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Mail 327 September 13 - 19, 2004






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Monday  September 13, 2004

This is the one that got me wondering about the Benet nightmare poem:

Subject: Article: Self-sustaining killer robot creates a stink,

Oh oh. We're in trouble now. Next they'll come for us . . .


Suppose they get the taste? See Benet's Nightmare #5...



your thoughts on the following would be appreciated; it was inspired by James Tarantino's "Best of the Web" Thursday and other recent commentary on how the Libertarian party has lapsed into single-issue pro-drug advocacy and a conspiracy theory mindset:

What would the Middle East have been like today if the US had maintained a "non-interventionalist" foreign policy following WWII? What if the US had stayed out of the war in Europe and has pursued only Japan after Pearl Harbor? What if, instead of a coherent (if imperfect) US foreign policy following the discovery of oil in the Shiekdoms, we had had only corporate interests unrestrained even by US law fighting it out for the oil rights (think Ken Lay's Enron multiplied by ten or so)? What if Britain had gone ahead with the founding of Israel in 1948 without US support? I'm not sure anything but good luck (OK, favorable unanticipated random factors) would have made things better in the Middle East, but I can see lots of ways thing would be even worse today, both for the Arab on the street and for American policy there.

Jim Woosley

Well those are all different questions, aren't they? I have never been an "isolationist"; I am willing to commit US power overseas where our vital interests are at stake. I disagreed with my old friends George Lundberg and Harry Elmer Barnes on the US in WWII, for that matter.  But our perpetual war for perpetual peace was pretty costly.

If the US had pursued energy independence and spent anything like the money we have spent on wars to preserve the Middle East on developing hemispheric energy resources including nuclear fission and space solar power, would we not be better off?

We could be exporting energy from space to anyplace on the ground that wanted to put up a receiver array and pay for it. Why should the Arabs get all that money?


Dr Pournelle,

I haven't seen the following article on your site: 

In a nutshell, this proves that Earth's climate was much warmer than today at various dinosaur-infested periods, such as year 55 million BC. Then, of course, the Flintstones started selling SUVs to gullible T-Rexes and the climate became much colder, which explains why global warming is the fault of the insensitive Western consumer.

Seriously, since we have proof that Earth's climate was able to go through such swings without human intervention, why should we blame humans for the current evolution of the climate, if any?

(name withheld}

The global warming by human action question was settled long before. There were farms in Greenland which was green up to about 1300. The Earth was warmer then. Brackish canals froze hard enough to skate on in Holland in Queen Elisabeth's time, and Col. Hamilton brought cannon across the frozen Hudson in 1776. The Earth was colder then. These are historic times. If people won't be convinced by history, why should they be convinced by some stuff about the times of the dinosaurs? There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Subject: Credentials and schools

A few years ago I spent a some time in the employ of a local community college. The vice-president over my department was a pretty sharp fellow, but no rocket scientist. His goal had been to enter into the university system and one day take the helm of a major university. Since he was the head of the schools technology department, I assumed his degree was in some way computer related. One day I had the chance to talk to him on the subject and it turns out his degree was in philosophy. I asked him why he chose that field and he was rather honest: He wanted to work in the upper levels of universities and that required a doctorate. This was the easiest doctorate for him to earn. And this qualified him to select what computer systems would be purchased by the school!

--- Al Lipscomb.








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Tuesday,  September 14, 2003

Subject: Re: US Military Typewriters

Hi Jerry,

It would be interesting to see how much difference there is between the Roman ball that a 1970s IBM typewriter has and Times Roman.

The reason that people use serifed fonts is that they are more readable than non-serifed fonts in a newspaper. The Roman ball isn't the one that normally would be installed in the typewriter. Military Forms were all setup to work with the character spacing and line spacing that the Univers ball had. If the clerk registered the form properly, every part of it ended up having the typing in the center of the box.

The interesting thing about this whole thing is that nobody really needed to create false documents. There never was any doubt that Bush avoided service in Vietnam. It would seem that the same people that created these false documents created a false impression of shared service for the Democratic Convention. It wasn't enough for them that their candidate had earned medals. They had to have people on stage that would say they had been there, even if they hadn't. I think Kerry's people have done him in.

I predict the vote will be very low, the gun vote will get out, the religious right will get out, joe couch potato won't get out and Bush will narrowly win.

A great many people have better things to do than vote for either of these men.

Stephen Walker

The interesting part to me is that there's still this frantic effort to show that somehow these forged memos are genuine. The level of effort it would have taken to produce them using exotic equipment is ridiculously high: why would anyone bother back then? If someone wanted to write a memo for the record because he wanted to nail Bush 30 years later, he wouldn't find an exotic machine to write them on, then lose all trace of having access to the machine. They're fakes.

As to Bush and the Guard, he joined. They assigned him to air defense planes. Had he got a different kind of airplane he'd have headed for Viet Nam. Once flight school was over politics was more fun than hanging around air bases, and he worked his ticket. Pretty straightforward.

If I had a clue as to what the Democrats would get us into I might sit this one out, but I watched for the whole time after Kennedy as the Jackson wing of the party vanished and I don't think the current Democrat leadership believes there's any threat at all.

I have never cared for the country club wing of the Republican Party, nor do I now. Neither party has a program of dismantling the Great Society and getting our troops back to defending our country. On the other hand, the Republicans seem to be taking me seriously about Prizes and X Programs and a Strategy of Technology.


RE: Stuff

Dr. Pournelle, First, a comment on your 'View' article on the Marines in Fallujah, Hallelujah. Once battle has been joined, leave it to the warriors. In many cases, also leave to them whether a battle should be fought. Did we not see a lot of this political interference with the military during the Viet Nam war? Did we not learn from the consequences there? It would appear not. Next, I sent you the URL to a Wired article on China and pebble bed reactors. I was wondering if you have perused it. I had not noticed that someone had sent you something similar on South Africa. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this. I have seen what you said about building reactors from the remains of decommissioned missiles. I repeat, Hallelujah. I believe you are correct in the steps we need to take. The first one being energy independence. Space based solar for electricity, inexpensive electricity at that. Hydrogen for propulsion. I believe th at after the facilities are constructed hydrogen would be almost as cheap as the space based solar electricity. Use a portion of the electricity generated in space to power electrolysis plants. I know how easy it is. Tank of water, positive in one end, negative in the other. Collect the hydrogen as it bubbles out on the negative end of the pool. Thinking about it, we wouldn't even need the space based power to start the hydrogen program. Having lived in Southern Nevada for thirteen too long years I know of a good place for solar collectors. It's called Southern Nevada. There is an abundance of unused land. Use some that is conveniently located next to a river. (I believe the Colorado flows somewhere in the area.) Put up a couple acres of solar-electric panels. Pump the electricity into vats of water drawn off the river. Oila! Almost free hydrogen. Then, hire a trained monkey to, once a year or so, empty each vat and clean the electrodes. Just my thoughts on a couple of the issues that I see on your page regularly. I'll comment on space travel and going to the moon again when I have done a little more reading and actually know enough to form an opinion. As for now, I think I am fairly safe agreeing with you.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam, Douglas Knapp

I hadn't time to reformat. Please double space between paragraphs.. I will try to find the Chinese Pebble Letter but it is probably lost in the mists of time.

Nuclear fuel is free for a while: we don't need all those warheads.

And here is the reference. Thanks

Subject: Outlook sync software 


Your column stated, a while back, that you wanted a solution to sync your Outlook across multiple stations. I just ran across this, and thought it sounded good.

Hope it works for you!


Alas I found the web site confusing and I wasn't able to find how to get this program, but then I was in a hurry. I'll try again another time. Thanks


Subject: CoDominium consolidation continues . . . .

----- Roland Dobbins

It does look that way...

Time Magazine, 4.9.30 Who Left the Door Open?

Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy--and on the rise. Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America. TIME looks at the damage, the dangers and the reasons the U.S. fails to protect itself

by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, With reporting by Laura Karmatz and research by Joan Levinstein

The next time you pass through an airport and have to produce a photo ID to establish who you are and then must remove your shoes, take off your belt, empty your pockets, prove your laptop is not an explosive device and send your briefcase or purse through a machine to determine whether it holds weapons, think about this: In a single day, more than 4,000 illegal aliens will walk across the busiest unlawful gateway into the U.S., the 375-mile border between Arizona and Mexico. No searches for weapons. No shoe removal. No photo-ID checks. Before long, many will obtain phony identification papers, including bogus Social Security numbers, to conceal their true identities and mask their unlawful presence.

The influx is so great, the invaders seemingly trip over one another as they walk through the old copper-mining town turned artist colony of Bisbee (pop. 6,000), five miles from the border. Having eluded the U.S. border patrol, they arrive in small groups of three or four, larger contingents of more than a dozen and sometimes packs of a hundred. Worried citizens who spot them keep the Bisbee police officers and Cochise County sheriff's deputies busy tracking down all the trespassing aliens. At night as many as 100 will take over a vacant house. Some crowd into motel rooms, even storage-compartment rental units. During the day, they congregate on school playgrounds, roam through backyards and pass in and out of apartment buildings. Some assemble at the Burger King, waiting for their assigned drivers to appear. Sometimes stolen cars are waiting for them, keys on the floor. But most continue walking to designated pickup points beyond Bisbee, where they will ride in thousands of stolen vehicles, often with the seats ripped out to accommodate more human cargo, on the next leg of their journey to big cities and small towns from California to North Carolina. <snip>


Dr. Pournelle,

It seems I was the first to ask Mr. Frank Abagnale Jr., of "Catch Me If You Can" fame, what he thought of the CBS memos. He answered, and I got it posted on Little Green Footballs (at ). The resulting storm on my little home webserver has been MOST interesting!

The short version of his answer (via his information officer):

If my forgeries looked as bad as the CBS documents, it would have been "Catch Me In Two Days".

