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Mail 324 August 23 - 29, 2004






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Monday August 23, 2004

Today will be consumed with errands, but there is a lot of good mail which I will try to get up, probably with short shrift...

As usual there was much of interest over the weekend.

Subject: Local school boards: *how* local?

Subj: Local school boards: *how* local?

One of your contributors suggests that =Chicago is an example of "local control" that has been a failure for a long time.=

Is not the Chicago system far too large to be considered locally controlled? Chicago Public Schools

493 elementary schools, 95 secondary schools, 14 charter schools, 438,589 students

You have previously commented on the appropriate size of school districts: 

=It is my fixed opinion after many years of looking at the situation that the only solution to education in the US is to return locals school control absolutely to local school boards; and restrict school districts to no more than 3,000 or so students per school board.=


To which I can only say, Amen.

Subject: BRAC.

- Roland Dobbins

So is Kerry for or against troop withdrawal from overseas? It certainly isn't clear.


Subject: Those who can...

HI Dr Pournelle

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" Until recently, this was institutionalised at my University (The University of Botswana): Those who did poorly at science in the first year (but not so poorly as to flunk out), were pushed into getting a degree in Science Education. However, that's just an aside. I was wondering if you had thought about how this is applied to those who teach teachers. i.e. the competent teachers go out and teach in schools, whilst the incompetent teachers "educate" the next generation of teachers (A very negative positive feedback loop...).

Cheers James Evans

Well, it's not strictly true. To know a subject is not necessarily to have to the ability to teach it, and good teaching is an art as well as a skill. I would rather have a good caring  teacher in charge of 60 kids divided into two grades than have an indifferent uncaring teacher in charge of a classroom of 20 in one grade; and I would bet that the teacher with more kids would get better results, too.

We have good teachers in the system. Alas we have incompetents and timeservers as well: and of course those who don't like teaching are the ones who run for offices or become specialists, getting more money while not being in the classrooms. Those who like to teach don't want to be NEA officers.

As to professors of education, there are a few who know what they are doing, but most are theorists, and some take pride in never having got their hands dirty actually teaching in classrooms. They are, after all, professors...


All too true!

Frank G.


Dr. Pournelle,

I wanted to alert you of a new variant of the Nigerian Scam. I just received a telephone call from a gentleman explaining the he was from "the government" and that I had been selected to receive a grant of between $8,000 and $25,000. He had my Name, work address, and telephone number. His command of the English language was not great and the background noise sounded as if he were in a call center. I strung him out for about 10 minutes to see if I could glean any additional information from him (he offered that he was on the 4th floor of "the government building" and the treasury department was on the 17th floor). He asked for my date of birth and checking account information (just like the other scams). When it was obvious that I was not going to provide him with this he hung up. I seem to recall that you had printed a web site address where I could report something like this. Do you recall an approximate timeframe of that posting? (I don't mind digging through your archives as I would selfishly rather you spend your time writing more fiction <g>).


Michael W. Brown

Alas I don't recall where you report these or where I mentioned it. Sigh. And just now is not a good time...

And another alert:

Subject: Rbot-GR ( priority one).

-- Roland Dobbins

Subject: Exit Neocons, Stage Left.

--- Roland Dobbins









This week:


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ffirst an important wormy-1 Am on an  airplane so today is Short Shrift.


 Subject: IMPORTANT - Google is your Identity Theft Enemy (or Friend)

Dr. Pournelle:

It would seem that Google can find just about anything, even web sites that have not properly secured your credit card number or other personal information.

Readers might find it useful to "Google" for their credit card numbers. Enter your credit card number (no spaces) in the Google search field, and see if any pages turn up. If they do, it might be wise to immediately cancel that card, and contact the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your account.

Other searches that might be interesting are your address (include the double-quote character, as in "123 main st"), social security number (with and without dashes), and other personally identifying information.

Note that the 'bad guys' are using a 'numeric range' search to look for pages with credit card numbers. This technique uses a '..' between two numeric values. For instance, a search that includes '1000..9999' (without quotes) will turn up pages with any number from 1000 to 9999. Searching for a range of 16 digit numbers could return pages that include credit card numbers.

This 'numeric range' seach technique for credit card number can be helpful to the bad guys. One site I looked at had full info on the person's purchase: name, email, credit card number, expiration date, address, phone, etc. There were a couple dozen potentials for credit card theft. Big potential for mischief!

And webmasters might want to use the "site:" parameter of a Google search (as in "") to see if there are pages that might have confidential information. . (Google will remove such pages if you alert them.)

Caveat emptor!

