon. A six-month examination by The New York Times, drawing on military and court records and interviews with dozens of industry executives and servicemen and women, has found that several financial services companies or their agents are using questionable tactics on military bases to sell insurance and investments that may not fit the needs of people in uniform.

Insurance agents have made misleading pitches to "captive" audiences like the ones at Fort Benning. They have posed as counselors on veterans benefits and independent financial advisers. And they have solicited soldiers in their barracks or while they were on duty, violations of Defense Department regulations.

<the rest of the amzing article is in the Times...>


John Welch

What in the world? $100/month is a stiff insurance premium for anyone, and certainly needless for a young soldier. Does anyone know more? (See below)


Subject: This will probably get me yelled at.

At the risk of offending you, the following popped into my head and I just had to share it.

Pournelle for President '04 He does silly things so we won't have to.

Dan Smith

I will not run if nominated nor serve if elected... I served my time...



Just an update on iPod issues. My company bought iPods a few months ago for everyone (small company – 30 people) when we met a big deadline as a reward. Many people listen to music while at work (it’s a software development company) and this helped me eliminate anyone having music on their machines at work, keeping us out of hot water with the music mafia. Everyone must load music on their iPod at home, no ripping or music software is allowed on work computers at all.

I’ve used my iPod work, on the airplanes, in Europe and Africa, and enjoyed it’s ease of use. Recently, however, the power adapter started making an unmistakable arcing sound, so I needed to warranty it. I went to the Apple website, and after about 10 minutes of searching, I finally got to a web form to submit for repair. I thought, cool…Apple is a high tech firm, this ought to make the job easy, no waiting on hold, and all that. I filled out the form and waited for the repair stuff to arrive.

Today, three days later, I received an email telling me I had to call and give them credit card information for the replacement part. So….I called the number….went through the menu tree and after 30 minutes on hold, finally connected with someone. I had to explain what I was doing twice to him, and he finally had to pull up the email that was sent to me so he could understand.

He then took down telephone and address information for me, and said “I’m going to place on you hold and I’ll finish this, I’ll be right back.”

After 20 minutes of waiting, I hung up.

The power adapter will cost me $69 from the local Apple store, but it’s sure better than sitting on the phone again. Clearly, Apple has developed a good way to avoid having to warranty anything.


Sorry to hear that.


Report Says 195,000 Deaths Due to Hospital Error  Tue Jul 27, 6:23 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As many as 195,000 people a year could be dying in U.S. hospitals because of easily prevented errors, a company said on Tuesday in an estimate that doubles previous figures

Lakewood, Colorado-based HealthGrades Inc. said its data covers all 50 states and is more up-to-date than a 1999 study from the Institute of Medicine (news - web sites) that said 98,000 people a year die from medical errors.

"The HealthGrades study shows that the IOM report may have underestimated the number of deaths due to medical errors, and, moreover, that there is little evidence that patient safety has improved in the last five years," said Dr. Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs at the company.

Boy them terrorists are pikers aren't they? Hospital very bad. Many go in. Few come out.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Subject: SPACE OPERATIONS: Power and Pain of Battlefield Electronics 

July 29, 2004: During the 2003 operations in Iraq, satellite-based information systems provided great benefit to coalition troops, but also had their share of glitches, according to a panel of junior officers presenting at a recent space warfare symposium in Colorado. There were several unexplained failures of the military’s GPS ground receivers during the war. In one incident, vehicle-mounted Precision Lightweight GPS Receivers (PLGR) used by a Marine Corps tank unit lost all GPS signals in the middle of a “nasty” ambush from a mix of Republican Guards and irregular forces. The lead company went too far into the ambush zone, but was able to quickly regain their bearings using off-the-shelf civilian hand-held GPS units. Army Armored Cavalry units also reported PLGR dropouts during raids in urban environments.

A Navy SEAL described the use of a PLGR unit linked to a laser rangefinder to direct close air support strikes, but stated a preference for the smaller civilian GPS units when “running around in the field.” He also thought there was a tendency to rely too much on satellite imagery rather than “eyes on the target.” On one mission, his team had “terrific imagery” around the target area but when they arrived, they discovered what had appeared to be hard-packed ground turned out to be waist-deep mud. A MH-53 helicopter packed with critical gear ended up stuck, with mud reaching up to its windows and no way to get the equipment out.

B-2 bombers had problems with gaps in satellite communications coverage of the Atlantic, but this was a failure of commanders to tell the satellite managers that B-2 operational staff had developed a way to update crews in flight using a pair of satcom radios to deliver e-mail, Powerpoint slides, photographs, and spreadsheets in route.

Finally, some systems had a very steep learning curve. An army captain received a Blue Force Tracking system just before going into combat without any training. Until he got the hang of the unit, it was “a big bulky thing” that got between him and his gunner. “I think I e-mailed the door gunner on the space shuttle twice before I figured out how to use it.” -- Doug Mohney


IRS Indicates US Incomes Have Shrunk


> (requires registration)

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

If you destroy your education system you must expect this result. Up the NEA! Up ADA! Up PC in classes!

But see below

Dear Jerry:

I'm watching the convention of course. I have just seen something very remarkable. Gen. Salikashveli, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs declared himself a New Democrat and came out very strongly for Kerry. He was introduced by Lt. Gen Claudia Kennedy, former DCSINT and afterwards was joined on stage by her and seven other retired Flag Rank officers including Stansfield Turner and William Crowe. This is a sea change in the way the American military addresses political issues. They've decided that standing on the sidelines will not serve the nation. Not with this administration. While I expect that active duty officers will maintain the tradition of not speaking out on political issues at all, those on the retired list will ,to protect the service members still serving and to protect their families and all of the veterans. Oh, yeah, Wes Clark was one of the seven but literally the last one out on stage. Didn't speak at all, but he's had plenty to say. Before he was seemingly the only one. Now he's part of a chorus of military dissent. This is a pretty complete repudiation of Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocons.

Maybe the motto this year should be "it's the soldiers. stupid."

Regards, Francis Hamit

But will they become just another of the gangs that make up the Democratic Party, and learn to fight it out for goodies for their teams?

Be afraid.


Subject: Islamic Singers/Band? Or were they?

Syrian music star sings praise of suicide bombers < > Washington Times, DC, July 29, Audrey Hudson The Syrian singer of a band that was detained by the FBI's Terrorism Task Force for suspicious activity during a recent flight to Los Angeles has written about the "glorification" of suicide bombers to liberate Palestine. Singer Nour Mehana's latest album includes the song "Um El Shaheed," or "Mother of a Martyr," said Aluma Dankowitz of the Middle East Media Research Institute. The song tells the story of a woman who mourned her son's death until she realized that "he died for a good cause and he should be glorified for what he did," said Miss Dankowitz, who translated the song for The Washington Times. Mr. Mehana's 14 Syrian band members were detained by officials June 29 upon deplaning Northwest Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles, for acting in a suspicious manner that concerned the flight crew and air marshals on board.

My two cents:

We might have known, this again only makes the activities more suspicous.