Full details at my site: That link should be ">?id=231  ."

You should know that several folks spoke very well of you on LGF, so I bet you saw some unusual traffic, too.

Robin K. Juhl, Capt., USAF (retired)

Interesting. I fear I don't have as much time to go surfing about as I would like, but fortunately I have a lot of readers who send me things which I have to read so that is one reason I haven't so much time...

Actually the only thing I saw about me on Little Green Footballs was a statement that I am an avowed Leftist, which may be pleasing to the egregious Frum but isn't entirely accurate...

Title: Where do we go to impeach CBS?

Alas, you're missing the point on CBS's typewritergate. As long as they don't _admit_ they are guilty, they can never bear the public stigma of guilt.

Television has become the judicial branch of the mob rule that is direct Democracy. They alone are judge and prosecutor in the Court of Public Opinion through shows such as _60 Minutes_. They alone can brand others guilty before the masses. If they simply refuse to do so to themselves before the Great Unwashed, no other court so empowered.

Furthermore, television has effectively replaced history. What is not continually rehashed, fades into obscurity, lost in the daily blizzard of new information bytes. Orwell spoke of the worst propaganda being not lies, but the suppression of parts of the truth. In journalism, suppressing the truth is not considered lying.

Also in journalism, giving free, unopposed air time to a an liar is not considered lying. Favored lies are simply rebroadcast over and over as "newsmaker interviews." But its never considered lying in journalist land. I saw so much of this during the media's recent tantrum over the "Assault Weapon Ban" law sunsetting that I had to keep the tv completely off the last two days.

"Journalism is a job with no prerequisite, no responsibility and no accountability." - Jeff Cooper

Do you like contrasts? Hair dressers in my state have a standard code of professional ethics, must show evidence of correct schooling and pass a standardized test to practice. They can be decertified for misconduct, by a board which governs their profession.

Where do we go to impeach CBS?


CAIRO, Egypt - Muslims worldwide are the main perpetrators of terrorism, a humiliating and painful truth that must be acknowledged, a prominent Arab writer and television executive wrote Saturday as Middle East media and officials registered their horror at the bloody rebel siege of a Russian school.



Unusually forthright self-criticism followed the end of the hostage crisis, along with warnings such actions inflict more damage to the image of Islam than all its enemies combined could hope. Arab leaders and Muslim clerics denounced the school seizure as unjustifiable and expressed their sympathy.

Perhaps there is hope yet...









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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

And we open with a scare:

Paid informants:

As you are nod doubt aware, one of the more despotic practices of the late republican and early imperial eras of Roman history was the paying of informants some portion of the wealth of anybody they turned in. This led to all sorts of false accusations as people realized how much easier it was to use the powers of the state to steal from their neighbors.

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal today, [,,SB109468731380913084,00.html?mod=todays_us_opinion   ] (subscription required) this is exactly what Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is proposing for the IRS. The senator is proposing that people who turn in tax cheats be allowed to keep some portion of the taxes the government subsequently collects.

“Alas, giving Americans a financial interest in turning the IRS loose on their fellow citizens is precisely the thrust of a measure that Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has included in the Senate version of a corporate tax bill. The idea is to encourage people to inform on tax cheats by giving them a hunk of whatever the IRS ends up collecting. It's all modeled on a 1986 amendment to the False Claims Act, which Mr. Grassley also introduced and which allows people to win a percentage of any money they reveal was stolen from the government in fraud cases (other than tax).”

Just another nudge down the slope from republic to empire.

Another dolphin-safe email from the desk of ~

Kerk Phillips

"I knew my estate in Tuscany would be my death," said one Senator being led off to execution on accusation of maiestas.


Subj: Jim Dunnigan on Building an Iraqi Army that can fight

=American trainers of the 36th battalion had to teach the officers and NCOs new methods of managing their troops. This was not impossible, just time consuming. Iraqis have been moving to the United States for decades, and adapting to the different customs they encountered. Same thing with the hundreds of Iraqis who have been in the American armed forces. But in Iraq, the change was time consuming. There was trial and error in deciding who to accept, who to keep and what training and leadership methods would work best. Training the new Iraqi armed forces has been one big experiment. Knowing that, since the nations creation, the military had been more a source of tyranny, rather than protection from enemy’s, there has been a search for ways to build a different kind of army. The idea was to create an armed forces that was both effective, and willing to always obey the elected leadership of the country. Iraqis have been trained to fight effectively, but whether they will be loyal to their government is not yet known.=


All well said. The question is, is this a proper use of American money and military power? If so, why should not the entire world have the benefit of our expertise? After all, we know how to govern, we Romans, and others should benefit from our knowledge as we protect the weak and make humble the proud. Look at our work in Afghanistan where we will introduce political correctness and diversity by putting 200 Tajik police in a citadel of other tribes and races?

subject: the United States trying to force religious freedom

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The article at  tells how the United states is going to threaten the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about their lack of religious freedom. In the first place, we have no business telling anyone how they must worship, least of all a sovereign nation. Secondly, the United States is a very poor example, especially since the Mount Carmel incident in 1993 and recent court decisions forbidding religious practices in public.


William L. Jones

To protect the weak and make humble the proud.

Diem learned that it is dangerous to become an ally of the United States; Kennedy's Harvard advisors decided that Viet Nam wasn't a real democracy and Diem had to go. And then came chaos, when no one in Viet Nam could name their president. Diem, in case you have forgotten, was the man who sent the puppet Emperor Bai Dai into exile and brought about independence from France. But that was not enough for the Brothers Kennedy. JFK was persuaded that we could run Viet Nam better than the local politicians, and thus we had this succession of clowns we raised up and pulled down until the Army of the People's Republic of Viet Nam put paid to our intervention.

It's not "you break it, you own it." It's "you break it, it's broken."


Dr. Pournelle,

There are formatting errors on Tuesday's entry that you wouldn't notice if you're using MS IE (I'm using FireFox). There are no paragraph close tags </p> in that entry and so you have to scroll far, far over to the right to read the post. The lack of the close tags prevents the text from wrapping as it should (and I imagine as you intended) in modern browsers.

e.g. <p align="left">&nbsp; The bleating about the documents continues, but it sounds more and more like Alger Hiss defense: someone COULD have faked the pumpkin papers. Ignore everything else and cling to the possibility. Only this time it's not even possible. Ah, well.<p align="left">

I notice from the <meta> tags that you used Frontpage 6.0 to create the page. Are you still using this software to create pages? Could you please talk about the creation process on your journal. I know your main job is writing but as you have said, "I do this stupid stuff so you don't have to", so is there any possibility we might see a change in website authoring tools and possibly a redesign of the site? An excellent book to consult before embarking on such a oddessy is Jeffery Zeldman's "Designing with Web Standards" (

Cheers, Kelly

------------------------------------------------- This mail sent through IMP:

I presume the problem was the long, long URL for the Benet poem. Previous editions of FrontPage left such long lines intact and thus it was obvious that I needed to break them up. The version does auto-wrap on long URL's. The remedy is judicious use of SHIFT-RETURN which drops a line but not a paragraph. I think I have fixed it now.

I may discuss other web programs but this one is Good Enough, so far, and gets better with each edition. It makes it easy to handle mail like yours, quickly; unlike most "blogs" I don't allow others to post directly here, which slows things down but does wonders for the readability not only of the mail I post, but that which I GET, since people usually don't bother to send me long rants and silly essays. I see other sites publish stuff that most of my readers would be ashamed to send me...


And now for all you amateur astronomers:

Subject: Amateurs detecting extra-solar planets


Using the light curve change as a planet transits a star, the change can be observed by amateurs! This has been reported with 4" telescopes; this web page goes into much detail about results with a 10" scope. This is amazing. Detect planets with the scope in your backyard. This may be a whole new area for amateur astronomers since they have far more hours times eyeballs time than the professionals. 

see also 

Admittedly, these things are in the "hot Jupiter" class, but I think we are soon going to find hundreds of new planets around other stars. Note the amazing quality of the light curve measurement by Hubble; this implies the method can be pushed to much smaller objects.

Chuck Bouldin

Me, I got spoiled: I got to look through Lowell's big refractor on Mars Hill when I was on the board of the Observatory, and Wow! does Mars look good. I could see the canals...

Actually I admire those with the patience to do astronomical observation. It is a quality I lack.


And here is an item that may come as a surprise to many:

Subject: NASA Transfers X-37 to Unidentified U.S. Agency


 NASA Transfers X-37 to Unidentified U.S. Agency By Brian Berger Space News Staff Writer posted: 14 September 2004 02:21 pm ET

WASHINGTON - NASA has transferred its X-37 technology demonstration program to an unidentified U.S. government agency that plans to go ahead with atmospheric drop tests of the prototype space plane next year.

NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said Sept. 13 the U.S. space agency would remain involved in the X-37 program, but would no longer run the show. The lead, he said, has been given to a government agency that for now NASA is not permitted to name.

"The government entity is classified," Braukus said. "We will be able to acknowledge who that partner is when they give us permission." Braukus said he expected to receive that permission soon.

News that lead responsibility for the X-37 program was changing hands was first reported by the Desert News, a newspaper covering Mojave, Calif., and surrounding areas. The newspaper also reported that the X-37 would be carried aloft for next year's drop tests by the White Knight, the Scaled Composites-built aircraft that carried SpaceShipOne aloft in June for its historic manned suborbital space shot, the first in a privately funded effort.

Braukus said Scaled Composites would be involved in the X-37 approach and landing demonstrations next year, but could not say whether the Mojave-based company would be using the White Knight or some other aircraft. The B-52 aircraft that NASA normally uses for such drop tests would not be used, a decision made by the agency now in charge of the X-37 program, he said.

"The cost analysis favored Scaled Composites," Braukus said.