Regards, Rick Hellewell


To report Nigerian Scam, see Secret Service site: 

---------- Sandy Gettings ( National Healthnet Information Systems

"I used to buy stamps by mail. It worked great until I ran out of stamps." -- G. Carlin :->



Cisco has quietly purchased p-Cube for $200 million. Is this the stealthy way for intellectual property owners to stop p2p networks?


Clyde Wisham

**** "Money can't buy you happiness, but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery."-- Spike Milligan ****

I have no theories



I vote in favor of the _local_ School Board.

Due to growing up on a mixed farm, in SW Alberta, Canada, I went to a one-room-school, for the last seven months of Grade1, thru Grade 5. That School's Board was made up mostly of Farmers and Ranchers from the local area, who had several one-room Schools as part of their responsibility. They also had some Town Schools under their care, including the Grade School and High School in claresholm, Alberta.

I can spell and do mental arithmetic due solely to those Teachers who ran that one room "Carnforth" School. It had a "Teacherage", outdoor toilets, and a large Cistern, which was filled with potable water regularly. Four of my classmates rode their own horses to School every day, which meant that fres-frozen Hockey Pucks were freely available in the Horse Barn.

The Spelling Bees, and Math Bees were done by all classmates, self-divided into two teams. A physically clumsy child, who was a good speller, or good at math, was cherished by his team! An unexpected advantage to a multi-class classroom, lies in the many chances that I had to keep my mouth shut, but pay attention to instruction in classes lower or upper, that had stuff I had missed, or found interesting. The Twelve-foot-tall Book Cupboard, stuffed with every book the School Board had ever bought for the School, was my hunting-ground, for new books to read. The stepladder made sure that the top shelves, full of books "too old for you, Neil, you can't possibly enjkoy them", were not beyond my physical reach. Grin.

The McGuffey Readers were my introduction to the real meaning of "Decimate", c/w illustrations, and many other delights. The Geographys and History Books there made "Social Studies" seem tasteless. Even the out-of-date Science Texts had their own charm.

Years later, during a chat with my Grandmother, and my oldest Aunt, both retired Schoolteachers, I remarked on what a good job the one-room-school had done. To my surprise, they _both_ agreed!

Therefore, I would say that a School Board must need cover an Urban area big enough to have at least one school in it. It better be small enough for a child to walk to school.

A Rural Area School Board is going to have to cover the local Municipal District, County, Improvement district, or Special Area [using Province of Alberta nomenclature for Rural Administrative areas = there are minor differences, not pertinent to this discussion]. Otherwise the Tax Rolls become just horribly complex, eh?

There remains one vexing Problem: What to do with the Teachers' Union? Alberta has a Province-Wide Teachers' Union, which used to whipsaw the small School Boards by striking them, one at a time. The School Boards responded by forming their _own_ Negotiating Unit! The education of the Students was held hostage by the clashes between those two behemoths, again and again. Personally, I enjoy the idea of the "strikes" that some Japanese Employees are reputed to use: During a "Strike" all striking employees continue to work. However, all ordinary pleasantrys, and conversation, is refused. Only conversation specific to work is undertaken. A beautiful, subtle idea.

Neil Frandsen Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada


Click here: New Scientist < >

Letter published in this week's New Scientist.

Unfortunately they cut out my mention of the Taiwan incident which contradicts the LNT theory that there is no safe lower radiation limit:-

"Let me set his mind even further at ease. A recent statistical examination of 10,000 people in Taiwan who lived for a period of 20 years in apartments, the concrete of which had accidentally been contaminated by cobalt 60, has proved beyond any question whatsoever that the Linear No Threshold theory of radiation damage is wrong. These people lived in radiation levels initially 5 times our official "safe levels" (it declined quite substantially since Cobalt 60 has a half-life of 5.5 years). The result of this is that cancers were 97% LESS among these people than among the general population. This proves that the hormesis theory, that relatively small doses are beneficial is clearly true. This appears to have been intuitively known by generations of spa water imbibers.


he full report is available in English on  ."

However since the letter was already the longest printed this week I have no complaint - quite the opposite.

Neil Craig

=I am sure the  Greens will be  thrilled.  Joyous news.

I do wonder why those who profess to be concerned with the health of the planet are never overjoyed to find that things are not as bad as we had feared, and that many "problems" are quite natural.=====







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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

"Alexander Yuvchenko was on duty at Chernobyl's reactor number 4 the night it exploded on 26 April 1986. He is one of the few working there that night to have survived."

"...The first thing I heard wasn't an explosion, it was a thud, a shaking. Then two or three seconds later came the explosion...."