What if? Yes, the TSA needs to be more aggressive and use the tools that the other DHS agencies (Border Patrol, Customs, and Immigration, to name a few) possess for tracking and warning of potential terrorists. The DHS and FBI (which is DOJ) both have databases, including one on which their Visas would have been noted as outdated - as noted in the article above. That would focus their efforts more on those who might be terrorists, rather than searching by whatever random process they use, or every 7th person, which would have about an 86% probability of MISSING a true single suicide-terrorist.

Yes, the TSA can learn from foreign government processes such as the Israeli one or the one used by the UK. The Air Marshals could also use some improved ability to communicate and investigate people while in flight - though that is a last resort - anyone that might be a foreign terrorist should not have been on the plane in the first place. That investigation should have been done before boarding the plane when passenger information is already available, either from the airline or booking agency.

The US does reserve the right to detain and remove anyone via deportation, that is not already a citizen, and that is deemed a threat. Can we not revoke a visa or implied visa if they are not a citizen and send them home post-haste?

Remember that Minetta is not DHS and so his rule about not using profiling does not apply to DHS-TSA. In fact, if followed this may only hinder DHS by forcing TSA to search people randomly and not have time to look for risky behaviors, and not have time to subject people to pre-screening via their DHS terrorist lookout databases. Which it appears is what they are doing... Oh, I am being sarcastic...

As you have asked/said repeatedly, where is the rational adult supervision of this whole process? The tools are in place but not used in an operations research - systems analysis way.

Ah well keep up the good work. -- Oliver Richter

Rules are more important than results. That's the second law of bureaucracy. Follow the rules and you are safe, even if the plane is hijacked or the building is blown up.

And it is of a piece with

Subject: Woman arrested, cuffed for eating candy bar in subway station 

I give up


It is called anarcho=tyranny. It is far easier to arrest a middle class scientist than to risk arguing with a gang member, and a good collar is a good collar. But see below.

Subject: Electronic voting records lost/destroyed in Florida - buffy willow

Dr. P,

Found this story about some new ballot fiascos in Florida (are we surprised?). Shouldn't it be possible to make electronic voting machines at least as reliable as our ATMs? ("I'm sorry, we don't seem to have any record of your last deposit...." ;-) ATMs seem to use circa-1985 technology (have they changed much in 20 yrs?) that is tried and true -- perhaps trying to develop electronic voting machines is succumbing to the latest/greatest craze (a little too much technology) and not enough common sense (don't make it more difficult than it needs to be).

best, -J


Florida voting records filed under /dev/null Posted July 28, 2004 @ 4:47 PM by Fred "zAmboni" Locklear

Imagine results for this year's presidential election race in Florida mirroring those from 2000. Citizens groups call for a manual recount of ballots, but because of computer problems, all voting records from several districts are missing. There are concerns this scenario could unfold after two computer system crashes destroyed electronic voting machine records (registration required) for the 2002 gubernatorial primary in Miami-Dade County. The data loss was uncovered when a citizens group requested all audit data from the 2002 election. This action followed an ACLU study of the 2002 primary that found 1544 votes (8 percent) were "lost" on e-voting machines in Miami-Dade County. Election officials say they have since instituted daily backup procedures so audit records would not be lost in the future. CD backups or paper ballot receipts anyone?

But some voters are too stupid to use punch card ballots, you see. So their opinions must count too. Me, I'd make it mandatory to be able to read and write and have a $10 poll tax; if it ain't worth ten  bucks to vote then you shouldn't, and if you can't read you sure shouldn't. But that's just me.

Maybe the DC Metro police can take over

Dr. Pournelle,

The loudly reported drop in income is completely bogus where it concerns the "average" American. Hidden at the bottom of the article (at least the CNN version) is the actual breakout of the income levels. The large drops in income are only for people who make in excess of 2 million dollars a year. For people with income levels between $25,000 and around $100,000, the average income varied from -0.1% to +0.2% depending on income bracket.

But of course the *%#&ing media has to portray this as some huge revelation about how there are indicators that the country is in deep trouble and the little guy is paying for it. Utter BS. It's the wealthy who have heavily invested their money in companies (ie. the ones who are putting money into the economy and creating jobs with their investment dollars) who took it in the shorts over the last few years due to the massive drop in stock prices and the many tech companies that went under when the tech bubble burst.

Ironically, these wealthy taxpayers also pay the bulk of income taxes collected in the US so the huge deficits in the last couple of years is explained even better knowing that the top percent recently lost a huge amount of income. Whether they're paying their fair share becomes a moot question, because when that top one percent experiences that big of a drop in income, tax revenues are going to drop.

So the headline should have been "Consumer incomes remain level but big investors see heavy drop in average income".

A misleading presentation of truthful facts is just as bad as outright lying, and CNN (plus some others) laid a whopper on us today.

Sean Long



 [regarding view]

First, perhaps the attempts at unity on-going are legitimate attempts to return the Democratic party to actual political party status. Probably not, but why not hope?

Second, your hope that the 'pubs aren't similarly situated has no more basis than the hope in the first point above, and hasn't had for many years. The Republicans are simply the party of wealth and corporate interests. Sure, the dems have wealth too, but they tend to cater to different interests, as you noted. Of course, the 'pubs are increasingly the party of social, racial and religious intolerance as well, which is why I cannot support them. I personally support the idea of gay marriage, but wouldn't amend the constitution to force it, and don't think it should be amended to forbid it either. I'm not the biggest advocate of state's rights, but this seems to be a no brainer.

There truly needs to be a party that actually tries to achieve the ostensible goals of the dems and pubs, but there isn't one. Small government? Who is for that now? Conservative fiscal policy? Who argues for that? Reasonable social programs, with definable, achievable goals? No one. A policy of environmental stewardship based on science? Nope, not a party in sight.

I was astonished at the acceptance given Al Sharpton (racial intolerance and violence are rampant in his past actions) by the Dems, but it is matched by the 'pubs embrace of Jerry Falwell (AIDS is god's punishment of gays and societies who tolerate them and abortionists must take some of the blame for 9/11). Of course, the 'pubs embrace of Falwell's ideals is more pervasive than the Dems of Sharpton, but it's a matter only of degree.

As I said before, I can't give Mr. Bush four more years, because he didn't keep his word on the first four and he didn't respond to unforeseen challenges very well. I really don't want him to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Fortunately, kerry will be even more constrained by the Senate in that regard, so I fear less there. The best we can hope for in governance now is a Democrat in the White House and a republican senate. I'd prefer the opposite, but it ain't gonna happen.


Mr Fallwell mostly seeks to be left alone; he and his people know they can't impose their views on the rest of us, they want now mostly to be left to hold some small place without federal interference. As to AIDS, it gets all the research money it warrants plus a lot more to the neglect of some other problems of importance.  I think you need fear Fallwell little, but the TSA and various other security forces are very much in keeping with the Left. The Democrats remain the Party of War, and compound this by insisting that the wars be ones in which the US has no discernable interest in the stakes or outcomes. Doing Good is the goal, and the results are generally awful.

But I agree: there appears to be no party representing my views. But I think the Republicans are less likely to appoint judicial legislators to the Supreme Court than the Democrats; and the rule of the Judiciary has  been the engine for much of the demise of the Constitution and the end of the Federal Republic I was born in. Eisenhower appointed the egregious Earl Warren, though, so it's not a certainty.

As to Kerry, couldn't they find a real Kennedy?



Subject: If they want it that bad, they can have it.