Scaled Composites spokeswoman Kay LeFebvre would not confirm the company's involvement in the planned dropped tests and referred questions about the White Knight's role in the X-37 program to American Mojave Aerospace Ventures. That company, a Paul Allen and Burt Rutan partnership that owns SpaceShipOne and its carrier aircraft, recently announced that it would make its first official try for the $10 million Ansari X-Prize Sept. 29.

A telephone call placed to Jeff Johnson at American Mojave Aerospace Ventures was not immediately returned.

NASA's involvement in the X-37 dates back to 1998, when the project was selected as the first of a planned series of flight demonstrators dubbed Future X. At the time, NASA agreed to share the X-37's projected $173 million cost with Boeing and the U.S. Air Force. After the Air Force announced in 2001 that it would stop funding the project, NASA told Boeing that the company would have to submit a new proposal for the X-37 to be eligible for additional funding.

After persistent prodding from U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), NASA in 2002 awarded Boeing a $301 million contract for two X-37 vehicles instead of one. One of those vehicles would conduct a series of drop tests within the atmosphere, paving the way for the flight of the orbit and re-entry vehicle in 2006.

But NASA directed Boeing in late 2003 to throttle back on development of the orbit and re-entry vehicle and has since directed Boeing to stop work on that part of the program altogether. X-37 was dealt a further setback earlier this year when a NASA review concluded that the program was not a good fit with the agency's new space exploration agenda.

Braukus saidan orbital X-37 flight remains on hold but the atmospheric tests are back on track now that NASA has a new partner willing to take the lead on the program. Braukus said NASA has spent $325 million on the program to date.

Boeing spokesman Ed Meme said Sept. 13 that the X-37 program is no longer managed by Boeing NASA Systems and is now under the purview of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. Eric Warren, a spokesman for Boeing's El Segundo, Calif.-based operations, could not immediately identify the government agency now in charge of X-37.

We have long noted that real X programs have no mission requirements, and more than one tail number.


As a follow up to an earlier e-mail, it looks like teh X-37 has been taken up by DARPA. I'm not really surprised, but I thought you might like the link to the story. 


===== "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov "



And from an old friend I see too seldom:

Dear Jerry,

I noticed your item on the CBS forgieries didn't have a link. Have you seen the forgery analysis (by an old time font programmer) at: 

I was checking you out because I know you were one of the first who used computer printing and might have something to say. My own instant impression upon downloading the CBS 60 Minute "memos" was that they MUST be forgeries. I remember well the equipment we all used to make manuscripts in those days. I can't believe that an NG office in Texas would have a publisher's linotype facility and trained operators to produce mere memos for a Colonel in the early '70s! They had a hard enough time just getting their hands on airplanes!

An interesting time. When they phased out the use of F102s in Vietnam a lot of experienced F102 pilots returned stateside and could "bump" young newbies like Bush (who had only about 600hrs flight-time on F102s) The senior pilots needed the flight-time to keep their status (and pensions) intact which would explain why Bush had to go back to trainers and eventually decided on a different career line. Most people don't know the history of the F102 which was designed as a continental defense against Russian bombers. As a ground support aircraft it was a misfit.

Warmly, Donald Kingsbury

My problem was that these were so obviously fakes -- indeed I do recall just how hard we had to work to do anything like proportional spacing in those days, and of course the Selectric Composer required you to type each line twice unless you were driving it with a magnetic card controlled Selectric (I am astonished that someone at CBS hasn't dragged THAT into the soup!). No one would go to that effort to produce private memos, and everyone but Dan Rather and those blinded by hatred of Bush know this.

Bush isn't anything like the man I'd have chosen to be President, and I am none too fond of many of his advisors, but when I look at the people around Kerry I could almost have warm feelings for the egregious Frum.


Subject: Junk Science

I am a Chemist and do research at a major university. Anyone who is worried about what is in the air they breath and the water they drink should take a look at what the national standards are. If you can "taste" the water or "smell" the air, it has "contaminates" in it. Most water sources have some "local" taste.

When you can ignite the water coming out of your tap with an open flame, that is when you have to worry. If you are at the end of a multi state irrigation water system you will have to worry about heavy metal salt build up. If you are in a river system that is a waste dump for an industry or a city you would have to worry. You may want to check the pH of your water if you feel that you are affected by acid rain.

I think that people who worry about "rocket" pollution should start worrying about "star dust" pollution. There is a lot more star dust falling in our rivers and streams than there is "rocket dust". Someone should write an article about the star dust problem. We have too many real problems with pollution to start without dreaming up red herrings to add to the list. Just my $.02 (and that from an over educated old fat man). End of rant!

Scott Woehler

Shhh! The EPA may be listening...


Whenever I arrive at an airport somewhere on a trip from somewhere else (e.g., at least once a week), I ask my cab driver what country he is from. (The answer is never, "The United States".) (Very occasionally the driver is an American, in which case the driver is always a "she" and black.) A very common answer is "Nigeria", in which case I take a guess at whether the (always male) driver is an Ibo or Yoruba (never a Hausa). My guesses are right much more than 50%, but I cannot tell you why. (When I guess right, I always tell the surprised driver because the <tribe> "are the smart, handsome ones.") This last time (last Sunday), I guessed correctly that my driver was a Yoruba.

The drivers, whether Ibo or Yoruba, are uniformly courteous and friendly, and are astonished that an American who has never been to Nigeria has any knowledge of Nigeria's tribes. The drivers are all Christians, are all married to a fellow Nigerian, and always have at least 1 child, but never more than 2. They all agree that the "Muslims are trouble" and that the Hausa are thieves. All consider the religious ideal "tolerance" of different religions rather than Christianity displacing all others (even those (quite a few) who have a Bible in the cab with them). Specifics of my last conversation:

- Muslims are "prickly"--one cannot get along with them. They are trouble for everyone, everywhere because they have to impose their beliefs on everyone.

- The genius of America seems to be "governance"--a system where rivalries are channeled into economic efforts in the private sector rather than political efforts to seize wealth through the power of the state. (These are his concepts rendered into my words.)

- Afro-American women want to dominate their men, while the proper role of women is "submissive".

- Afro-American men are irresponsible. He cited a conversation he overheard that morning at the local Laundromat (which meant he was doing his family's laundry!) between two native Afro-American males. Their two topics were their new cars (one had just gotten one of the new Chrysler 300 C "Hemi" sedans (think my Audi S8 at 1/2 the price)) and how far behind they were on their child support payments (the Chrysler owner mentioned the figure $6,500). My driver was dismayed by the values typified by this conversation, not just not supporting one's children, but investing in an expensive car rather than something that might appreciate like a house.

- He had no hope at all that Nigeria would ever become a real nation.

I am never able to elicit an "abstract" or "philosophical" conversation from these men. They speak in concrete terms only. But they speak very plainly with no overlay of political correctness.

I am always left wondering how the children of such men fare in our society in subsequent generations. They seem to start out with great family values, but ours is a society that is terribly cruel to the children of the working classes unless they can make the leap into the professional classes in a single generation.




Dr. Pournelle:

Microsoft released two patches today. One is for a buffer overrun when viewing JPEG images (common on many web pages). A 'specially-crafted" JPEG will allow the attacker to control your computer (install programs, run commands, etc). The signed-on user would have to be "administrator" equivalent for the attack to succeed. Most single-user computers are set up as administrator-equivalent.

A Windows XP/SP2 system is not vulnerable to the jpeg buffer overrun. But since jpegs can be used in MS-Office applications, there are also some updates that should be applied if you have Office installed. You can go to the Windows Update site to get Office Updates. (The easiest way is via Windows Update on your Start, Programs menu, then look for "Office Updates").

There is a second patch for a similar problem with the WordPerfect 5.x conversion part of MS-Office. Not as critical as the first.

Safe computing practices will prevent the above problems: get XP SP2 installed, set up automatic updates, do Office updates, firewalls, anti-virus, etc. Both patches (and the Office Update) are recommended.

(Cue the responses from the "my Linux OS is safer than your Windows OS" crowd. Although there are almost daily updates to various Linux OS and software.)

Regards, Rick Hellewell



New Microsoft Patch

Morning Jerry,

There's a new series of patches released by Microsoft yesterday, and in a new twist, both the OS and applications are affected by one vulnerability. While XP SP2 is safe, the applications running on it may not be.,1759,1645829,00.asp 

Most of your readers have likely turned on automatic updates for Windows, but there's no equivalent feature for Office, Works, and the rest of their suite. On windows update, after installing the scanning tool, there's a link to a knowledgebase article with a detailed list of what's impacted, and what action to take.

I can't judge the likelihood of an exploit being developed, but if one is, it has the potential for widespread damage. Users should read the articles as background, and patch their systems as a precaution.

Virtual PC 7 for the Mac is looking better and better.

Best regards,


Doug Lhotka doug[@]lhotka[.]com

"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager

I think these explain themselves.



Subject: Context is all

Dr. Pournelle,

I read this on your site

"Tonga has sent 45 Royal Marines, which is roughly equivalent to 13000 Canadians or 23000 Frenchmen..."

and I thought, hmm, yes, that sounds about right.

Then I noticed that this came afterwards:

" terms of percentage of national population. "

O, fie: not what I thought you meant, at all :-)

Best regards,

Andrew Duffin

Heh. Heh. We Normans have a slightly different view of such matters of course. When an English fanatic braced me once and said "I hate the French. When I see a Frenchman I say Waterloo! What have you to say to that?"

To which I could only reply "Hastings."