"...From where I stood I could see a huge beam of projected light flooding up into infinity from the reactor. It was like a laser light, caused by the ionisation of the air. It was light-bluish, and it was very beautiful. I watched it for several seconds. If I'd stood there for just a few minutes I would probably have died on the spot because of gamma rays and neutrons and everything else that was spewing out...." 

What an eerie, disturbing image -- that column of blue light shining up out of the wreckage.

--Gary Pavek


For those who would like to know more about Sikhs...

One time I was in a New York City convenience store at the height of a crime wave (the thirty year one that lasted from 1965-95) which was being guarded by two enormous and impassive Sikhs. It was midnight and I had just run accross the Park on a dare so I was feeling a little agitated. I grinned idiotically at them, and made some inane comment about "what a fine job they were doing". They just looked at me.

Sikhs, as well as being partial to whiskey, are also very good soldiers. No doubt they are good golfers too (Viijay Singh?) which sort of makes them the Scots of the Indian Sub-Continent.

Sikh Soldiers In World Wars  Vicky Singh

I wrote this report for a history class. Most of the material is directly taken from works cited in the bibliography. My special thanks to Amandeep Singh Madra and Parmjit Singh, the authors of Warrior Saints: Three Centuries of the Sikh Military Tradition, who have produced this valuable work after extensive research of historical facts. -- Vicky Singh



And now an important announcement

Dr. Pournelle:

Another worry: automated check payment fraud.

Here's the problem. A bogus company convinces a third-party check processing firm to accept unsigned checks. The checks contain account numbers harvested from many sources, including 'phishing'. The checks are not signed; they have a 'signature on file' authorization (somewhat like a check that is created with on-line banking bill payment).

The checks are then paid, and show up in the user's monthly statement. The charge is disputed, but there are no specific federal rules for resolving disputes involving checks (unlike credit cards, which have dispute rules). Banks are not required to refund the money (although there are some states with rules). Some banks claim that if the account number is valid, they are not responsible.

This technique is quite rewarding. was one of the bogus companies that were caught. They brought in $3.5 million (US) before being shut down, even though 70% of their attempts failed due to bad account numbers. Even then, I suppose just the interest on that amount would be rewarding enough.

The US Justice Dept is working on a crackdown on these scam artists; the Washington Post reports that Ashcroft will have an announcement on the crackdown real soon. ( )

Prevention / safe practices: check your account's monthly statements carefully. Or frequently looking at activity through your bank's on-line access. (My wife checks on-line daily; we use on-line bill payment extensively.) Don't respond to 'phishing' attempts. Don't give out checking account numbers over the phone. Be careful with on-line checking payments. Payments with credit cards have more protection against fraud. Talk to your bank to see their rules on check fraud disputes.

Regards, Rick Hellewell






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, August 26, 2004


>>I am sure there is a way to control what runs on startup in Windows, >>but the execrable help system doesn't tell it to me, <<

You've probably already hear from a thousand people about this by now, but how about msconfig.exe? I can get rid of a lot of nonsense with that.

Except that this virus seems to have erased msconfig or hidden it. I managed to get rid of some of the contamination through booting in safe mode. We will continue working on it... But there is no msconfig. I'll have to copyit from another machine --


aargh It doesn't exist on 2000 does it?


Dear Jerry:

I downloaded and printed out the Fay report, which follows the Taguba Report about the prisoner abuse at Abu Gharib Prison. 177 pages and a depressing read it is. For anyone who ever served in MI, it is especially horrifying. My overall impression is that some responsibility for the conditions which led to this go back the Fukuyama's flawed "The End of History" thesis about the collapse of the Soviet Union. We had a big military establishment and they set out to cut the fat, and then the muscle and finally the bone. Apparently the Army had no active duty military intelligence interrogators. They'd all been put in the Guard and Reserve. As had most of the MPs. The exercises that cross trained MI and MP units to handle this kind of situation had been discontinued. This was the rationale for hiring civilian contractors, but no one knew how to use or supervise them or what the rules were. The report is quite specific about MI involvement in these events and is a career ender for most of those named.

That probably includes LTG Sanchez whose prospects for a fourth star are very dim. It was a failure of command at all levels and a failure of leadership as well. Well worth reading and available at FindLaw. One thing that really stood out was the criticism of local commanders for failing to protect their people from excessive demands from higher levels of command for results. Of course, because of all the cut-backs, the unit was made up of soldiers drawn from several reserve units who had not trained together or worked together before deployment.

Kerry's demand for Rumsfeld's resignation may seem overblown and just politics, but there is something to it. Part of what led to the abuse was a neocon reinterpretation of the rules and an attitude that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to insurgents. Army Regulations say differently, but they were ignored too and the fact that the CIA was there, working under very much different rules, added to the confusion.