We're abandoning an increasing fraction of Iraq to the rebels. That's about what I expected, and we all know where that ends.

I've occasionally mentioned my disapproval of those who made the decison to invade Iraq, but I would also like to curse the idiots who keep telling us that things are really going a lot better than you'd think from reading the papers. They were wrong - what a surprise!

Those reports usually came originated with people who did not speak Arabic a huge disadvantage in understanding the locals. Many were on officially guided tours of Iraq, which have a natural tendency to visit only Potemkin villages. Worst of all, people believed this because they wanted to believe it, and I almost think that is the root of all evil. If you want to achieve real goals, adjusting your actions to the real world improves your chances of success - and believing things because you want to, instead of letting evidence and logic take you where _they_ want to go, is a recipe for disaster.

Gregory Cochran 

In the face of stubborn insurgency, troops scale back Anbar patrols

By Tom Lasseter Knight Ridder Newspapers

RAMADI, Iraq - After more than a year of fighting, U.S. troops have stopped patrolling large swaths of Iraq's restive Anbar province, according to the top American military intelligence officer in the area.

Most U.S. Army officers interviewed this week said the patrols in and around the province's capital, Ramadi - home to many Iraqi military and intelligence officers under Saddam Hussein - have stopped largely because the soldiers and commanders there were tired of being shot at by insurgents who've refused to back down under heavy American military pressure.

Asked for comment, officials from the Marine battalion in Ramadi - which makes up about one-fifth of the forces there - provided a 21-year-old corporal, who confirmed that the Marines have discontinued patrols, but said it was because of the hand-over of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government.

While American officials in Ramadi wouldn't provide exact figures for the change in numbers of patrols, there's obviously been a significant drop.

After losing dozens of men to a "voiceless, faceless mass of people" with no clear leadership or political aim other than killing American soldiers, the U.S. military has had to re-evaluate the situation, said Maj. Thomas Neemeyer, the head American intelligence officer for the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, the main military force in the Ramadi area and from there to Fallujah.

"They cannot militarily overwhelm us, but we cannot deliver a knockout blow, either," he said. "It creates a form of stalemate."

In the wreckage of the security situation, U.S. officials have all but given up on plans to install a democratic government in the city, and are hoping instead that Islamic extremists and other insurgent groups don't overrun the province in the same way that they've seized the region's most infamous town, Fallujah.

"Since Ramadi is the seat of the governate, we worry that if they could unsettle the government center here they could destabilize the al Anbar province," said Capt. Joe Jasper, a spokesman for the 1st Brigade.

The apparent failure of a long line of Army and Marine units to bring peace to the province, which makes up about 40 percent of Iraq's landmass, will be a major challenge for Iraq's new government and could prove to be a tipping point for the nation as a whole. Increasingly, Iraq is a place in which cities or part of cities have been taken over by insurgents and radicals.

U.S. officers in Ramadi openly acknowledge that the Iraqi security force trained to take over the hunt for insurgents, the national guard, has become a site-protection service that so far is incapable and unwilling to conduct offensive operations.

When the governor of Anbar left town last month, the head of the national guard, who since has been replaced, took part in an attempt to overthrow him. National guardsmen in town have refused to go on patrols either alone or with the Americans. The 2,886 national guardsmen in Ramadi so far have detained just one person.

To show how operations in Anbar have changed, Jasper sketched a map on a piece of paper.

Pointing to a neighborhood outside the town of Habbaniyah, between Fallujah and Ramadi, he said, "We've lost a lot of Marines there and we don't ever go in anymore. If they want it that bad, they can have it."

And then to a spot on the western edge of Fallujah: "We find that if we don't go there, they won't shoot us."

Marine Cpl. Charles Laversdorf, who works in his battalion's intelligence unit, said the Marines averaged just five raids a month and no longer were running any patrols other than those to observation posts.

The sharp reduction in patrols flies in the face of comments made recently by a top military official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Any insurgent that ... somehow thinks that after June 28 we'll be pulling back into base camps will be disappointed," he said. "This is a long-term program of handing over responsibility. ... It's not going to take days nor weeks, it's going to be months and years."

More than 124 U.S. troops have died in Anbar since President Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq on May 1, 2003.

Between the 1st Brigade's 4,000 soldiers, who arrived in Ramadi last September, and a battalion of 1,000 Marines, who came in February, more than 80 have been killed and more than 450 injured.

Since the hand-over of sovereignty June 28, 25 U.S. soldiers have been killed. Fifteen of them were in Anbar.

The numbers grow more striking at smaller unit levels.

Capt. Mike Taylor, for example, commands a company of men in nearby Khaldiya. Out of his 76 troops, 18 now have purple hearts, awarded for combat wounds.

The Marines' Echo company, with 185 soldiers, has had 22 killed.

"There's a possibility that we'll say we'll protect the government and keep travel routes open, and for the rest of them, to hell with 'em," said Neemeyer, the intelligence officer. "To a certain degree we've already done it; we've reduced our presence."

Neemeyer continued: "I'm sure they are beating their chests and saying they drove us out, but what have they driven us out of? Rural farmland that's not tactically important. ... If they want to call that victory, that's fine."

Looking up at a map on the wall, Neemeyer flicked his laser pointer across a large piece of land between Ramadi and Fallujah. "We don't go into that area anymore," he said. "Why go there when all that happens is we get hit?"

The U.S. military has poured about $18 million into reconstruction projects in Ramadi, but Neemeyer said the projects hadn't done much in the way of winning people over.

"The only way to stomp out the insurgency of the mind," he said, "would be to kill the entire population."

The commander of one of the local national guard battalions, Col. Adnan Allawi, said he thought the security situation in Ramadi and Anbar in general would only get worse.

"If the Americans stay here, the same thing that happened in Fallujah will happen in Ramadi," he said. "If the situation stays the way it is now, the Americans will begin losing one city after the next."

Residents in Ramadi had long said the U.S. military underestimated the resolve of fighters in the area. Also, residents said, soldiers made community support for the resistance stronger with each cultural misstep, such as brusque house raids and cultural slights toward important tribal sheiks.

Many of those interviewed in Ramadi recently said they'd welcome a Fallujah-like rule by insurgents.

Bashar Hamid, a stationery store owner, said "only the mujahedeen (holy warriors) can provide stability."

Muhanad Muhammed, a pharmacist, agreed: "The Americans misbehave ... that's why I do not blame the mujahedeen when they attack them."

Capt. John Mountford, who oversees a central command office in Ramadi for local police, national guard and U.S. military officials, said that in retrospect the military should've paid more attention to what the Iraqis were saying.

"We should have worked with the tribal leaders earlier," he said. "I just wonder what would have happened if we had worked a little more with the locals."

(Emphasis mine)

Dear Mr. Frum: I told you so. But you would not listen.

But we can provide stability: the Turks knew how. No better friends, no worse enemies. But do we want soldiers who know how to rule without the consent of the governed?

If Halliburton and the Marines can't pump oil, who can?

But see below

Subject: GI Insurance

"What in the world? $100/month is a stiff insurance premium for anyone, and certainly needless for a young soldier. Does anyone know more?"

One of our Iraq blogger soldiers has been covering this issue (Iraq Now).