Subject: virtual desktops

Dr. Pournelle,

I just read your column regarding the mac virtual desktops, and I found it amusing to recall that my very first linux installation on a 16 mhz 386 with 6 meg ram (4 of it on 2 ISA expansion cards), a generic cirrus logic video card, and dual 20 meg SCSI hard drives installed and set up 6 virtual x-windows desktops and 7 virtual consoles by default. Switching between the consoles was as simple as hitting F1-F7, and the virtual desktops could be switched either by mousing past the screen boundary or choosing one from a little grid placed at the bottom right corner of the screen. It worked just like any high-end unix workstation and that was back in the 1993-1994 timeframe. An upgrade to a 40ish mhz cyrix 386 equivalent, 400 meg hard drive, and 8 meg ram made that system extremely smooth compared to similiar tasks using windows 3.11. I used slackware, a free x-server, and fvwm (feeble virtual windows manager), and with a bit of reading it was reasonably easy to set up and predictable to use.

But my point was that virtual consoles and windows were "mainstream" and offered by default on linux PCs at least as far back as 1994, and it's sad that apple doesn't include and enable this by default since it's almost trivial to set up on any free linux or BSD system. Requiring aftermarket software to get virtual windows on an OSX mac is like buying a car and having to go to a special shop to get more than one gear in your transmission.

Sean Long

Alas. But it's for the rest of us, you see...



Dr. Pournelle:

(from The Register): "Mozilla released a series of security updates for its Firefox and Mozilla 1.7 browsers yesterday that resolve the first security vulnerabilities to come from the Mozilla Foundation's Security Bug Bounty Program. Its Thunderbird email client also needs patching for similar reasons.

"The total of 10 vulns discovered are described by security firm Secunia as "highly critical" - and with good reason. Attack scenarios opened up by the flaws include cross-site scripting attacks, access or modification of sensitive information and (in the worst case) the complete compromise of a user's system. Not good. Users are advised to upgrade to Mozilla 1.7.3, Firefox 1.0PR and Thunderbird 0.8 from earlier versions to protect themselves against attack."

Info about the vulnerabilities is here  . The full story in The Register is here  .

Nobody is exempt from security problems.

Regards -- Rick Hellewell


A bunch of short shrift items from the last couple of weeks.


Subject: Times New Roman articles

Hi Dr. Pournelle -

Times New Roman has been around since the 1930s. The Times of London used it.

However, this is irrelevant. We're not talking typeset or font design here, but typewriter fonts. I don't think you'll be able to find anyone out there who can show that Times New Roman, as used by Microsoft, was available as a typewriter font. Remember, it's a True Type font, which means that it used patented glyphing and ligature generation techniques that Microsoft licenses from Apple. That is what makes the idea of a typewriter font matching these qualities frankly incredible, as the patents were granted in 1989, not 1973.

This is where the I have to bow out to authority: Joseph M. Newcomer, PH.D. 

I think the link pretty much tells it all.

Add to that this:  (scroll down to comment #3)

Comment #3 is from Paul Snively, a software engineer who used to work for Apple. He points out that when looking at the ligatures and glyphs for Times New Roman, as used by Microsoft, there are some patents involved regarding the way that the ligatures and glyphs are generated. This means that if there were typewriter fonts available, the patents held by Apple would have prior art and probably be therefore void. Knowing IBM, it is unlikely that IBM would have failed to patent generating ligatures in this manner.

While I know that you're probably being inundated with e-mail on this matter, the two source above seem to me to really be about the most authoritative around.

Best regards,

John F. Opie

No need to break a butterfly on the wheel. It's clear those were fakes. Now where did CBS get them?


Subject: Follow-Up on English Problems

See the following stories: <
children/story/0,1074,1303181,00.html  > Problems of English adolescents <
children/story/0,1074,1303215,00.html  > Commentary < 0,3605,1302998,00.html> Blair's understanding of economics... -- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior.


Subject: Paul Samuelson

I believe the present writer is the same Samuelson you're referring to, as the summary at the link below refers to him as being 89 years old. 

Mark Skousen tracks the transitions in Samuelson's thinking as reflected in his introductory Econ textbook in a fascinating article:

Steve Setzer


Dr. Pournelle:

I read you for years when Byte was print magazine, but lost track of you in the ether. Within the last few months you have reappeared in my vision since you started appearing in Dr. Dobbs. It's wonderful to have you back.

Your installation of Xandros got me to write. I am a programmer working for New York City. At work we use a Windows based network with most databases residing on large Sun computers ( E 10 K or E15 K). For several years, at home, my LAN has been linux based. Until last year, my wife and sons all used windows 98 (or 2000) machines. I received an email from Microsoft about critical updates needed on Debbie's machine. I used the Windows Update facility, and was left with a non bootable machine. I faced three choices: I could re-install the operating system for the fourth time, (Microsoft had previously done something and each time I re-installed the software), purchase a new copy of XP, since my licensed copy of 2000 was on another machine, or move Debbie to Linux. I purchased a copy of Xandros 2.0 and Debbie has not had any problems with it. There have been no crashes, and no need to re-install software.

I am curious about your decision to instantly try to use Windows software on the computer. Why not try to use Linux alternatives to your current software? You might find the current software works quite well. I believe you mentioned you were having trouble with Framework 2000. I believe you need the latest version of cross over office to make it work. The version originally bundled with Xandros is version 2.5 while Framework 2000 requires 3.

Be well and take care.

Alan Polinsky

Well, I have the Microsoft Office software and it works quite well. But I am told that the latest Open Office is also neat and I am doing things with that now.


Jerry: The raging opinions back and forth about the true purpose of public education has not touched a raw nerve of mine that has been making me uncomfortable for about 25 years --- somewhere in the late 1970's my kids suddenly were swept into a warehouse-like environment whose main purpose was to keep them busy and off the streets for 6-8 hours a day. Education was found to be too hard a task for the poorly paid public servants. I also got the impression that the school advisors were uncomfortable around actively engaged parents.

Allan Smalley


Well -- yes.


Back Home, Safe, and Enlightened by Austin Bay <> September 8, 2004

Last week, when my wife and youngest daughter asked if they could greet me at the arrival gate ("My husband's a soldier returning from Iraq," Kathy said), one airport security officer and an airline counter clerk conspired to let them. My daughter didn't even have a photo ID, a by-the-book requirement to pass airport screening. I suspect the clerk and security officer are pros at reading people, and the delight in Christiana's eyes positively identified her as a teenager relieved of long-term, sobering worry.

Sapped by jetlag, I ambled off the airplane, right into my ladies' smiling faces. The family hug lasted a decade or so. In case anyone wonders, colonels do cry (at least this colonel did) -- one tear down the left cheek. "You're home and safe, Dad," my daughter said.

Safety at home is the core raison d'etre for this war, and safety at home, on a planet linked by jumbo jets and instant communications, means fundamentally changing the failed states and despotic hellholes that export their religious, civil, tribal and gang wars as terrorism.

Sept. 11 shook, but failed to shatter, a premise shared by many Western elites that "the talking cure" of diplomacy and our demonstrated good intentions will inevitably bring a negotiated harmony. The tut-tutting media celebs who urge Russia's Vladimir Putin to negotiate with the beasts who killed more than 300 children, parents and teachers in Beslan simply fail to see our enemies for what they are.

To paraphrase Churchill, "jaw jaw" surely beats "war war," but our enemies think talk signals a flagging will to resist.

Globally we confront two enemies, and I have seen both of them in Iraq.

Despots and autocrats are the first enemy. The despot, with an arrogance that comes from never being held responsible for his crimes, believes his iron resolve eventually will trump the spineless advocates of democracy. Despots -- like the Saddamist holdouts fighting in Iraq -- believe all they need to do is keep killing until everyone is cowed. Why not? It's worked for them before. The arrogance only ends when a Green Beret -- or, with increasing frequency, an Iraqi cop -- blows his head off in a raid.

The despots are, in their own way, at war with modernity. Successful modern political systems liberate human creativity. A freed imagination ultimately demands a greater say in governance -- which means the end of the tyrant.

The second enemy we face feeds off the unfortunate victims of the first. The second enemy is the Islamist religious extremist. I have many Muslim friends, and they are the first targets of the bin Ladens and Zarqawis. Is this enemy a "death cult"? Not really -- note that the top dogs aren't suicidal. This enemy is an aggressive, imperialistic, violent sect that, in one guise or another, has plagued Islam for centuries.

This Islamist enemy is also at war with modernity. These radicals seek "imperial restoration." Recall bin Laden complained of "80 years of Muslim indignation and suffering," the result of Turkish reformer Kemal Ataturk's 1924 decision to end the caliphate. History, going wrong for Islamist expansionists since at least the 16th century, went totally tilt when the caliphate dissolved.

The 21st century Islamist radicals, however, really aim for global domination, with themselves as the sole interpreters and enforcers of what they deem God's laws.

If there is one mistake I think we've made in fighting this war, it's been the way we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions. This really is a fight for the future, between our free, open political system and the unholy alliance of despots and Islamo-fascists whose very existence depends on denying liberty.

Iraq -- long plundered by despotism -- should be a wealthy country. It has water, an agricultural base, a source of capital (oil) and people willing to work. It is the best place to begin to reform the dysfunctional political systems that shackle and rob the vast the majority of Middle Easterners. The lesson of 9-11, three years on, is that liberty must sustain a focused offensive if it is to survive.

That's an enormous undertaking, and I've seen firsthand in Iraq just how complex and costly a task it is. Strategically, however, we must do it to protect our free and open society, and to provide our families with the security they dearly deserve


Subject: US Plans Portable Nuclear Power Plants

Dear Jerry, 

"A nuclear reactor that can meet the energy needs of developing countries without the risk that they will use the by-products to make weapons is being developed by the US Department of Energy."

"The DoE hopes to have a prototype by 2015."

DoE's schedule combined with other broad 'American' economic trends appear to dovetail perfectly. A 'developing country' (i.e. USA) prototypes its own Developing Country nuclear reactor. Probably your own state will be a very substantial customer come 2018, Si Senor?

More news here <> on nuclear power for OTA (Other Than America) countries. The Chinese are taking up and developing an idea aborted in the late 1940s by the U.S. Military Industrial complex.