Many of those criticized simply didn't report what was going on. It's a very good report. Well worth the time. I also recommend the 9/11 Commission Report, which I've also read. This is almost like a novel in its narrative power. Again many of the same problems in the intelligence community are apparent. Lack of direction, lack of resources and a casual disregard for well-estabished doctrine.

Madeline Albright once asked Colin Powell "What is the point of having this splendid military, if you never use it?" At the time Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He couldn't very well say it wasn't all that splendid; that the budget cutbacks and down sizing was returning it to the "hollow army" days and that the point of having it was to overawe adversaries so that they would never confront us directly. Well that worked. They never have. But the paradigm has changed drastically. Bottom line: we simply need more people. We're ruining what we have with this MBA generated "just-in-time" theory of military deployment. It can't be done. Abu Gharib is one result of trying it. The cutbacks started under Clinton before the danger of a virtual terrorist state became apparent and changed the context, but Bush and Rumsfeld aggravated it by ignoring the best advice available to pursue a policy based upon ideology rather than facts.

The failures are both strategic and tactical. You once asked "where were the officers?" . The Fay Report makes it very clear that they were elsewhere. They had an E-5 Section Leader. That's supposed to be a Warrant Officer position. That's like having an E-5 First Sergeant. That happened in MI during the draw down in Vietnam, but it was only because there weren't enough people to fill all the slots.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

It really comes down to this: either you believe that consent of the governed is the basis of legitimate authority, or you don't. If you don't, you need to investigate competent imperialism, not play it by ear and muddle alone.

As for me, I have not given up on the Republic,  but when I get into discussions with passionate defenders of the pre-emptive war doctrine it often sounds like Old Cato arguing with the young Julius Caesar.







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


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Friday,  August 27, 2004



I know you are out of town but when you get a chance...

On Current View (324) you have a link

"And don't forget BURNING TOWER" that goes to which is where you click the link.

I presume you want to have that point to

< >

Been there, ordered that.




Hi Dr Pournelle

The Spectator ran a Cover story a few weeks ago with a very similar sentiment to your reply on Neil Craig's letter on the effects of radiation (Tuesday August 25). You can read the article at  (Signing your soul to the devil required) "Thereís no time like the present"


Every day, it seems, there is new and ever-more persuasive evidence that the age of doom, if not quite upon us, must surely be very nearly nigh. Last week we learned that the North Atlanticís population of seabirds was under grave threat: global warming was heating the sea and killing off their fish prey. The Day After Tomorrow, a profoundly silly disaster movie, managed to get itself splattered over the august pages of Nature, Science and New Scientist ó thanks entirely to the fact that it dealt with global warming, enemy not only of seabirds but of clear thinking.


It goes on to cover things like gender equality, hunger and disease.


James Evans


I had forgotten this but it is all true...

MS never gets rid of anything. This can be a good thing sometimes. You can still call a bunch of stuff if you go to a command prompt. You can also call old windows utilities from the run command.

The old System Editor is located at C:\Windows\system32\sysedit.exe and gives you that old tabbed system editor. It works in all versions of Windows.

Stephen Walker



There is no msconfig in windows 2000 (it is back in XP thank goodness). I use Spybot search and destroy, it does a good job in getting rid of spy ware and in the advanced mode has a great set of tools including a start-up manager. I use a second PC to Google and identify any suspicious browser help objects and bad things is the start-up manager.

It is a little like black magic but I usually get it done without too much more that a human sacrifice every second or third full moon.

Paul Beaver

I have been doing the same, but with Ad-Aware, and now I'll use Stinger. Getting there. Thanks.


>You've probably already hear from a thousand people about this by now, >but how about msconfig.exe? I can get rid of a lot of nonsense with >that.

>Except that this virus seems to have erased msconfig or hidden it. I >managed to get rid of some of the contamination through booting in safe >mode. We will continue working on it... But there is no msconfig. >I'll have to copyit from another machine --

>aargh It doesn't exist on 2000 does it?

And you've probably already heard this from another thousand people, you can copy the XP version of msconfig to W2K. For anyone who doesn't have XP, msconfig is in the CAB downloaded from microsoft as Q328940_WXP_SP1_x86_ENU.exe, see  download and then extract from the CAB.

On an XP system you should be able to find it in c:\windows\pchealth\helpctr\binaries\msconfig.exe. After copying this to W2K you should create the key

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\MSCONFIG.EXE

and set the default value to C:\WINDOWS\PCHealth\HelpCtr\Binaries\MSConfig.exe

Hope this helps, best wishes

Paul Dove

I probably knew all this at one time. Thanks!