He had one post (which I can't find) that suggested that any military or former military officer recommending financial instruments to servicemen be held to have a fiduciary responsibility because of ability for undue influence. Needless to say this is not current policy or law.

And beware the fury of the legions.

Subject: Iraq 'should-ah' buffy willow

Dr. Pournelle,

I *really* like your proposal on how we should have delt with the Iraq situation, but I'm certainly not the first to point out that it was politically impossible...

The Democrats (and every other non-Republican) would have been "Shocked! Shocked I Tell You!" that we would free the Iraqi people only to hand them back over to the very same evil generals that had oppressed them for so long. No amount of reasonable explaination of the coercive nature of the senior command would have been heeded. And tightly linking the oil production issue to our actions would give rise to the "Blood for Oil" posturing that we've seen so often in the past. I'm sure there would be an outcry that lowering oil prices would enrich Cheney... logic has nothing to do with it.

I am sad to say that we're 20 years too late to succeed in the market place of ideas with logic and reason - emotion and freebees seem to be the currency of today's America.

Clint Ellis Salina, Kansas

The point being that the time to discover all this was before the invasion.





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  July 30, 2004

Now Monty, who follows Iraq closer than I do, has a say:

Subj: Iraq: comparing reports

My personal belief is that we won't start to get good indicators of whether Iraq will eventually succeed for about five years, counting from the end of "major combat operations".

But it's interesting to read side by side reports such as the Tom Lasseter "If they want it that bad, they can have it" piece and reports such as the item for July 26, 2004 at 

and the Spirit of America reports. Recall that it is in precisely Ramadi -- that the Lasseter piece characterizes as abandoned to the insurgents -- that SoA claims to have helped equip a new sewing center, as suggested by the Marines: 

Recall also that the opening of the sewing center was covered by one of the local Iraqi-owned-and-operated TV stations to which the Marines have provided equipment donated by SoA: 

I still see nothing in the *facts* in the Lasseter report -- as distinct from the *spin* -- inconsistent with my own reading of the situation. My reading is inspired by the reporting: Iraq is currently engaged in a civil war between (a) a temporary alliance of (a1) Bathists, (a2) Sunni Arabs who yearn for the return of Sunni Arab dominance and (a3) al Qaeda and (b) more or less all the other people of Iraq. Muqtada al Sadr tried to become the head of a Shiite component for (a) but he failed when the senior Shiite clerics refused to follow him over the precipice and the Americans declined to furnish enough indiscriminate violence, in response to Muqtada's provocations, to inflame the bulk of the Shiite population.

The only contributions US forces can make to this civil war are to keep (a) from winning and to help (b) get its act together, by training, equipping and advising. If (b) is going to win, they're going to have to win it themselves; the US can't win it for them and hand over a happy completely-pacified paradise.

Is it a mess? Yup! Actually, the phrase "long hard slog" comes to mind. Remember who used it?

As to local tribal leaders: I read the Lasseter report side by side with this one: 

in particular the item for June 17, 2004:

=The tribal structure of Iraq, with more than half the population strongly identifying with a tribe or clan organization, provides one way to deal with Baath. The tribes are particularly strong in many Sunni Arab areas, and many tribes contain Shia and Sunni branches. But the tribal leaders have to be pragmatic. If Baath is too powerful in their area, the tribes will stand aside, or even cooperate with Baath. American Special Forces have been working with the tribes since 2002, and know how to make deals with then. This often includes providing protection from Baath hit squads. A lot of work with the tribes was turned over to American Civil Affairs units (who, like the Special Forces, SEALs, Rangers and Delta Force, belong to SOCOM) in the Spring of 2003. Now the coalition has a sizeable bureaucracy that just deals with "tribal matters." Some soldiers jokingly refer to all this as "The Ministry of Tribal Affairs." But it's a serious matter, as the tribal councils are the only organized and viable opposition to Baath in the Sunni Arab community.=

Now that sure sounds to me like someone *was* paying attention to the tribes, *from the beginning*, indeed from *before* the beginning.

Maybe not paying *enough* attention? OK, maybe. It might be educational to have people who know something about the history of such operations debate how much would have been enough, and discuss what other things, that were done, should *not* have been done, to make more resources available to spend on paying more attention to the tribes. But they'd be debating *how much*, not throwing around incendiary comments about how stupid it was not to have paid any attention *at all*, no?

Unless, I suppose, the report is just a fake?


I am not sure what that final question means. Iraq is a big country, and many things can be true, and many contradictory things can be happening. When we first went in, as you may recall, I had the advantage of my daughter's experience in that area, and said that the most important thing would be to establish LOCAL GOVERNMENTS that were trusted by the people == i.e. that governed by the consent of the governed. That, I said, was far more important than trying to put together some large mechanism for "governing the country". "Whose house is this?" is more important than "whose oil is this?"

That advice was ignored and the neo-jacobins arrested local leaders for impersonating the government, and threw them into Al Graib, with predictable results, for when they went back looking for people to be the local government, the kind of volunteers they got was a bit different from the ones who had spontaneously emerged at first. We will be a while digging out of the holes we bulldozed.

As to strategy page, everyone has views, and perhaps they know more than I do, but I do have my sources. I have said all along that 800 casualties is not all that many ((except to the families of the legionnaires lost)) for the conquest of such a large place; but it can be made to look like a great many. We cannot leave the world the lesson that 1,000 dead American troops is enough to make us cut and run; better we devastate some areas in straight retaliation than do that. It is better to be feared than loved, and we are not likely to be loved over there no matter what we do anyway. Our ties with their local enemies are too strong for us to be loved.

I am glad to hear that some units are paying attention to the tribal structure. At last. It would have been better had they known what to do when they went in, but the neojacobins who call themselves neocons deliberately and systematically ignored all such advice until the US body bags began coming home in secret in the dead of night. Some troops on the ground wisely ignored their political masters; what the implications of that for civilian control of the military might be have yet to play out, but we can hope for the best. I always did think "civilian control" should not include, as von Moltke put it, every field commander operating with a telegraph wire up his arse.

I can hope your optimism prevails, but I note that the Shia senior clerics are using the young hotheads to make them look "reasonable" and "moderate" but what they want remains Shia majority control of nearly all the country: and the Kurds are NOT going to submit to that. Yet the Turks are not eager to allow an independent Kurdistan on their borders. All this was not merely forseeable, but foreseen, if not elsewhere, then here, before we ever went into Iraq.

I don't say that in triumph. I certainly do not look for our failures and ignore our successes, and I do not cheer when the enemy wins a round. I want to see us get out of there better off than when we went in, but I don't see much of a path to that goal; I pray daily that wiser heads do see such and can steer us there, but I don't believe it. Certainly Kerry and company have no better ideas, and far less practical experience, than the bruised idealists who put us in there and have now been beaten up by reality on the ground. One can hope they learned from the experience.  One can hope.

But I say again, if Halliburton and the Army can't get oil pumping, who can?

Subj: Have the Marines *really* abandoned Fallujah?,2933,127539,00.html  - U.S. & World - Fighting in Fallujah Kills 13, Wounds 14

=Overnight in Fallujah, U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops engaged in an hourslong battle with insurgents, the military said. ... The military said the fighting began when insurgents attacked a **joint patrol of Marines and Iraqi troops** with gunfire, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.=

My ** added.