I still want to bring the army home, defend our borders, and develop the new weapons of the Technological War. The key to the War on Terror is energy: if we don't need to buy the oil the Middle East becomes the backwater its culture would have made it long ago except for petroleum.


One question. Since both wings of the pro-war Patriotic American Unity Party (Party members henceforth called PAUPers) actively oppose all parts of that mighty fine agenda, what do steps do you suggest to implement it? Seccession? Coup 'd tat? Another Third Party. The anti-Imperialist Third World America Party perhaps?


I have more influence in the Republican Party than the other one, and it's likely to win. Despair is a sin. And one pushes where things give.

2015 is a ways down the line. It can be done a lot sooner.

Subject: Pebble bed reactors, British imperialism, etc.

Oddly enough, I had just been going over thorium pebble bed reactor stuff through wikipedia and such when you posted about pebble bed reactors. Apparently there was some US Navy political infighting on which way to go, and one admiral had his own pet project using a thorium breeder pebble bed reactor with light water coolant. Light water works for that with the better behaviour of thorium for breeding. When the admiral died so did that line of research.

But it's not dead in the wider world. India is still working in the area, at least partly since India has better thorium supplies than uranium. (In passing, so much for free trade arguments when it comes to strategic priorities.) And the Russians are working on salting the fuel with ordinary uranium to make it harder to get weapons grade fuel back.

When it comes to Britain, you were mistaken in saying that British conservatives were happier with imperialism than those in the USA. What actually happened was, they were happier with keeping the empire once it was there. Here in Melbourne there is a Boer War memorial with the words "for the empire that is our strength and common heritage", which expresses it well. But the empire builders were far more from the other side of politics, the Liberals (the word means something different in the USA, Britain and Australia). They were people like Joe Chamberlain, who were very much not conservatives any more than Churchill was at crucial moments. The conservatives had actually favoured not growing the empire, and after all there hadn't ever been a deliberate policy to acquire one, just the logic of empire forcing us into picking up the pieces and into heading off the French (who WERE consciously imperialist, but built a lot of resistance).

In fact there was a recent Spectator article ( pointing out how Lord Milner, the imperialist ideologue, was a forerunner of today's US neoconservatives in many ways. Later work on the subject came from people like the Beit Professors of Imperial History at Oxford, people like Sir Lionel Curtis and Sir Reginald Coupland, but by then it was more about preserving and passing the torch than about creating - and then the destroyers took over (that includes US diplomacy). Destruction isn't the same as not doing it in the first place, so conservatives weren't in favour of that.

On English universities, the comments you have heard about them don't reflect the variety within England either. Until the mid nineteenth century there were only two, Cambridge and the other place. It's only the newer lot created since the late nineteenth century that fully fit the bureaucratised description you were given. Cambridge, Oxford, and the few that came in the middle of the nineteenth century are descending more slowly - they even fall under separate legislation to the others, although it's all gradually being consolidated to put all the eggs in one basket.

Finally, I've seen you're interested in browsers. What do you think of Arachne, the DOS browser I'm trying out here? It may one day have a Linux variant.

Yours, P.M.Lawrence.


I.e., a Goods and Services Tax (or almost any other broad based production tax), with a Negative Payroll Tax, promotes employment.

See and the other items on that page for some reasons why.


Subject: Priceless.

Sit down. Make certain that all chairlegs are solidly on the floor.

Put down any beverages you may be holding


Do NOT view this site until AFTER you have done the above.

Then go read 

You may have seen this already.

--John R. Strohm








CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Letter from Holland:

Subject: Market Garden 60 years


Something to keep in mind. In the Netherlands this week many vetrans (over 80 years of age) gather for the 60th anniversary of the Market Garden operations. This will be probably the last time with them around. It is good to remember what happened 60 years ago for freedom. For my children it the first time they understand what it meant and what the price of freedom is.

On the other hand, Beslan and Iraq..............

Somehow I think there will never be a anniversary of the freeing of Iraq.......times are changing.

For us Europeans the whole circus of the American elections is unbelievable. So much money down the drain and so much mud. Do they ever think about the rest of the world? It would be good for them to listen to the stories of the veterans. Many of them wrote letters to the children of the Netherlands about what freedom mend for them. It touches you in the heart.





Some links

Market Garden Veterans Association <>

A Dutch paper ask 900 veterans to write about the war. 557 responded. On this page you can find there letters to the children of the Netherlands. Also (in Dutch) what the children wrote to the veterans. 



Thank you. When I was a Boeing I had a partner who had been a Major in Market Garden. The scene I remember best in the movie about Market Garden was the Polish general walking up to look at Boy's uniform. "I just wanted to make sure which side you were on..."

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy and that one was just a bit too complex for their capabilities. It was magnificent, and it was war: if it had worked it would have shortened the war by a lot.


Subject: Syrian chem wpns test 

Tarantino's Best of the Web for today

The Road to Damascus < > "Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people," Agence France-Presse reports:


Linking through to the original article 

Syria tested chemical arms on civilians in Darfur region: press

Wednesday September 15, 3:55 AM

Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.

The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims.




Dr Pournelle,


“Nobody is exempt from security problems.”

It has to be said:

... except Mac and Linux users, by and large.

One does wonder why anyone except a masochist would choose Windows.

Jim Mangles

Well, UNIX is the guru-friendly wizard full employment act. Linux tries to change that, and may succeed, but may not.

The problem with the Mac is that it comes from Apple, which has ruthlessly exploited its loyalists in the past and may easily do so again; I will not deal with my local Apple Store again after the last experience I had with them. Dan Spisak does nearly everything with his Mac and loves it. So does Roland. But they also understand the underlying UNIX, which they can go to if they get into trouble.

Peter Glaskowsky's observation that with Mac everything is either very easy or it is impossible is no longer quite true, provided that you are a UNIX wizard, but it is true enough for the rest of us; and while there are some very good programs and games for the Mac, and for Linux, neither has the full sweep available to Windows.

I could change to either, particularly if I thought there would be a general movement to do software development for them, but Apple hasn't been very good at encouraging developers or consistent in its treatment of them. Linux has the merits and benefits but also the profit disadvantages of Open Source.

The simple answer to your question is that Windows tends to be good enough, and it's not that hard to keep it up to date.


Subject: BBC: German radio starts Klingon service


"The German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) is celebrating 10 years of its online service by adding a new language to the 30 it already publishes - Klingon. "

SF is everywhere.


Thanks. I needed to hear that...


Subject: The omnicompetent state.

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Rebooting.

--- Roland Dobbins


And then we have:

Dr. Pournelle,

The following appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday. I've flown from Dulles several times recently and have actually been impressed with how smooth getting through security has been there, but I suppose that's a different thing than having security be useful.

I'm also the one who suggested the nasal lavage thing to you a while back. I'm glad it's working for you. I feel like I'm turning into a preacher as much as I talk it up to people, but it has made such a difference in my day-to-day health, and it took so many years of doctors and allergists before one said to me "You know, you might give this a try...."

-Les Elkins

"NEVER use a maj7 chord in any bar that is named after a deceased NASCAR driver, a large-calibre firearm, or an intoxicated farm animal." -Rev. Billy C. Wirtz's Universal Chord Law 

This Airport Security Doesn't Fly

Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page B08

I am a security screener at Dulles International Airport.

When I started my job with the Transportation Security Administration in November 2002, I and the other just-hired employees of the newly federalized airport security force believed we would be doing something important in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Now, some of us aren't so sure.

Although management likes to refer to the screeners as "Team Dulles," in reality many of us believe we are working in a dysfunctional environment. We've come to question the value of what we do. A running joke at the checkpoints in the main terminal at Dulles is, "Guns, bombs and common sense are prohibited by the TSA in the airport."

TSA policies at Dulles often seem to do little more than improve the appearance of security. For example, the agency allows foot-long knitting needles and bottles of wine and liquor to be carried aboard planes, but not scissors for clipping fingernails or nose hair. A broken bourbon bottle can be a lethal weapon. How does a pair of tiny scissors become deadly?

The TSA requires all laptop computers to be removed from their cases and X-rayed separately, but its policy is to allow DVD players and other electronic devices to remain inside suitcases to be X-rayed. Why are laptops categorized as suspect while other electronic devices are not? It wasn't a laptop bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

TSA' s shoe policy also has bounced back and forth between silly extremes. As screeners like to say, "At TSA, consistently we're inconsistent."

In my early days as a passenger screener, for example, we were forbidden to mention the word "shoe" to the flying public.

Now we are to tell passengers that removing their shoes before they walk through the metal detectors is "recommended." We can't tell them to remove their shoes, however. We also can't tell them that if they don't remove their shoes -- even if they are wearing rubber flip-flops -- they will be subject to "continued screening," which means being screened individually with a handheld metal detector.

In fairness to the TSA, the airlines operating out of Dulles share some responsibility for long lines and missed flights. For instance, the airlines continue to use outdated criteria -- such as buying one-way tickets or paying in cash -- to single out passengers for more time-consuming screening. But, surely, terrorists know these practices bring about extra screening, so the only people being screened -- and delayed -- are regular travelers caught in the airlines' obsolete "selection" criteria.

Once these passengers become "selectees," TSA policy requires that screeners inconvenience them further by searching their carry-on luggage even though the bags already have been cleared by the X-ray operators.

Such policies aggravate already frustrated passengers and don't make our skies any safer. They are about as useful as screeners being told to be "extra vigilant" when the threat level is raised. Does that mean that when it is lowered, we can relax?

I have seen six-inch muskets, bought in Williamsburg as souvenirs for children, confiscated because they were replicas of firearms.

I have seen a gavel nearly taken from a circuit judge because it fit the physical description of a hammer.

These examples of overreaction by screeners have been fostered by the TSA's aversion to common sense.