Hi Jerry, If you can get Spybot, set it in Advanced mode, and there is a system startup editor under tools.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter -- "Science literacy is an understanding of what science is capable of achieving and, more important, what it cannot achieve." --Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri

That I am sure I never knew. Thanks!


You're no doubt buried in mail on this by now, but for starters:

start/all programs/startup. clear as appropriate.

Applications loaded via the registry at startup can be found by:


With the cursor at the top of the tree, <ctrl>F to open the registry search dialog.

search for the term "runonce"

At each instance, look for a registry entry titled "run" immediately preceding "runonce" There will be three or four in the hive. The registry items in the right panel of a "run" entry are loaded at startup. Remove the obviously suspicious ones. You can search on "run," but that will discover a lot of things that are not relevant.

<F3> will continue the search from the last "find" Continue to inspect and clean as appropriate until you get to the end of the registry. reboot.

That should get you to the point you can connect and download Spybot Search and Destroy. One of the items under the "tools" button on the main menu gives you a more people friendly way to examine and edit which applications load at startup.

Hope this helps

Ron Morse

More or less what I finally did, although there is still one in there I have not found. Thanks for setting it out so clearly.









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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Subject: Elevator: 2010

Dr Pournelle,

Elevator: 2010 

The X Prize idea spreads,

Jim Mangles


Subject: NAV not seeing your drive

I googled for keywords "Norton Antivirus boot cd NTFS" and found a couple of Symantec web pages. It looks like NAV cannot deal with NTFS. Lame, but not shockingly unexpected. It should definitely give you a sensible error message; scanning itself is really quite silly.

If you can download a CD image and burn it, you could give this a try: 

This is a bootable Linux disk, with lots of tools including ClamAV, the free antivirus system. It says it can deal with NTFS. It uses "Captive", an NTFS driver that uses WINE to run the actual NTFS.SYS driver from Windows! The latest version is less than a month old, so hopefully the virus definitions are new enough without an update. There is probably a way to grab the latest virus definitions from the Internet once you are booted, however, since it auto-detects network hardware and can get you on the Internet. It may well do it automatically.

When I set up my computer to dual-boot Windows 2000 and Linux, I chose FAT32 for the Win2K specifically because I wanted to be able to do things like scan from the NAV CD. FAT, even FAT32, is well-understood, by everyone; NTFS is kept a secret by Microsoft, and it's complicated enough that it isn't completely understood yet. Linux does have native NTFS drivers that are adequate for *reading* NTFS; *writing* is not really working yet. (The latest driver can write a file in place, as long as the length doesn't change, and that's actually pretty useful for some purposes. You can, for example, put a huge disk image file on an NTFS file system, and run Linux from inside the disk image, rather than putting Linux in its own partition.)

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Interesting.  Of course when all you have is dialup and the only uninfected working machine is a TabletPC this is a bit hard to do; next time I think I will look into what I carry in my travels since you never know what you have to do...


Subject: Hidden folders and protected files in Windows Me


I read of your difficulties with an annoying piece of software that can't be found. I picked up a piece of drive-by adware last year that kept resurrecting itself even after I had deleted it from the Windows system folders and edited the registry.

I cleaned up my notes from my system logs and included them below. It was on a Windows Me machine. Hope that this helps.

Daniel Suddarth

--------------------------------------------------- Hidden folders and protected files in Windows Me

In Windows there are some hidden folders that don't show even if view hidden files is selected in Tools-Folder Options. These appear to be system restore files that are still hidden.

In c:\_restore there are no sub-folders shown when viewed with the normal file Explorer in GUI. However, if you go to a c:\ prompt and type "cd _restore\temp" the prompt will change and you can see a few hundred files taking up megabytes of disk space.

Once you have the file names, you cannot just go to a prompt and delete them. They're also protected so you can't simply change attributes and delete them.

To delete the *.cpy files from the hidden directory of c:\_restore\temp you will need to reboot the machine using a 98 boot disk. Then you can delete them from the prompt. The DOS prompt running under windows will not allow this.

We have a  Windows 2000 system here and like most, we don't seem to be able to locate a lot of the system disks and such like. It is an older system.


Subject: Bought the book.

Ordered your latest (and a few other books - I need an Amazon detox).

Also, after reading your Windows troubles, I am oh-so-glad I run Linux (Slackware 9.1 upgraded, behind a firewall, behind a proxy, behind a router, behind crossed fingers and a rabbit's foot).