Interesting to read that next to the Lasseter "If they want it that bad..." piece.


One assumes they have not entirely abandoned the approaches to the city, but whether we penetrate to the interior I do not know.

You do understand, were I in charge, Fallujah would understand the full consequences of allowing that rampage; no better friends, no worse enemies, would have real meaning. That city would now understand the meaning of occupation, and be either disarmed or non-existent. But that is my way, and it does not appear to be the way of anyone in command, or anyone running for election.


Subject: GI Insurance

Dear Jerry:

I believe that the GI insurance scam, as described, violates Army regulations. Officers at all levels have to be very careful to not even give the appearance of taking undue advantage of their subordinates. Financially or any other way. It's bad for morale. However, in any large organization there are always a few who lie, cheat and steal. Like any other community, the truth comes out and the cops take care of it.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

That is about my view as well.

 Now think on the implications of this one, which comes from a reliable source I can no longer identify (when I erase a file I guarantee you it is erased):

Dr. Pournelle,

Military justice - 17 years of service erased and replaced with second class citizenship because he let his troops drink and he obeyed what was probably an unlawful order.  <>

We can't just let the troops go out and do this kind of thing, but it's a shame that when a colonel or general does something stupid in peacetime, they're usually allowed to retire, but when an NCO in a combat zone gets caught up in a poor leadership decision made by his supervisor, he's shxtcanned with a bad conduct discharge which pretty much ensures he'll be lucky to get a job bagging groceries at wal-mart for the rest of his life. The NCO and his family are going to be devastated by this for the rest of their lives, and yet they feel that they're lucky. Nobody got shot, nobody got hurt, the Shiek got compensated, and they feel lucky he only wasted 17 years of his life and got nothing but a demotion and bad conduct discharge. Anyone deliberately breaking rules is going to get hung out to dry, but a mistake ought to be treated as a mistake especially when it's perpetuated through leadership divisions (ie Lt. to NCO). Maybe it's just me, but when a LT tells an NCO to go get him a vehicle and the SOP is to commandeer one when you can't get one via other means, carjacking changes from being a crime to being a last-resort but still completely legitimate tactical decision. Nailing the dude who just cut your convoy off is simple karma enhancement.

As for the drinking thing... The Brits still have an alcohol ration in the regulations and it doesn't seem to be a problem. If you treat your troops like children, they have no reason whatsoever for not acting like children. Everyone knows this, but it's a PC world out there and a picture of a soldier with a beer is only dangerous because we make such a big deal out of it. We just invaded the country, so it's ok to blow up their cities and kill their people but for gods sake don't drink alcohol because it goes against their culture?

Imagine how poor morale would have been in WWII if a no-alcohol (or no smoking) policy had been implemented... Moderation and appropriate time/place considerations are critical but the reasoning seems more political than anything else.

Beware the fury of the legions. Anarcho tyranny doesn't work there


Subject: A bit unfair to the Metro police - buffy willow

Today you posted:

Subject: Woman arrested, cuffed for eating candy bar in subway station

Yes, it was out of bounds, but such incidents are rare here (I ride the Washington, DC metro system somewhat regularly). They can go a bit overboard about eating on the Metro, but I don't think there is evidence that they are doing it at the expense of their primary job (keeping riders safe). Also, from reading the article, it appears that headlines to the contrary, she was arrested for failing to stop when ordered to by the officer, not for eating. One can argue whether he should have told her to stop and whether he should have arrested her when she didn't, but I think a detailed read of the article makes the arrest debatable rather than ridiculous.

The Washington, DC Metro system has virtually no grafitti and no vandalism. In the 28 year history of the subway system there have been, IIRC, one or at most two murders. Considering some of the neighborhoods that the system goes through, I believe that to be quite an accomplishment.

Scott Kitterman

Perhaps it is Wilson's "broken windows" rather than anarcho tyranny, but I wouldn't bet on it. The trend is all too evident in the US. But I can hope you are correct, and congratulate you on a safe transport system free of scientists eating candy bars.


Subject: This Land Isn't Your Land

Hi Jerry,

Apparently the This Land parody didn't go down so well with everyone. I see a Lawsuit Ahead.

< >



Why not...

Subject:  laws of bureaucracy

Fascinating site from the Great White North. MUCH wisdom there. Disquieting and rather depressing to read at one sitting though.

Perhaps there is a lesson here that most deep wisdoms are disquieting? 

Cordially, John


Subject: Stability and reality

Dr Pournelle,

Stability and reality

But we can provide stability: the Turks knew how. No better friends, no worse enemies. But do we want soldiers who know how to rule without the consent of the governed?

So did the British provide stability, for a few decades. And although ruling without the consent of the governed might be considered a brief definition of ‘empire’, the present situation shows that that sort of rule is not in fact a viable proposition for the army of a democracy in the modern age. Public opinion back home will kill the project, sooner or later.

I think the United States has evolved the most magnificent machine the world has ever seen for the defeat and conquest of any conventional enemy that could be conceived today. The trouble is that that is not a suitable machine for the pacifying and rebuilding of conquered territory post victory, but in the absence of another machine suited for that task, the conquering machine has to fill the gap. And it’s not very good at it. Why should it be? It’s not what it was designed for. What’s more, it means the conquering machine, tied up in this unsuited job, is not available to do more conquering if the need should arise.

The rub is, however, that if territory once conquered cannot be pacified and turned around, the fruits of conquest will never mature; it will all have been a waste of time and effort.

What’s to be done?

I think a recognition that the United States can conquer the world on its own if it desires, but cannot hold it or pacify it or turn it to freedom and democracy on its own, would be a good place to start.

The US needs allies—allies like Britain, yes—but also the rest of Nato, even including France, and others too such as Japan and perhaps Russia and others, who can supply the forces that, trained properly, will be able to consolidate the work of the conquerors. But this can only come about if there is an agreement between the United States and its allies over what should or not be done to which regime and what is legitimate use of force and what is not. In other words, love it or hate it, the United Nations has to be part of this agreement process. The other thing that must be recognition is that the day of the pre-emptive strike based of so-called ‘intelligence’ has passed into abeyance for a very long time . Who’d believe you?

You can’t cry wolf twice.

These days it’s not so much a case of beware the fury of the legions as beware the fury of the electorate.*

Jim Mangles

*Of course for most of the empire, the Roman legions were the electorate, in the sense that they chose the emperor.

I think there are costs to empire that are beyond the compensations, but I am certain that if empire is to be attempted, it should be done competently. Incompetent empire is the worst of all.

Empires rule through the activities of client states and client auxiliaries. They can call themselves allies if it makes them feel better. Friends of the Roman People...

Subject: Not empire, commonwealth.

Dr Pournelle,

Not empire, commonwealth.

Empires rule through the activities of client states and client auxiliaries. They can call themselves allies if it makes them feel better.

I don’t think you’ve quite got it. These allies or clients are and will demand, and in the end will get, equal voice (collectively perhaps, but equal) in decision-making on who is to be conquered and why, or they will not be there. And as I suggested, without them your conquests will turn to dust.