I have voiced my concerns to my superiors. I have written my senators and my congressman. I have even written to the Government Accountability Office. To date, I have received replies from one senator and one member of Congress -- nearly identical letters saying that my concerns will be reviewed by "the appropriate division within TSA." Uh-huh.

Is the TSA doing any good?

Its supporters would say that no jets have been hijacked and turned into missiles since Sept. 11, 2001. For that we all are thankful. But is that because of the TSA or because the day of the box-cutter has passed, with terrorists moving on to other nefarious plots?

The House recently backed a bill to authorize $5.7 billion for the TSA next year, $2 billion of which will be for airline passenger screening. Significantly less -- $1.4 billion -- has been allocated for baggage screening. How wise is this? My experiences as a TSA employee relate to only one airport. Dulles, though, is regarded as a flagship airport, and I suspect that my experiences are mirrored at other airports across the country.

I don't know the answers to the big questions. But what I have seen at Dulles is mismanagement, plunging morale and constantly changing policies and procedures.

Someone with governmental oversight authority needs to take a closer look at the goings-on at the TSA. The security pageant we now put on at Dulles may be more of a charade than anyone wants to admit.

-- Scott Wallace

But we were born free.


Subject: San Diego on the verge of insolvency?

---- Roland Dobbins


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I just finished reading "The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of its Greatest Inventors" by John Gribbin. Being somewhat of a history nut and liking science, it seemed a natural when I saw it in the new book section of my local library. I couldn't put it down. It is over 600 pages with few pictures and is a gripping story. The author starts at the beginnings of the Renaissance and charts the major sciences through to the present showing how very real people (with all their warts and blemishes) went about describing the world; and how each advance in knowledge led inexorably to the next. He rejects the idea that there were 'revolutionary' scientific discoveries, showing instead that when an idea's time comes, several people develop it, frequently simultaneously. He does not hide the mistakes or misdirections that people are prone to; instead showing how the concept of science overcomes these in the long run.

Mr. (Dr.?) Gribbin writes with an enthusiasm rare in either history or science writing. In my opinion, this book is on par with Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" but while Hawking lost me at the last chapter the first time through, Gribbin left me looking for more of the same. I wish there had been a book like this as required reading (or a text book) when I was in high school.


Patrick A. Hoage

I used to read Gribbin regularly but he bit hard on the "planetary alignment means doom" "Jupiter Effect" thing some years ago and dropped out of sight for a while. I recall he writes well, but I don't recall much else about his views. Thanks.


Subj: The Thomas P Barnett Show

From what little I'd read about Barnett's recent book, _The Pentagon's New Map_, I thought this guy was Just Another Pompous Academic, mixing a few insights with large helpings of ego.

Nope. He's quite a showman too. Caught some of this on C-SPAN:  C-SPAN Store -- The Pentagon's New Map

His ideas are interesting, though I don't agree with all of them -- interesting enough that I'm going to get the book. One insight I found particularly valuable: both advocates for and critics of "military transformation" focus on acquisition questions -- what to buy? But the real key to making transformation work (or not) is the structure of the incentives on the path to flag rank, and noone hardly ever pays any attention at all to that.

But his *showmanship*, particularly his use of sound effects to punctuate visuals during his briefing, is also worth studying. OK, maybe it's Powerpoint, but it's *entertaining* Powerpoint, not just thought-deadening panels of bullet-points.








CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  September 17, 2004

Subject: Baghdad Burning

Dear Jerry:

Found this link this morning on Yahoo. Very interesting view from inside the Iraqi mind.


Which leads us to:

There are any number of Iraqi bloggers of late. I would presume that they are mostly middle/upper class. They all report crime as a much greater threat than political violence. None seem afraid of suicide bombers, which makes sense given that they are niether MNF nor IP.

Ordinary Iraqis see it the same way. CPA polls showed that crime was the "security" problem Iraqis were most concerned about. The Iraqi bloggers aren't shy about blaming much of the crime problem on the "thugs" who support Muqtada al Sadr. There is definitely a class issue associated with Sadr in the Shia community. I haven't seen any statements about who ordinary Iraqis blame for crime. Of course, they all blame the US for letting lawlessness get out of hand. Rightfully so, I might add.

Aside from obvious errors in disbanding the police force (I think) and attempting to build a new one from scratch (too idealistic), the US has tried to "liberalize" Iraq. Not a bad idea, per se. However, not very realistic under the circumstances. We both know a lady (who will remain firmly anonymous) who said "that she would tear up the Constitution in an instant faced with Iraqi lawlessness". Under that same circumstances, how many Americans would disagree?


Franklin had something to say on that score, but it is the case that many prefer safety to liberty; and Iraq is part of the original home of Empire, a place where Cyrus the Great came as a liberator. As I have said elsewhere, Cyrus boasted of the rule of law and of people who obeyed, that widows were safe and merchants could travel the breadth of his empire; the kings of Assyria boasted of peoples they had killed, cities they had burnt with fire, and the weeping and lamentation that came in his wake.

But we have the TSA:

Subject: More TSA follies - you won't believe this one

Greetings, sir. I thought I'd pass along this cautionary tale to the reading public. 

Teacher Arrested After Bookmark Called Concealed Weapon POSTED: 10:17 am EDT September 17, 2004 TAMPA, Fla. -- A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

Feeling safer already, as you say.


Tim Elliott

I understand that professional boxers must travel in handcuffs since their hands are lethal weapons.

Subject: More for the Crazy Years file

I don't make this stuff up, you know. Read to the bottom: they "probably" won't impose a fine. I guess that means them getting down on bended knee, apologizing, and firing the moron who busted the woman for possession of a bookmark isn't the done deal it damn well ought to be. 

Concealed weapon at airport turns out to be bookmark

Associated Press September 17, 2004 BOOKMARK0918 TAMPA, Fla. -- A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Florida, airport found her bookmark. It's an eight-and-a-half-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She faced a possible criminal trial and a ten-thousand-dollar fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration says it probably won't impose a fine

Joel Rosenberg

Just wonderful



Subj: The nanocomputers are coming: IBMers flip spin of single atom 



Subject: New Dishwasher


Beware of Ukrainians bearing gifts. I just recently had my kitchen remodeled and the new very fancy and expensive Kitchenaid dishwasher does not work as well as my old one. I had a number of Matag (who own Kitchenaid) come out to the house and I was told that I will just have to live with it. My kitchen is some distance from my hot water heater and it takes some time for the water to start running hot. My old dishwasher would hold the cold water and heat it until a thermostat would indicate that the water was hot enough. Under new federal energy saving standards, the new dishwasher will only try to heat the water for a short period of time and then try to wash the dishes in cold water. I can fix the washing problem by running water at the kitchen sink until the water gets hot. The problem now is drying. If I don’t remember to run the water in the kitchen sink prior to the rinse cycle the rinse water is cold and this does not allow the dishes to dry properly. I hope your experience is better than mine.

Mike Plaster

Yes, the new one works, but the older one with the water heating capability was better. I love it when the Federal Government comes up with ways to make us waste energy and time in the name of saving. Running the water until it gets hot will surely fix the problem, won't it?

But the EPA people have to work. If their political masters don't win they don't eat. Guess what one of the most powerful lobbies of all would be? Of course Civil Service was invented to prevent that kind of spoils system. Now the Civil Service gets the spoils and the political winners get what they deserve and they get it good and hard just like the rest of us.

We have problems we can't fix and problems we won't fix.


I wonder if TSA will screen them before they fly over the US?


-----Original Message----- From: U.S.Department of State Fact Sheets [mailto:DOSFACTS@LISTS.STATE.GOV] On Behalf Of statelists@STATE.GOV Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2004 4:32 PM To: DOSFACTS@LISTS.STATE.GOV Subject: Open Skies Treaty: Second Russian Observation Mission in the United States

Fact Sheet Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC September 16, 2004

Open Skies Treaty: Second Russian Observation Mission in the United States

During the week of September 20, 2004, the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus will conduct their second Open Skies Treaty observation mission over the territory of the United States. The Open Skies Treaty entered into force on January 1, 2002. Since entry into force, this is the second observation mission the U.S. is hosting under the Treaty. To date, the U.S. has conducted thirteen observation missions over the territories of the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus. In June, Russia and Belarus conducted the first of their two observation missions over the U.S. this year.

* The Russian TU-154 is an unarmed aircraft that was recently certified in accordance with Treaty provisions. It will arrive at Dulles International Airport (a designated point of entry into the U.S.), and the mission will commence from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.

* A U.S. escort team from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) will accompany the Russian team throughout the mission, including on-board the aircraft during the observation flight.

* The Russian aircraft is equipped with optical cameras. The U.S. will receive a copy of the imagery collected during the mission. Other Open Skies States Parties may also purchase copies of the imagery from Russia. <snip>

I recall Eisenhower's Open Skies proposal, and Teller's Open Space and Peace symposium at Hoover where I presented a technical paper. A long time ago.

We sent $880 MILLION dollars to Russia this year.