And Roland's solution is to buy Phil a Mac, or failing that, convert the box to Linux. Alas, that's not a feasible option in this case. But the temptation is strong, I agree.

I am sure someone opened a mail attachment, and the rest of it followed. The moral of the story remains, don't open unexpected mail attachments no matter who they seem to be from and no matter what they promise.




Subject: Curiouser and curiouser

The surest way to stir up anti-Semitism is to engage in a bona fide Zionist plot; I hope this isn't true, but I fear it is:

If the Israelis have done actually this, they've really shot themselves in the foot. One would've thought they'd learned their lesson with Jonathan Pollard.

--- Roland Dobbins

Sharon's confidence knows no bounds; I am sure he thinks it is his right to spy on America, and will be unable to understand any resentment.


And apparently there is more to the story:

Subject: Pentagon Official Suspected of Giving U.S. Secrets to Israel: Times

Hello, Jerry,

Interesting possibility, reported at: 

"The espionage investigation has focused on an official who works in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, officials who have been briefed about the investigation said. The F.B.I. has gathered evidence that the official passed classified policy documents to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israeli lobbying group, which in turn provided the information to Israeli intelligence, the officials said."


"Before the war in Iraq, Mr. Feith created a special intelligence unit that sought to build a case for Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, an effort that has since been heavily criticized by American intelligence professionals as an effort to justify the war. "

As I recall, the neocon organization structure in the Pentagon goes: Rumsfeld -> Wolfowitz -> Feith.


Furthermore, doesn't Steven Cambone work for Feith? Cambone is the DoD official who sat at MG Taguba's elbow during congressional hearings; Cambone, I think, is the civilian responsible for military intelligence procedures.


John Welch

I see I am going to have to do another essay on all this.

And the Iraq war goes on, but the oil isn't being pumped.


Subject: tribal wisdom

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on from generation to generation says that, "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount."

However, in government, education, and in corporate America, more advanced strategies are often employed including:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride horses.
5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.
10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed it is less costly, carries lower overhead and, therefore, contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And of course, everyone's favorite:

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position

Ed (pshrink)

Or invade another country, quick...

But all the news isn't grim

The author, is a West Pointer.  He is an armored cav officer  with a stryker unit.  Notably, he was principle author for stryker force utilization and he finds himself applying his own work product.

Week #9

            Several weeks after I found out I would be joining 1-14CAV in Iraq I happened, quite by chance, to run into a very old friend.  Sergeant First Class S. S. had served in my first tank platoon almost thirteen years ago in the first Gulf War.  We had not seen each other in ages, and immediately slipped back into a comfortable putting on a favorite pair of shoes.  He shared with me the beginnings of a story he was writing for his adult children, which described his experience in Desert Storm.  I will admit I was inspired, and angry that I had not committed my stories to paper back then.  I became determined to do a better job this time.

At the same time, I was finishing a science fiction novel called The Two Space War, written by a retired Lieutenant Colonel named Grossman, an expert in combat psychology.  If I recall correctly, he was a professor at West Point during the years I was there.  The book is a marginal piece of fiction, but contains some big ideas.  Among them is the notion that "pain shared is pain divided, and joy shared is joy multiplied."  Essentially, he contends that soldiers over the ages have survived the emotional impact of their experiences in combat through the art of story telling.  As a result of both of these events, I have kept a journal, and find the time to write this weekly update.

Given the positive feedback I have gotten from unexpected quarters, and my ever expanding address book, it appears that what started as random thoughts, has taken on a life of its own.  Somewhere in my years of education I learned that great writing serves both to inform, and to delight - to educate and to entertain.  I know that before I left for Iraq, I was hugely frustrated with the news reports I got from the national media.  They never seemed to report the story, only the statistics.  While the news entertained, it failed to educate.  Out in the hinterlands of Iraq, we rarely saw headlines that related to our activities.  Now that we have moved into the city, and closer to the media, our stories begin to match up with those that appear as blips on the CNN ticker.  While not pretending to produce great literature, I can at least help inform.