The reality is that in this world today, the United States, despite appearances to the contrary, is not truly a free agent in these things. Both parties need each other. Alone, you can destroy but you cannot build, and if all you do is destroy you will eventually turn the rest of the world against you, and then you are certain to fall. It might take a long time, but going alone in that way would certainly, in the end, destroy the United States. To avoid that fate you need the willing co-operation of other states as equals, not clients. That is the only rational way forward.

What we see evolving before us is no empire with a cohort of client states, but a commonwealth of specialists.

Jim Mangles

I am sure it comforts everyone to say such things. The fact is the US can recruit client armies at will, from Iraqis or Syrians, or Afghans, or Ghurkas or Kurds. Client armies are easily come by for the price of wages, equipment, and some training. The "need" for allies is what everyone wants to posit, but Rome managed nicely with "Friends of the Roman People" as can we. Shared Empire and Commonwealth is pretty rare in history; as is empire without an emperor. There is a logic to these things.

Zoos often show a lion and a lamb in the same cage, or used to. Of course the lamb had to be replaced fairly often.

Certain to fall? You mean in your lifetime, or in 400 years?

Dear Jerry:

All through my tour in Vietnam I kept a bottle of Jack Daniels in my locker, next to my M-16. This was not illicit. In fact it was specifically permitted. I bought the whisky at the PX. We also had an enlisted man's club where you could buy beer for 50 cents a bottle. My next post, in Germany was a little different. No booze in the barracks but we had a club in the basement of the kascerne called "The Spookeasy" which served beer and wine but not hard stuff. That I could buy at the NCO club for 25 cents a shot. A bottle of Heineken was 20 cents. I think I can fairly say that the US Army of that era was an incubator for drunks.

In the 1980s, when my roommate Leigh Strother was in the Army, the bottle in the locker policy was still in force. However, the Army made serious efforts to clean up the substance abuse problem which, during the 1970s had been very damaging to morale and readiness. If you had a problem you got help. If you didn't get help or couldn't sober up, they got rid of you. Discharged "for the convenience of the service".

This difference between that era and this one is that we are operating in areas where alcoholic beverages are forbidden by both law and custom. Local command has obviously decided that have enough problems without bringing in that one. Especially with Guard and Reserve forces. Undoubtedly there are underground supplies. But I would be willing to bet that much of what happened at Abu Gharib was fueled by inhibitions eroded with alcohol.

The reason my top secret MI unit was allowed to have its own club in the basement was to discourage people from getting drunk in German bars and perhaps saying things they would never dream of saying when sober. To put it another way, I first heard the phrase "laser radar" from a fellow soldier who was in his cups, but at that club.. I'd never heard the phrase but knew immediately what it meant. So did everyone else at the table. We shut him up and pretended the whole thing never happened. The alternative was him being court-martialed. In 1970 what he said was science fiction. Right?

As for the guy who took the Shieks SUV, this was no small thing when you are trying to win "hearts and minds". He got off light.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Got off light. Well, if you can persuade yourself of that you will believe anything. Such incidents can be endured if rare. Enough of them, and there will be serious consequences. Got off light.

Hearts and minds? Well, okay. If that's what you think we should be doing, and the way we ought to be doing it. Do you mind if some of us with a bit of historical background disagree?

As to liquor in a war zone, Pat Frank in Hold Back The Night told a tale of Korea that is still a classic about a bottle of scotch that saved a company and more. Some of us could tell other stories, but his is very well done.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 31, 2004

Subject: Re: Not empire, commonwealth.

On 31/7/04 5:26, "Jerry Pournelle" <> wrote:

> Rome managed for a long time with nothing more than Friends of the Roman > People

America is not Rome. Despite some superficial resemblances, it is wrong to suppose it is. The world is not the same, the US Army is not the Roman Army, and there will be no friends of America if America is not prepared to work within the international system--which today means the UN.

That does not mean the UN should not be reformed: clearly it should, but that's a separate issue.

Anyway compared with 2,000 years ago, the world is now on fast forward. A Roman Empire of 500 years would probably last about 50 today. Consider the fate of the Soviet Union (and its 'friends') which in many ways more closely resembled Rome than America does.

I suspect that you have missed my point. The kind of benevolent empire in which we give proper deference to our superiors in Britain and France and Belgium while our troops conquer the enemies for you rational Enlightened people to occupy and strip bare -- as has happened in the Balkans -- is not likely. If the US gets the taste of governing without the consent of the governed the world will be a different place, and we may resemble old Rome a lot more than you think. The lust for power is old, and government by consent of the governed really was a New World Order that only happened in 1792; not all that long ago on the world scale.

Encouraging American conquest for the benefit of the UN sounds pretty good, but I warn you, the consequences will not be to your liking. Overpaid, over sexed, and over here is the way you lot thought of us at a time when you needed us badly, your empire and commonwealth being unequal to the Third Reich; I can imagine what you will say about us boorish Americans when you fancy don't need us. And I have some experience with American politics, and some idea of the effects that will have on us if US body bags are paying for other people's venial enrichments (fortunately the Balkans aren't costing US troops, since the result of that experiment has been to make petty tyrants of UN and Euro bureaucrats including cast-off aristocrats).

(This spiked a series of mail exchanges that are shown in next week's mail.)


Roland has long been concerned about Bluetooth security. Here is one reason:

Subject: Longtooth.

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "complimentary" typo in Chaos Manor DDJ article

September 2004 page 89:

"Actually the two are complimentary, in that each finds a few things the other did not."

You mean they mutually supply each other's lack , which is complEmentary, not they're full of praise for each other.

"Let's be careful out there" -- =S Page senior Site Engineer

Discovered! Actually I know better, so I am not sure how that crept in, but it's certainly a fair catch.

Subject: the democratic party


If "the Democratic Party resembles a bandit horde of smaller nomadic gangs, assembled and united only by the prospect of loot" then what in the world do you make of the party of Enron, Halliburton, et al? From my vantage point, even if you accept your description of the Democratic party (I don't), then the Republicans simply do the same thing, only on a -much- grander scale. In short, if you damn the Dems for this, then how are the Republicans any different? I think they're MUCH better at looting than the Dems.

Chuck Bouldin

You may have a point but that is no way to make it. The Republicans have principles which they may or may not adhere to; the Democrats have yet to say what their principles are. That may be a difference of no importance, but I think it is not. Most of the Republican failings are illegal and can be dealt with by courts and jails. Building endless bureaucracy and turning over the education system to credentialists is a more difficult proposition.

Subject: "if bush had his priorities right..."

Hello, Jerry - I liked your idea about paying Iraqi army generals to maintain control of their troops, but have a quibble with your lead-in:

"If Bush had his priorities right, we would have gone into Iraq and gone to each Iraqi general..."

I maintain that if Bush had his priorities right, we would not have gone into Iraq at all (my POV), or at least not until Afghanistan was well under way to a stable state and Al-Qaeda members were no longer able to dance along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In truth, probably almost ANY actual plan for handling the peace would have worked better than what was attempted -- which the administration was widely and publicly warned in advance, from within and without, to be unrealistic and insufficient to achieve any desirable end-state.

But as always the question remains - we are in Iraq, and as Colin Powell warned, "You break it, you buy it." We'll be paying for this ill-conceived adventure for years with dollars and lives.