-----Original Message-----

From: U.S.Department of State Fact Sheets [mailto:DOSFACTS@LISTS.STATE.GOV] On Behalf Of statelists@STATE.GOV

Sent: Wednesday, September 15, 2004 1:18 PM


Subject: U.S. Assistance to Russia Fiscal Year 2004

Fact Sheet

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

Washington, DC

September 15, 2004

U.S. Assistance to Russia Fiscal Year 2004

The $880.38 million budgeted by all U.S. Government agencies for FY04

assistance programs in Russia is allocated roughly as follows:


| Democracy Programs | $45.43 million |


| Economic & Social Reform | $51.43 million |


| Security & Law Enforcement | $772.14 million |


| Humanitarian Assistance | $5.60 million |


| Cross Sectoral Initiatives | $5.79 million |


Democracy Programs. U.S. assistance continues to face a number of challenges given Russia's inconsistent transition toward a democratic system. Although Russia made progress in some areas, key concerns included the Russian Government asserting influence over independent media and manipulating the electoral process; continuing violence, human rights abuses and political pressure in Chechnya; politically motivated criminal prosecutions; and the Kremlin's increasing control over local and regional governments. To address these problems, U.S. assistance programs focus on supporting civil society, independent media, local government reform, the rule of law, and increasing voter participation. In particular, democratic assistance helps strengthen NGOs and improve voter education, election monitoring, and training for young people and political leaders. U.S. Government (USG) programs also provide training for journalists, work to establish better partnerships between Russian and American legal officials, and help local governments to function more openly and responsively. U.S. technical assistance programs helped Russia make significant strides, including the beginnings of an independent judiciary, hundreds of successful local, regional and national elections; several thousand local and regional television and radio stations; and tens of thousands of civic, business, philanthropic and advocacy associations.

Economic and Social Reform. USG assistance programs support the small-to-medium-sized enterprise sector by training entrepreneurs and supporting non-bank credit institutions to respond to the need for credit to expand businesses and create jobs. Other programs help the Russian banking system transform itself into an effective intermediary of funds. Currently, the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) enterprise funds, which have turned handsome profits in recent years, are helping Russian companies grow. USAID's assistance programs also help Russia address its serious problems in health and child welfare by supporting improvements in primary healthcare, particularly for women and infants. One clear sign of success is the reversal in Russia's infant mortality rate, which had been increasing over the past fifteen years. USG programs are also addressing the serious family support issues that cause child abandonment. Moreover, USG activities are targeting a reduction in HIV/AIDS infection rate in Russia, which is among the most rapidly growing in the world, through educational and research collaborative efforts. The medical communities in the U.S. and Russia are working together to develop improved treatment and care for Russians living with AIDS.

Security and Law Enforcement Programs. USG programs in Russia that consolidate, secure, or destroy and dismantle weapons of mass destruction account for the lion's share of USG assistance to Russia in 2004. The Department of Defense's Cooperative Threat Reduction program assists Russia with the destruction of missiles and related equipment systems, as well as the construction of a facility for the safe destruction of chemical weapons. To improve interoperability with coalition or NATO forces and demonstrate how a military functions in a democracy, the International Military Education and Training Program provides English language instruction, professional military education, and military legal and peacekeeping training for Russian military and civilian officials of the Ministry of Defense. The Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance program assists foreign governments in stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related technologies.

The Departments of State and Energy administer complementary programs to counteract the threat of WMDs. Department of Energy activities, $398 million in FY04, assist in the safeguarding and disposal of nuclear material, engagement of former weapons scientists in viable research endeavors, and the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. Department of State programs help redirect the activities of former weapons scientists toward peaceful research endeavors. Today, these redirection programs are developing models to bring these scientists into self-sustaining enterprises, to focus their energies on significant health issues, and to work more closely integrating former BW/CW [biological weapons/chemical weapons] entities.

The Anti-Crime Training and Technical Assistance program supports diverse activities, including: implementation of the July 2002 Criminal Procedure Code and the August 2004 Law on Witness Protection; adoption of modern investigative techniques in the fight against narcotics, trafficking in persons, smuggling, money laundering, terrorist finance, and child pornography; the development of U.S.-Russian legal cooperation under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty; adoption of community-based policing in the Sakhalin region of the Russian Far East; the protection of intellectual property rights; and support of research into crime and corruption in Russia.

Humanitarian Assistance. USG funding is provided to U.S.-based private volunteer organizations that distribute humanitarian assistance to the most needy regions of Russia. Since 1992, this program has facilitated the delivery of nearly $670 million in humanitarian commodities to Russia at a cost of $68 million. The total value of the humanitarian commodities provided to Russia in FY04 is estimated to be in excess of $6 million. This program will conclude at the end of FY04.

The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) provided $15.2 million in FY04 to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North Caucasus. These funds include $225,000 from EUR/ACE to support life-sustaining assistance programs for IDPs. Since 1999, PRM and EUR/ACE have provided over $100 million for relief assistance in the North Caucasus.

Cross-Sectoral Initiatives. USG programs concerning management of natural resources combine sound business and ecological techniques to help Russia decide how to manage its Siberian forests, which holds more than 20% of the world's standing timber. USG assistance helps independent Russian research and policy institutions produce scholarly articles and advice for policy makers that are specifically adapted to Russia. USG implementers are also helping bring civil society, local government, media and business together to combat corruption across Russia.

The State Department operates an umbrella program called the "Regional Initiative" (RI), designed to promote cross-cutting development in selected areas of the country outside of the major population centers. Current areas of focus are the Volga Federal District, the Tomsk/Novosibirsk area of Siberia, and the Russian Far East. The RI helps coordinate assistance activities in these regions, provides information to local residents about programs active in the area, and encourages greater participation of regional governments in ongoing programs.

Additionally, exchange programs are a vital component of our assistance programs in all areas. In FY03, approximately 5,000 Russians came to the United States on USG-funded exchange and professional training programs. Since 1993, over 58,000 Russians have come to the United States on these programs.

Many agencies of the United States Government implement assistance programs, including the United States Agency for International Development, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, Treasury and State, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.



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Makes you feel humble and just a little proud..




Subject: A new game

Dr. Pournelle,

I saw your mention of the game "Nemesis of the Roman Empire" and thought you might be interested in another ancient warfare game called "Spartan" . The period is early Greece up to the time of Alexander and features large unit strategy and combat and is turn based. It includes historical scenarios. 

I know you don't have a lot of spare time but this one might be worth it.

Btw, I still dust off Empire on long winter evenings and your naval scenario is one of my favorites. It's replayability is amazing, (or maybe I'm just easily entertained). Older games that require a little imagination seem to last.

Thanks for what you do.

Ron Booker

I would love an updated EMPIRE with the naval scenario Monty and I devised. As you say, many of the new games are prettier but just aren't as much fun.


More thoughts on Iraq from another conference:

If the occupation authorities had moved vigorously to lock up real criminals then that also would have reduced political violence as well. Thugs will try to make money any way they can. If, say, an Iranian agent wants to pay them to blow up something or assassinating someone some of the thugs will do those things as well.

But at this point what should the United States do about the result of all those mistakes? Just unilaterally pull out? Try to round up lots of criminals? Let the military loose to shoot their way into all "no-go" zones? Set up a partition to prevent a civil war and then withdraw? What exactly?

Or is there some way we could spend our way to a better result by paying groups to keep peace in each area? How to choose such groups? How to judge contract performance?


The first thing to do is understand what we WANT. What we want is for them to stop killing Americans. Since we send a lot of money and food into Iraq, the simple thing is to tell them that any province in which there is violence against Americans will lose its food for a week. We need to set the thresholds realistically since starvation and anarchy are in the interests of some of our enemies.

But the goal is to get the populace to understand that it is in their interest that the thugs and rebels be suppressed.


I think the key question is what the Iraqis want us to do. I don't really mean ordinary Iraqis. They are not organized enough and vocal to really tell. I do mean the significant political figures that have real power and influence on the ground. The list would include Ibrahim al-Jaafari (Dawa), Abdul al-Aziz al-Hakim (SCIRI), Iyad Allawi (INA), Barzani (KDP), Jalal Talabani (PUK), and of course Sistani. Note that spellings differ by source (the correct spellings are in Arabic) and I have probably missed a few people (Ajil al-Yawar, Adnan Muzahim al-Pachachi). The omissions of al Sadr and Chalabi are deliberate. I rule out Chalabi because I don't think he has any real standing among Iraqis.

I don't think the US can talk to al Sadr in any reasonable way (other than to offer to let him take over Iraq) and I don't think the other real powers want him involved. Nor can we really talk to Muslim Clerics Association (same reason).

The list above includes leaders who plausibly represent at least 80% of the people of Iraq. Not just nominally, but measured in terms of actual allegiance. This point is very clear in the Kurdish zone and less clear among the Shias. However, the Shia leaders in question are no slouches. The (INA, SCIRI, and Dawa) fought Saddam bitterly for decades and paid a horrible price for it. To call them the Nelson Mandelas of Iraq is serious understatement.

I really don't know if they want the US to clear our Fallujah or not. They may want to try further negotiations first. They may want to wait until the ING can do (more of) the heavy lifting. The upside is that an ING victory in the Sunni triangle would greatly enhance the prestige and real power of the Iraqi government. The downside is that an all-out battle between the Kurds and Shias versus the Sunnis would constitute a de facto civil war. For that reason alone, they might prefer the US to handle the fighting.

The bottom line is that we need to led the leaders of Iraq decide. If they choose an American withdrawal, so be it. If they want the US to maintain a semblance of order until after the elections, that is OK (with me) as well. If they choose all-out war, fine. However, in any case, they must make the decision and then publicly take responsibility for it. No more calling for the US to restore order and then backing down when the going gets bloody.

If you read Walter Lacquer's article carefully, he made it clear that the war against terror can not be fought using the traditional rules of war, other than in marginal cases (Bader Meinhoff). The Iraqi insurgency can not be defeated (by anybody including the US) when the enemy violates every rule of war while waging acts of terror and claims the protection of law once caught. A recent article in Slate ( rather gently hinted at the same point.

As for ordinary crime, we need to let the Iraqis handle it as they see fit. That means not griping when they start executing criminals with less than 10 years of appeals.

Thank you



Subject: Lurianic Cabbalism and 43's "They Hate Us For Who We Are -- Not What We Do" GWOT Talking Points -- Re-Write! Can We Get Re-Write?

Interestingly, even "Esther" (aka Madonna) will always remain Satanic. No matter how many stadiums she sells out.