Early in the week, an internet article reported "5 killed and dozens injured as a rocket detonated in a Mosul market place."  Yet another random killing in a culture that absorbs this kind of loss much too easily.  The rocket originated from a cemetery on the outskirts of town. One of the disturbing places I described in my last letter.  We had a patrol working the area, about fifty yards from the rocket when it launched.  The 107mm rocket careened across the cityscape trailing a smoky trail, much like a giant bottle rocket.  The platoon quickly secured the area, but found no one.  The rocket had been propped up on a sand bag inside a walled family crypt about ten yards on a side and about two feet tall.  All that remained was the black scorch marks on the surrounding rocks, leading us to believe it was either remotely detonated or set on a timer. Both are common practices.  We received the report of the launch at our command post about a minute before the casualty reports from the market came flooding in.  A million what if's run through the minds of the platoon and the squadron staff...what if we had driven by minutes earlier? Would we have spotted the insurgent? Could we have destroyed the rocket?  I prefer to ask the question, what if we were not conducting patrols here at all?  How many more victims in the city markets?  I find it disturbing that a group that claims to be fighting a Holy War, violates the sanctity of what should be a protected place. Caching arms and launching random terror attacks against the culture they claim to be trying to save from western ideals.

            Sadly, the attacks are not all against the Iraqi citizenry, although many more are than I would have thought several months ago.  My unit is well equipped to survive most of what we face here.  The Stryker has far surpassed my expectations.  But not all units are as lucky.  The logistics units that bravely face the Iraqi roads day in and day out are mostly in vehicles designed to haul loads, and not face the rigors of combat. 

Yesterday, as we patrolled south of town, one of my crewman, SPC R., broke the silence on the trucks intercom and asked if I knew anything about a headline he had seen that morning.  A report on the CNN ticker read "one soldier killed and one wounded in Mosul."  Unfortunately, I knew more than I would have liked.

Late in the afternoon the day before, a radio call came across the brigades command net.  A logistics convoy had been attacked entering the city and a truck was on fire, apparently the victim of a roadside bomb (an improvised explosive devise or IED in army jargon).  The attack was in our part of the city and we immediately moved patrols to the scene to secure the sight.  One of our mortar platoons was on site in several minutes, and began rendering aid to the convoy.  A second platoon arrived shortly after, and provided additional security.  Both of the crewman on the burning vehicle had been injured, one with lacerations to the hand and the other with shrapnel to the shoulder.  It became clear that it would take longer to get a helicopter into the crowded city street than it would be to evacuate the two by ground. They were loaded into the mortar platoon's Strikers for the journey back to the field hospital about nine kilometers away.  As they raced off, our other platoon fought off an RPG attack and continued to secure the ambush site. We learn later that two children were injured in the attack as well.

Within twenty minutes of the first report, both wounded soldiers were in the hospital.  We were all pleased with the operation, secure in the knowledge that we had met our obligation to never leave a comrade behind.  Our hopes were shattered an hour later when the news came back that the soldier with the shoulder injury had died of wounds.  The command post was silent.  Each lost in his thoughts, wondering what if anything we could have done better, or faster.  The radio crackled, another attack, this time a mortar...back to business, the time for remembering would have to wait.

            SPC R. and the rest of the crew were quiet for several seconds after I relayed the story to them.  "Pain shared is pain divided." Raf broke the silence once again.  "Sir, I hope we can get one of those bastards today."  Me too R., me too.

That night in a dark neighborhood in the oldest part of the city, young Americans snuck quietly into an Iraqi home.  A suspected bomb maker was snatched unceremoniously from his bed and dragged into the night to face justice.  One bastard down.  "Joy shared is Joy multiplied."

Joy can be dangerous.  The Iraqis joy at their victory in the soccer game against Cameroon being an notable example.  Our staff spends a fair amount of time watching the Olympic Games.  Within seconds of the games ending, the steady clatter of AK-47 fire filled the night.  We emptied out of the command post to view the night sky, climbing on the protective bunkers for a better view of the cityscape.  Red and green tracers arched through the night, three four, seven rounds at a time.  Like a string of Disney fairies they rise in a graceful arch, slowing to their zenith, accelerating on the downward trip. Winking out before completing their decent.  Flares occasionally accent the display, bright man-made stars hanging in the air. Some claim to see the sparkling trail of an RPG round.  All are mesmerized in the childlike fascination a fireworks display inevitably creates in adults.  Until we are jarred back into the reality that unlike fireworks, real munitions continue in their deadly arc until they reach the ground. The metallic pings of bullets striking our containers sends us scattering to the bunkers like cockroaches when the refrigerator light comes on.  Luckily, no soldiers are injured; we have no way of knowing if the general populace is as fortunate.  All agree that beer is a much better way to celebrate a sporting event.  Sadly we have none, and the Iraqis have yet to find the joys of a more civilized world.