Sincerely, Dan Becker

-- Everyone who just groaned and said, "This is just semantics," go to the blackboard (if you can find one -- otherwise use a whiteboard) and write, 50 times, "Words reflect ideas. Ideas drive action. That makes semantics important." - Bob Lewis of <>

Agreed. My wording was less than careful. I should have said, "If Bush, once determined to go into Iraq, had his priorities right" or some such. As is clear from all I have said here I would not have advised him to go in at all until Afghanistan was settled and we knew what we would do about Pakistan (contingency plans for overthrow of the friendly government there...) Actually I would have advised him not to attempt Iraq at all absent more compelling evidence of a more immediate threat; but it is clear that everyone in the Clinton Administration saw Iraq as a threat, as did Bush's intelligence people.

Greetings, sir.

Chuck Bouldin quoted you then asked a question:

"If 'the Democratic Party resembles a bandit horde of smaller nomadic gangs, assembled and united only by the prospect of loot' then what in the world do you make of the party of Enron, Halliburton, et al?"

Ron Reagan Jr. used Enron as a club against the Republicans in the September issue of Esquire. What neither Mr. Bouldin nor Mr. Reagan seem to understand is that Enron was very much a BIPARTISAN disaster.

This article from The Nation - not exactly part of the right-wing propaganda machine - downplays the direct-cash-to-Dems and ignores the Clinton administration angles (power plant in India, etc.), but it ponders other damning Democrat/Enron ties.


Tim Elliott

Excerpts from the Nation's FEATURE STORY | April 8, 2002

Enron Democrats by William Greider

If left-labor-liberal progressives had the cohesion and muscle of their right-wing opposites, they would be articulating a simple-to-understand litmus test for the Democratic Party--no "Enron Democrats" on the presidential ticket in 2004. That precondition would eliminate a number of presidential wannabes now mentioned by the Washington media's Great Mentioner. Scratch Senator Joe Lieberman. Forget the happy talk about Senate majority leader Tom Daschle's running for the White House. And Senator Joe Biden can stop daydreaming. These men--and perhaps some other would-be candidates--do not pass the Enron smell test.

It is not that Enron Democrats got a lot of money themselves from the now-ruined energy company, but they are implicated in more significant ways. On various matters, they helped set the stage for the scandalous behavior of Enron and other highfliers now in disgrace. They defended the degraded accounting standards that hoodwinked investors. Or they promoted financial gimmicks and deregulatory measures that opened the way for grand malpractice. Or they formed thick alliances with the very banks, auditing firms and corporations that are now running for cover--sued, investigated or defrocked as New Economy marvels.

Enron Democrats are compromised by their own past behavior, which explains why the Democratic Party's reaction to this spectacle is so muted. Much as in the S&L scandals of the late 1980s, an unspoken truce may emerge between the two parties--don't throw mud at me or I'll throw some back--since so many leading Democrats are implicated along with the Republicans. The hallmark of "Enron issues" is the ease with which Democrats desert the interests of their party's core constituencies to serve the political needs of business and banking. Some doubtless do so as a matter of conviction; some doubtless are convinced by the money.

Enron Democrats understand this. They are masters at stroking their discontented constituencies while voting against them on bedrock economic issues. The Enron storm, among other revelations, illustrates the inconstancy of the Democratic Party or, as some say more simply, its loss of soul.

For full article, go to 

Like the Lincoln Savings thing: they didn't deregulate fraud. Criminals operate in all party environments, and there are crooks in all parties.



Astounding. I thought I was the only one who had ever read Jane Jacobs (Systems of Survival) which I reference in my book THE PUBLIUS PAPERS. Her 15 rules for "taking" systems and "trading" systems are a discovery that every nation on this planet has abrogated, including and especially us. You should list them.

I also reference John Campbell's Tribes, Barbarians and Civilization ideas. I believe communists, socialists (democrats) and muslims are all tribal. Some Americans may be barbaric or somewhat civilized. I submit for examination that this accounts for the absolute "visceral" animosity that seems irrational that is causing this crazy hatred and violence today. In your books, your reprints of all this has a section where Campbell proposes that being tribal or barbaric is "genetic." But not linear. It occurs randomly. Thus, two tribal people could produce a barbaric child. And tribal and barbaric people instinctively "hate" each other.

And my last point. The people at Yale, and the true "powers behind the thrones" (Bucky Fuller's idea) of this world have to be laughing at all of us. They have told us EXACTLY who they are. What "Flag" has a "Skull and Bones" on it? What is the name of the Secret society at Yale? What organization has NO ONE ever been able to stop or control on this planet (hint: From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli). It's the PIRATES of this planet, organized crime, drugs, prostitution, pornography, gambling, murder, etc. Its not the banks. They just want the good life and the money. They are enablers. And they will NEVER tell any government where their money is coming from. We're still looking for Nazi money from 60 years ago.

I am saying all this now because of your Thursday View. We have "broken" all of Jane Jacob's rules. This war is not about terrorism or oil. It is between tribes, barbarians, and from the efficiency of our current military, a civilization (the deadliest animal on the planet). It has been "going on" since before recorded history, coming to a head every so often. It is coming to a head now. And if it isn't the muslims, it will be the "tribal" communistic society of China that will act irrationally when they decide that they might get away with it. The democrats are enablers for the "Tribes" of the world. One side or the other will win, for a time if they don't almost wipe out mankind. In my opinion, it has been going on over and over in the past.

I do not know how to effectively break the cycle. Maybe the spreading of the knowledge of what I have said above might be a start.

Thank you for your wonderful writings, and your site. I will be sending more money soon.





Jane Jacobs said that if a "Trading" organization used "Guardian" rules, that is criminal. Also, if a "Guardian" used "Trading" rules, total criminal corruption would occur in the guardian organization. Wrong rules in the wrong venue is the true definition of "criminal." Republicans may have a tendency to use trade rules in government, making our government "for sale." Democrats have a tendency to use "guardian" rules in the market place, criminally messing up the normal economic rules. They're both criminal, but quite possibly in different ways.

And You think I am nuts to say that "criminals" are running the world? Specifically, I suggest "Pirates." And when I see a democratic "tribal" idiot drooling and spitting as they speak of President Bush, I can't help but think that this person has an instinctive "genetic" disorder, ala John Campbell's theory.

Maybe a little more thought on these matters is due by some of the "civilized" people of this world is due. I usually agree with 90% of what you say. I stand ready to listen some more.


=The odd thing is that this sort of thing no longer sounds so impossibly odd...



Subject: Insurance Pitches to Servicemen--Some old news

This has indeed been going on for a long time. When I went through Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood in 1982, all active duty soldiers (only about 10 out of over 200 in our company) were sent without explanation to a conference room in battalion headquarters one evening. We weren't told what it was for, and the drill sergeant didn't give us any options in the matter. An older civilian was waiting for us. None of our own cadre were around. Most of the active duty soldiers were in an MOS that required a security clearance, and a couple of us speculated that this would have something to do with our clearances.

