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Mail 382 October 3 - 9, 2005






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Monday  October 3, 2005

As promised, the pro-Iraq War position:

Dear Jerry,

It is 6:15 am, the coffee is brewing and I’m in my office contemplating your retroactive writ of excommunication for all neo-cons (or is it just all neo-cons who supported intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo?). Since I contributed to the evolution of our conversation by dragging in Israel I guess I guess I had Bosnia coming, but I want to return to why I wrote in the first place. The original charge I was attempting to answer was that our decision for war in Iraq was inherently flawed.

My argument in favor of intervention was that 1) there is a world economy and we are not getting out of it - and we need to manage it since even if we could achieve energy independence we would still be tied to countries dependent upon oil 2) ergo the Middle East is a problem and our engagement there is necessary (and fraught with additional peril because of our necessary ties with Israel) and 3) the sanctions regime and Sadaam's containment was untenable and Iraq is the center point from which we can more easily deal with other problems in the region – such as Saudi Arabia’s instability or Iran’s ambitions.

The serving officer has backed up my argument that the sanctions were breaking down and that our ties to the global economy (including our massive amount of trade) preclude a “fortress America” policy (which Petronius both derides as a straw man and smuggles in by claiming we can “walk softly and carry a big honking stick” and [when] any Hashishim or Hashishim harboring "state", failed or otherwise, that pokes a finger at us will get a visit by some very capable young men”). The main problem with Petronius' assertion is that the finger which Jihadist fanatics might poke in our eye could contain a nuke. It seems much better to carry on a struggle which is costing lives but aims to avoid that than waiting for the Hashishim miscalculation that destroys significant parts of New York, LA or D.C., even if our vengeance would be spectacular.

I know the sticking point is whether our current strategy is in fact keeping us safer, but Petronius wants to claim that simply by being spectacularly strong we can preclude attacks is demonstrably mistaken - we were that strong against ludicrously small Jihadist forces on Sept. 11, and they still attacked us. Our enemies can miscalculate - I think both the Iranians and North Koreans are in for some very nasty surprises, but I would rather not wait until they grow Hitler size. Petronius derides the notion that any combination of Arab states could even threaten Europe much less us because the Swedes over 300 years ago were pretty frightening. Oh my, where does one begin? He scores the naval officer for not knowing the particulars of Germany's or the Soviet Union's economic potential of 80 years ago (a fair enough point) but then asserts that the (giggle, giggle) Swedes once were tough customers? I will grant your point that there are potential sources of strength in Europe (the French still maintain the capacity to surprise) but on the whole, I think that times have changed since the Battle of Leutzen and there are very few Europeans capable of serious resistance to Islamo-fascists or other thugs.

The bigger problem with Petronius is his claim that we wait until “Iraqi scientists [are] winning Nobel's, Iraqi industry developing weapons as advanced as the V-2 rocket was in 1942, and threatening to overrun all of Europe , then I will get worried about IslamoFascists.”

Let me help the arbitrator of elegance (the first of that namesake was, after all, so unable to read the signs of intrigue that Nero killed him). The nature of the threat he is outlining is one of existential proportions. He will "get worried" when Iraq or Islamofascists can almost destroy our entire civilization? Outstanding, what insight, what prudence! I am sorry, but to be taken to task by someone who can't wrap his mind around the idea that preemption means moving before our enemies can turn the entire planet into a nightmare is simply too much.

To be very cold blooded, our casualty rater per day during WW II was 221 (so currently we're nine days into WWII and only approximately 1359 to go), for Vietnam 18/day. Vietnam was (very) arguably not worth fighting but there we weren't dealing with an absolutely vital artery of trade and resources and the threat of free-lance dictators and their surrogates acquiring and using nukes. Similarly, to try again, because as an academic I believe in the power of education - a dirty nuke on the Saudi oil fields means $15-$20 dollar/gallon gas (maybe more) and correspondingly greater influence for such other icons of stability as Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. We will have incentives to get off the teat of energy dependency then, but we will probably be watching the collapse of the global economy while we do that - and I just wonder where we’ll find that $300+ billion for research while we are preparing for the global party following the collapse of the world economy).

So, now to your objections and criticisms Jerry....

First of all, I am not absolutely wedded to democracy in Iraq. It is, for me, an operational maneuver. I want to give the world a Coke, and sing in perfect harmony, blah, blah, blah (and do believe that globalization of the economy and culture probably will eventually BE A GOOD THING). But at the end of the day, we need a stable decently governed Iraq, not necessarily a democratic Iraq. So, the main reason I'm not a Jacobin is that I didn't see our primary concern there as exporting democracy, but ensuring stability. We are trying to move Iraq towards democracy as part of the broader game of legitimization of our intervention and to generate (hopefully) greater support within Iraq and around the world for our presence. If this breaks down then we can re-arrange this in a more authoritarian but still liberalizing direction, a'la Jordan or perhaps consider partition of the country. So mainly I'm not a good Jacobin/neo-con because I don't believe democracy per se is the one true god, and Kristol-Poedhertz are his prophets.