David Colton


Subject: From ONI's Worldwide threat to shipping,

BANGLADESH: Passengers on the launch (SONARTORI-1), attacked by river pirates 11 Sep at Postogola, turned on their attackers beating one to death and injuring another while their five accomplices escaped. Seven robbers boarded the launch bound from Chandpur to Dhaka and were looting the passenger at knife point. Local police intervened to save the injured thief (INFO).










This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Subject: TSA Job, anyone?

Makes one want to apply for an airport screener position!


 Lionel Richie's daughter Nicole's choice of intimate body piercing left her highly embarrassed recently, when she had to show her breasts to airport security. The aspiring singer, who stars in hit reality show "The Simple Life" alongside her best pal Paris Hilton, was traveling from Reno, Nev., to New York City when her nipple piercing triggered off metal detectors at a security checkpoint.

She recalls, "(When the alarm went off), I said, 'I'm pierced,' and that usually is the end of it. And she said, 'Well, what are you gonna do about it?' I said, 'Well, you can either scan it or ... I don't know what to tell you.' "She said, 'Well, visually, I can't say that that is OK. Even if I look at it I can't say it's OK. I'm not even allowed to touch it.' I'm like, 'What if I say you can touch it? It should be fine.' She's like, 'No, I'm not allowed to do that.' "So they brought in two female officers and took me not to necessarily the most private place in the airport and made me take off my top.

Thank God I'm not a shy person, but what if I was shy? "You know what, you guys are letting lighters on the plane and stuff like that, but I can't have a nipple ring? What am I gonna do -- poke someone in the eye with it?"

Ron Prudhomme

No Comment


Subject: Pyrates


In recognition of "Talk Like a Pirate Day," I'm re-reading "The Pyrates" by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series.

Sample dialog from Chapter the Third:

Lady Vanity, looking down in disdain from the poop-ladder, was heard to remark: "Fie! what a disgusting creature!" and Sheba, sprawled on the deck like Cat Woman, glared up at her with diabolic venom. "You should pray, my lady," said she in a sand-papered hiss, "that you never find out how disgusting I can be!" "How now, baggage o' midnight -- wilt bandy, ha?" Captain Yardley dragged her to her feet. "An' wi' lady o' rank, look'ee, aye, an' prime quality, as far above 'ee as truck be above keelson!" He frowned, considering -- yes, the truck *was* above the keelson, he was pretty sure. He thrust her roughly towards the hatchway. "Stint thy hoydenish clack or we'll ha' thee in the branks -- you there, down wi' her an' clap her in bilboes, wi' a wannion!"

Great stuff, rack, rend, and scupper me for a sea slug, else!

Steve Erbach Neenah, WI


Dr Pournelle,

Mobiles in aircraft edge closer 

I know some people on the fourth hijacked plane on 9/11—the one that crashed in Pennsylvania—used their mobile phones, but if it became normal and legal to do so, the ability to get messages, including silent text messages, to and from passengers would make the chances of a successful hijack that much less likely. At the limit, even if nothing else were possible, it would be easier for the air force to know which aircraft to intercept, threaten to shoot down, and if all else fails, actually shoot down.

Jim Mangles

Apparently I can't get this across: so long as hijackers can't get into the cockpit, and the pilots are told not to let them in no matter what they are doing out there, and the passengers understand that they are not only free to pound the pirates into the deck and sit on their throats, but encouraged to do to, airplanes don't NEED to be shot down by the air force.

There are problems we can't solve, problems we won't solve, and problems we pretend to solve because we have created a bureaucracy who job is to be sure the problem will not go away.

But it's pretty easy to keep airplanes being converted into cruise missiles by people who don't know how to build cruise missiles.

Subj: VLAD the Impaler  

INFANTRY: VLAD the Impaler

September 18, 2004: The U.S. Army and Marines have successfully used VLAD (Vehicle Lightweight Arresting Device) to stop civilian vehicles that ignore warnings to halt when approaching a checkpoint or roadblock. VLAD is a nylon net, with tungsten spikes attached, that is spread out in areas troops do not want vehicles to drive. ...



Subject: A French (Educational) Revolution?

Dr Pournelle,

A French (Educational) Revolution?

Not everything that happens in France is bad! The following story in today’s London Times is a heartening read for any of us who seek a return to education that works,,175-1268101,00.html 

[QUOTE] Village teacher dines out on a return to sums and grammar by Charles Bremner

A school's rebellion against progressive methods is attracting national notoriety

IN A sunlit Brittany schoolroom Marc Le Bris had just finished steering his class of ten-year-olds through their times tables when his telephone rang.

Hanging up, he said with disbelief: “That was the Presidency of the Republic. They want me to come for lunch on Wednesday.”

The entourage of Jacques Chirac is the latest member of the growing fan club of M Le Bris, 50, a former Trotskyite who is leading a crusade from the little village of Medreac against the teaching methods of modern France.

Criticised by his unions and punished by his own ministry for unorthodox methods, the village headmaster has become famous by touching a raw nerve with an angry book, And your Children will not Know how to Read and Count: The Obstinate Bankruptcy of French Schooling.

After three decades of progressive methods, France is facing a “veritable disaster”, turning out a lost generation of semi-literate, culturally ignorant youngsters, he writes.

His plea for a return to the old rituals of la dictée, rote learning and arithmetic has helped fuel a mood of nostalgia in France, which worries as much as Britain about collapsing standards. One in ten school-leavers cannot read adequately, although 80 per cent now pass the Baccalauréat, the sixth-form leaving examination.

Naturally, the guardians of the educational temple see M Le Bris as a reactionary playing to prejudice. The yearning for what his detractors call a “mythical golden age” is reflected in the success of two films: Être et Avoir (To Be and To Have), a documentary on a devoted schoolmaster, and Les Choristes, the French hope for next year’s Oscars, about a teacher who tames difficult pupils with song. [END QUOTE. MORE...]


If you have the opportunity, do try to see Être et Avoir. It is the story of a year in the life of a small village school and its teacher in what the French call la France profonde (deep France; the heart of France). Être et Avoir was shown on BBC TV here in Britain last year (in French with English subtitles) and is as exceptionally moving and inspiring a story of elementary education as you could ever hope for. Don’t miss it!

It is available from

And from

(Both in DVD format)

Jim Mangles

Education and training in skills are two different things, but before education can begin there are some skills needed. The addition and multiplication tables are one set. Phonics instruction is another. The phonics instruction is more needed the lower the IQ of the student: that is, bright kids will catch on quicker. Because bright kids catch on quicker, professors of education have been encouraging the use of techniques that work with bright kids but don't work with those a bit below average. This assures a supply of illiterates who can do menial tasks for people like professors of education.

Reading is a skill, and like some skills some can learn it faster than others; but just about everyone with enough intelligence to function in society at all can learn to read, and being able to read is a big advantage. Schools COULD teach nearly every kid in them to read. They don't, of course. It's another of those problems we won't solve.

Multiplication and addition tables are necessary for most math and arithmetic, and just about every child can learn them up to 12's which is far enough for most purposes. Some might take most of a year learning them. Some will learn them in a few days. All benefit from them, and it's one thing parents can do to give their kids a bit of an edge.

Being able to do elementary arithmetic won't get you a good job but not being able to do elementary arithmetic can be a real barrier to getting anywhere at all; and like the ability to read, it can be taught to nearly anyone capable of functioning in society.

It only requires that we teach it. But as we enter this Dark Age we have forgotten that it can be taught to everyone and since the teachers don't know that, they don't try.


Subject: Testing F-16s

This story was told by people from Motorola and is supposedly included in every microcontroller training course Motorola gives.

Test flights of F-16's were being conducted in Israel. The F-16's were doing low height rounds. On approach to the Dead Sea, the whole navigation system suddenly reset itself. The daring pilot landed the bird. HQ called up Motorola and ordered a team on the spot ASAP. The ground tests went perfectly, but every time the bird went airborn, it rebooted.

The pilots were getting restless. Flying on the border of hostile territory without navcom, with the Arabs pointing their earth-to-air missiles at anything that moves, wasn't that pleasant. Neither was debugging the whole navcom in-flight. Then someone figured it out.

The height of the Dead Sea relative to world sea level is -50 meters. As soon as the F-16 reached sea level, the navcom did a divide by zero, crashed, and rebooted.



Subject: Written on Water.

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Re: why airports don't have standby radios, etc.

Tell me about it. I'm still trying to figure out why the New York International Airport, where I was stuck during the blackout last August, doesn't have enough generating capacity to run the whole place properly in such an event. Major portions of the terminals were without power except for emergency lights, and some terminals were entirely without any light at all that night. Many emergency lights were those horrible strobes, making me feel like I was in a cheap space horror movie most of the time. While I understand they had generators for things like air traffic control, the computers running reservations and flight information were gone, and employees were running around with sheets of paper and walkie-talkies doing everything manually.

At that I was lucky. The blackout didn't hit until we were through the inspection process and customs, had eaten supper, and were waiting for our next connection. Many people were stuck lines up for hours inside cramped and very crowded areas waiting to have their luggage inspected by hand.

Would enough generators to do the job have been that much of a problem?

Tom Brosz

Well, who would be promoted for doing that? Who would be fired for not having the capacity? QED

Subject: You are a googlewhack

Hello Jerry.

Did you know that the link on your webpage is a googlewhack?

A googlewhack occurs when two words are contained together on only one page in all of Google's archives. You have viruses and foofaraws on your page; the only page in all of Google to have both of those words together.

So, you proud of yourself? Tell me your reaction.


I am astonished that anyone would ever learn this!


Subject: Are we at war?

- Roland Dobbins

Good question; and one we haven't really answered. Whether saying yes requires the measures Helprin advocates is another matter; but the essay is certainly a good beginning to a discussion.







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Subject: I Found Some of Your Life.

---- Roland Dobbins

Where do you find these things?

Subject: CBS 0, Internet 1.

---- Roland Dobbins

As expected..







Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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