However, after we were seated, the civilian launched into a pitch for life insurance. He stated that he was a retired Lieutenant Colonel, so he understood what we needed, and that his insurance was very important for us to have. I believe his insurance was the type which accumulates a nest egg, rather than term insurance (which would probably have been more appropriate for a young person without a ton of money). I do not remember which company he was with, though I'd never heard of it. I had no idea of what good prices for insurance were, but even at my tender age I smelled a hard sell. My peers apparently did also, because nobody bought his product. He kept on us for about half an hour of our limited time to ourselves before giving up. We went back to the barracks, and I never heard anymore about it. I assume the salesman had a service buddy who was associated with someone who provided him access to the facilities and the young recruits.

The claims this has been going on for awhile are accurate.

Officers also get a different version of this--A company called USPA/IRA was pitching mutual funds with outrageous fees, and life insurance policies to officers in the 1980s. A year or two ago I heard they were still around, though apparently under a different name. They at least had the class to do it in what was clearly a sales presentation (including a slide show and a free meal of rubber steak) after hours and off post.

Regards, Mike Broderick

I wonder how I missed all that....





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 1 2004

On the birthrate of intellectuals

In the early 20th century, the US mined its working class for potential nerds and then sterilized them so they had too few kids. Since 1940 but especially since 1980, the US has been mining the rest of the world for potential nerds, mostly the upper classes though. This can't continue indefinitely.

Lee Kuan Yew was right in trying to get smart women to have kids. I gather his effort was unsuccessful. Is that correct?


astute. If Politically incorrect


Re the blurb on "hospitals kill more people than..."

Just a note in passing that the company issuing the report, Healthgrades, Inc. is in the business of improving quality in hospitals. They are willing to take money from Hospitals and then issue the hospital a "Destinguished Hospital" rating and publish that on their site. Seems they have an interest in making the public fear hospital errors.

They do this for physicians as well. For example, they are willing to sell you a report about me for $7.95 which lists my Board Certification, Government actions against me, etc. The vast majority of this information is available in the public domain. I went ahead and got a copy of my report and looked at the data provided. I'd suggest it is marginally useful to a patient. For example, my report lists my name, address, practice name, tells the user that I have no federal or state sanctions, lists to local hospitals (not the hospitals with which I'm affiliated) and then provides a review of the hospitals in the area. This portion of the report is filled with errors. For example, one local hospital which doesn't provide cardiology services is listed as having three stars for cardiology (which means acceptable service in their vernacular). The local hospital which has been cited as having outstanding services (chosen as one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation three times for cardiac services by several independent reviews) is listed as having three stars (out of 5) for cardiac services. Sloppy best.

Sigh. Hospital errors are a problem (although I doubt that the problem is as big as the report suggests) and hospitals need prodding to improve quality. Perhaps this report will do some good to someone other that Healthgrades, Inc.

And of course Dr. Huth's points are all well made, and I should I suppose have paid more attention to the sources. Still, it is clear: many domestic problems including hospital errors, almost all of them more a function of allocation of resources than anything else (anything think that if we put $20 billion into it we could not pretty well end many of the staph infections in hospitals, and fund some research on better ways to deal with them) -- many domestic errors kill more US citizens than the Terror ever did including 911 and the casualties in all of our Middle East Adventures going back to Eisenhower. I suspect you could include the North Africa Campaign and not get up to half a million, which is a conservative estimate of the number killed by medical errors and hospital errors in a decade.

I don't mean this as a slam on hospitals but as a way to look at things in proportion. We tolerate large levels of error here because we need those institutions and we want to trust them. If we put the kind of resources into those problems we have poured out on the desert, would we be worse off?

Subject: Surprise, surprise.

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Partisanship

Dr. Pournelle, as much as I'd enjoy tossing some mud, it occurs to me that the corruption said to surround the GOP is not intrinsic to it. It's a testimony to the success of the party. Squeeky clean is easy when a party is in the minority. If a politician is identified as a conservative, ask what they are conserving, if liberal, it's fair to ask what they'd be liberal with. FWIW, you make more sense than any other republican I've read.

Tim Harness

Well, thank you. I expect all political parties to have some bad apples and some crooks; parasite control is important and part of the political process.

As to my being a Republican, I suppose, but hardly as loyal as they would like. I'd prefer someone who believes in federal union, not mass democracy, and while I do not think all government is bad or that governments can't do good things, most of that is from local levels. Bush's expansion of the entitlements and discretionary spending is horrifying; if they'd been opposition they might have stopped that.


A reliable sitrep report from Iraq:

Baghdad Sunday, 1 August 04


On the surface, life here seems improved since late March:

--More and more shops are open, including now pharmacies and some currency exchange. This is true not only along the high streets in Karrada, but now ever-more on lesser byways where the fare is less refrigerators and satellite dishes, and more plastic sundries, food stalls, and other dry goods. Those working are benefiting from higher salaries, which clearly are percolating through the consumer economy. Everyone is excited by the opening of a Chinese import emporium with dirt-cheap clothes.

--Transport and Construction: Road traffic is much heavier--often bumper-to-bumper--but now much better policed, and people have returned to following normal rules of the road. There's no longer any noticeable fuel (gasoline & propane) shortage--that is, I no longer see the long gas lines--but I have not really enquired. Construction is booming, everywhere, and there's been a lot more cleanup of war rubble, but street cleaning seems to have fallen by the wayside--there are drifts of garbage and a dead dog even outside Neareasts' new offices. I get the impression that there's a strain on managerial capacity and skilled labor. There may be spare laborers about, but the country is running short on people to effectively direct, train, and supervise them.

--I am buffered from electricity outages here in offices & at a hotel with independent power generators, but Ali's family suffers in this heat through 2-hour on, 4-hour off rolling blackouts. It is not that more capacity has not been brought online--it has--but power generation just cannot keep up with demand. The market is absorbing vast quantities of cheap refrigerators and air conditioners.

--Crime seems down, or at least less overtly violent. One no longer sees weapons openly carried on every streetcorner. Dozens or boxes of large appliances remain outside on the sidewalk overnight, with only a sleeping watchman to guard them. People report fewer random carjackings and robberies. No sounds of nearby or distant gunfire.

But all that's on the surface.

Despite all this, people themselves are grim and tense, The murder rate is extremely high. As more documents from the old regime are released and circulated, there are more revenge and reprisal killings. Our old hotel--with many apologies--will no longer accept Americans-they are just too afraid. Green Zone operations are retrenching, with offices moved into dug-in concrete shelters surrounded by blast barriers. The second night here, at about 2 a.m., a man was gunned down across the street from my hotel. Police sirens blared and flashed; he was taken away in the back of a police pickup truck. I could not tell if he was dead or alive, or whether he was a criminal shot by the police themselves. Everyone feels that the killings and kidnappings are being done by outsiders pouring in over the borders--from Iran, Syria, Jordan, who knows where--and nobody knows what to do about that. Everyone is nervous about standing in the shadow of foreigners, yet clearly they are grateful for the change and want to help as much as they can. Mrs. Hindo gets very nervous when one of her sons, sent on a ministry mission, has not been heard from for several hours. Before, the risk was higher, but the actual danger lower. Now, the risk is lower, but the danger is higher and far more targeted. So what has happened is that Iraqis are just inured to the dangers and assert the right to act as if things were normal, while the Americans dig in in their bunkers. Camouflage--blending in--is important.

The only editing I did was to remove some particulars on locations. I received this just before the current bombings. The correspondent is all right but the bombings were very close and some friends were injured.







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