As to our money to Israel - glad I would be to pocket my portion of that $2,000/year, but then a little problem would come along. Most of Israel's neighbors persist in remaining in a state of war with it, funding terrorist groups, and in the case of Iran bragging about how once they get the bomb that Israel will burn. Now in my insane little philo-Semitic world, when you threaten a nuclear power with all sorts of nastiness very bad things can happen. Also, when I look at the constant number of casualties that the Israelis take from Palestinian terrorists I wonder how any other country on the planet would handle such a thing. Methinks that a case might be made that we are paying wereguilds to the Israelis to keep them from doing what I would certainly do if I were in their situation, which is kick the living crap out of every regime that didn't instantly sign a peace treaty and work with all of its might to keep jihadniks from operating on their territory. Such a state of affairs would create incredible instability in the Middle East for any power deeply dependent on oil (i.e. us) but if we are going to cut the Israelis lose, why should they care? Given this alternative maybe $2,000/head is a cheap date after all – it convinces the Israelis they are not alone, and so they don’t get desperate in what would otherwise be a desperate situation.

Also, we are in absolute, 150% agreement that incompetent Empire is not the way. I too want competent empire. I want us to “rule” Mesopotamia (in the sense of ensuring that what goes on there assures us our vital interests and we impose a decent, stable, pro-western government), and 100 years wouldn't be a bad run though I think we could and must do a bit better. If our disagreement is over means to that end, then very good, but that is a different conversation from what I thought you wanted - which is why did we get into Iraq in the first place. But I thought that we were arguing that we shouldn't be there?

So far, you've argued that energy independence in the alternative to being in Iraq, but there is that dangerous gap between that eventuality and where we and the rest of the world economy are presently. And that is dependent upon oil as a prime energy source. How do we change that this year? By next year? In the next decade? We will not be there for a long time, and even once we get there, again, are we going to share this technology with our still fossil fuel energy dependent competitors and trading partners?

As for Bosnia, can I ask what is Jacobin about wanting to stop ethnic cleansing? I checked your archives and while I saw you questioning the wisdom of intervention in Kosovo and Bosnia in 1999 (as far as the search engine goes back?) there was no inference that this was the dividing line that clearly separated Jacobin neo-cons from realist conservatives. You claim in the current View that after the fall of the Soviet Union we should have sought an exit strategy in Europe, but that was about the time of Gulf War I, when some of our European allies had some spine and backed us, so it would have been a very poor present to them to have completely cut and run in Europe (and beside which, disengagement in Europe would not have gotten us out of the Middle East – so the problem with Iraq would be roughly the same, except that our alliances with Europe would be even more strained). So even when the CW was over our entangling alliances proved useful in containing Sadaam. Those same alliances drew us into Bosnia when the Europeans wanted something done, but couldn't do it on their own. So if there is some bright line that neo-cons walked over in 1995, I don't see it.

As for giving up on the Republic, I am only saying the Republic of small government and self-reliance is dead, that does not mean that the Republic of institutional safe-guards, checks and balances, etc is gone. We can still have a Hamiltonian state. I would rather something different and will work for that to be sure. But unlike Petronius I am unwilling to roll the dice that we can wait to have someone poke us in the eye only to discover the nail was covered with lethal poison. Interventionism and empire are more realistic than trying to avoid entangling alliances and achieve what could very well be the willo-the-wisp of energy independence in an interdependent world.


A Young Jacobin

PS: I just want to add that one way we could certainly lose the Republic within weeks is due to the popular response to 2-3 WMDs or several large scale suicide bombings. At that point, I fear many of our fellow citizens, especially the more vocally anti-war types, would not just accept a police state, they would demand it.

I will wait for others before I reply, but I will remind you: in less time than we have spent in this War on Terror, we defeated both the Axis and Japan; transformed the economy into a mighty war machine; built, trained, and deployed two great armies, two air forces and two navies; and generally rebuilt the energy industry. This was in 1942-1945. Note that VE day was in Spring of 1945. Please do not tell me that a couple of lean years would not restructure the energy industry in this country. We might have to shoot some lawyers, but perhaps that would be no bad thing.

Regarding Bosnia: Sometimes I despair. The Jacobins think we can fix all the ills of the world, and that all ills of the world are ours to fix. Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans has been going on for a long time. The Turks cleansed the Serbs. The Serbs and Croats fight each other and neither cares for the Turks. The Albanians -- but need I go on? If you wanted to stop horrors you would have troops in Africa. A lot of Africa. Nearly all of Africa. Fortunately not even the Jacobins think our army capable of fixing Africa. Or at least not many of them do.

Dr. Pournelle,

Dr. Cochran starts his Saturday screed by disposing of an argument that nobody is making. (Short form of the straw man he valiently slays in his Saturday message: Iraq, in fact the entire Arab/Islamic world, presents no threat to US vital interests because they do not now, and never in the indefinite future will, have the ability to threaten the US with a massive, conventional-forces invasion of our
shores.) Indeed, it is only remotely relevant to the current policy options discussion about Iraq.