All of this against the backdrop of America's political fascination with Kerry's war record.  I don't know what the extent of his wounds were, or what his actions were that merited the bronze and silver star.  Nor do I really care, they have no relationship to his ability to lead a nation.  I do know that he parleyed them into an opportunity to escape further service and avoid his responsibilities as a military leader.   I also know that every day I work with kids made of much more heroic stuff.  There are several soldiers in my unit with multiple purple hearts. None have asked to go home.  In fact most are embarrassed to receive the award for what they consider minor scrapes.  Many more hide superficial injuries, embarrassed to go home and face fathers or uncles or brothers who received "real wounds" in other wars.  Some, the unlucky ones that are evacuated back to Germany or the States often fight to recover and return.  One of our First Sergeants, unable to consider leaving his boys until our time is served is back after three months of convalescence.  Some understand duty...others do not.

The week has provided much to contemplate.  I am certain of one thing.  I am glad the fighting is being done here, in this city, in this part of the world.  The thought of a stray rocket crashing into Alexandria's school yard, or a car bomb exploding as Mary returns from work is more than I can stomach.  Many of the details of what we are up to remain classified for obvious reasons.  Rest assured that every day Iraqis, tired of the violence, come forward with information that leads us to another vipers den.

Hope this finds you all well.  The boys of 1-14CAV are doing great.

For a good source of news about the Stryker Brigade, check out : < >




Jerry :

Thanks for the response this AM. Sorry Stinger didn't work - it tends to be about 80% effective in my experience when one has to cobble together a response to an infected machine. Scant solace to the other 20%, I know.

I managed to get free from work and look at your comments from today, and all I can say, is welcome to hotels and WiFi. It's the latest flavour, touted widely as "free internet" on the hotel's banners, and works roughly as well as you'd expect for a relatively delicate technology run by people getting minimum wage plus a dollar or two.

Most hotels don't have dedicated IT personnel, but either outsource it and/or saddle some youngish employee with the responsibility of managing the system. The evenings, when the hotel system will get the highest use, are when that putative employee or outsource contractor is as available as a cup of good-tasting hotel coffee, and, quite appropriately, are when the hotel system usually clogs up or crashes.

And on top of that, unlike hotels with Ethernet connections (which require a switch set capable of one input per room for the number of rooms in the hotel), a hotel with lowest-cost-bid-installation WiFi loads up far too quickly, leading to crashes in the hotel system (for which they have no one available to maintain adequately).

When you couple this with crashes in the cable modem (most hotels are using cable systems because it fits in with their television cable service for customers), or where the cable system hits a throughput limit, then throttles back or sets off a "cool down period" for exceeding bandwidth, well, boy howdy, you the hotel customer are SOL (Simply-Out-of-Luck). The users in the hotel just fall out from the Internet like bricks from a hod dropped aloft, and look out below.

I hit this about every other week in my travel. The poor clerk at the front desk gets absolutely _walloped_ by all the business travellers when the "fast internet" goes down, with the stereotypical deer-in-the-headlights sort of look, and hotel management just blows it all off. Until...

... someone like me gets to the hotel chain customer service system and yells blue murder. When you stay in hotel a typical fifteen to twenty days every single damn' month, predominately with specifically one of the chains, you can get their attention pretty effectively. Several e-mails and a call will concentrate the attention of the chain's CSS boys 'n girls, and it directly impacts the customer satisfaction index which determines management bonuses in a given hotel.

Suddenly, all of this becomes a big local management issue. For about two days... They won't switch to a dedicated T1 sort of system because the cable system (_not_ designed for _this_ load) is cheaper, they _love_ the idea that there are no wires attached for the network, and best of all, the customer who complained has probably moved on to another "station" in the hotel chain.

Ain't travel grand ?



The often-seen poor performance in a WiFi subnet, especially the connect-but-no-connectivity, is I believe mostly due to the bottleneck in the subnet NAT. Not just the limited channel capability to the access points. The subnet router also has a limited number of IP translation slots for connections between LAN and WAN.

Especially cheaper units seem to have tables for on the order of only hundreds of slots, which are quickly eaten up if a few tens of users consume a few tens of connections each. It's hard to get hard figures on the table size for consumer-grade routers.

Once the IP-translation table maxes out in the NAT router, you get exactly the symptoms you report: no access to anything upstream when the browser connection can't get a slot assigned for the public IP.

Eventually, of course, unused slots time out and are returned to the pool. This gives limited access for a time until the table again becomes full. Frustrating short-period yo-yo....

A "busy" web page (frames plus images) can easily consume ten or so concurrent connections in the same browser. A single user who decides to run a p2p program can lock out everyone else in minutes.

WiFi deployers always underestimate usage requirements....

You commented: > Disconnecting and reconnecting gets similar experiences. A couple of tries before I can get an IP address, but then no way to log on and thus nothing I can do with that address. I can't actually go out and view web pages or get email.


Thanks. Instructive.









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