The rest of his message is a curious mixture of isolated facts, bald assertions, self-congratulatory intellectual chest-thumping and denigration (to the level of ad hominem attack) of everyone who disagrees with him. His descriptions of those who disagree with him are worthy of the usual campus PC though-police. I would just suggest to Dr. Cochran that he not consider a new career in politics as it would probably be unavailing.

However, the subject of current and future policy alternatives in Iraq is an important one. Below is my (very definitely amateur) first cut at a formal analysis of the US options.

The overall Iraq debate can be broken down into two broad topics.
The first topic is: Should we have invaded Iraq? The second is the debate about current options for the US (or "where do we go from here?" with apologies to Joss Whedon). The debate over invading Iraq is irrelevant to the current-policy debate. We did invade Iraq and arguments that explicitly or implicitly pre-suppose that we didn't invade and proceed from that assumption are wishful thinking totally divorced from reality. I address here only the question of what policy the US should pursue from where we stand today.

The strategic policy options the US has in Iraq can be divided into three groups. The first is immediate withdrawal (cut-and-run). The second is gradual withdrawal (nation-building) and the third is permanent occupation (colonialism-imperialism). Cut-and-run is Dr.
Cochran's position. Nation-building is the Administration's position, which (full disclosure) I share. Colonialism-imperialism has no serious advocates that I am aware of and I will not consider it further since, in addition to its serious and manifest drawbacks, any policy which lacks a constituency is simply not going to be adopted.

We are left, then, to debate between the benefits and costs/risks of cut-and-run vs. nation-building as US policy in Iraq. I'll list these, as I see them. I'm sure other folks would have different lists and I would welcome additions. I make no claim to omniscience (or even to knowing more about Iraq than Dr. Rice :-).

Cut-and-run benefits (call this group A, for short):
1. Stops the bleeding. U.S. casualties in Iraq drop to zero very quickly (a timescale of a few months for a more-or-less orderly evacuation).
2. Reduces military budget due to reduced operational tempo (training only, no active military operations, except in Afganistan, unless we also cut-and-run there).
3. Reduces or eliminates (in a pure cut-and-run scenario) Iraq reconstruction costs.
4. Improve our image in the Arab/Islamic world (this is highly
speculative) , which might (piling speculation on speculation) lead to improved cooperation in the Global War on Terror (GWT for short).
5. Reduce terrorist recruiting (highly speculative, see B5).
6. More resources available for border/immigration control and activities like cargo screening at ports. (Highly speculative, given Congress' known behavior)

Cut-and-run costs/risks (call this group B):
1. Proves, beyond doubt or question, that the US lacks the will to fight a long-term war. Implications include many of the items below.
2. Jihadis around the world celebrate and start planning offensive operations, since they are no longer on the defensive, pinned by our presence in Iraq.
3. No positive change to Middle-East opinion of US, but they no longer fear us as much. (implication of B1) 4. Danger of a repeat of the (US) retreat-Islamist advance cycle from the latter 1970's. Doesn't anyone beside Dr. Pournelle remember the effects of the fall of Saigon? (Hint: one of them was the ascendance of a guy named Khomeini in Iran).
5. Increased terrorist recruiting (perhaps Dr. Cochran can help here, who was the source of the quote that begins "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse..."?) 6. Reduce Mid-East cooperation in the GWT.
7. Could leave behind an Iraq as a "failed state" which is a haven for AQ and related organizations.
8. Possible spill-over of disorder into Saudi Arabia and other neighboring states.
9. Probable blood-bath as Baathists/jihadi's slaughter "collaborators" and each other.
10. Massive exodus of refugees (remember the Vietnamese "boat people"?). How many (including covert terrorists) would US be morally obliged to admit as refugees?
11. If we bug out, it would be difficult and costly to re-invade should any of several events (e.g., B7, B8) occur.

Nation-building benefits (call this group C):
1. Will leave a stable, possibly pro-US government in Iraq, which is reasonable definition of victory (Gen. MacArthur was correct when he said "In war, there is no substitute for victory") 2. Respect for US in Arab/Islamic world will increase, especially after Iraqi government forces (police & army) "stand up" and US forces begin to decline. (Opinion of US has actually improved relative to before the invasion).
3. Possible spread of democracy (in some form) into more Arab nations (e.g., Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia).
4. Reduced terrorist recruiting (US is seen as the "strong horse").
5. Supports GWT by pulling jihad-inclined people into our killing zone.
6. Iraq voluntarily becomes a base for future GWT operations in the region.
7. If D4 occurs, we can at a later date withdraw from Iraq.

Nation-building costs/risks (call this group D):
1. Continued US casualties, level hard to predict.
2. Cost ($$-type) of continued combat ops in Iraq.
3. Costs of rebuilding Iraq.
4. Iraqi government forces may not "stand up" quickly, possibly not at all.

Bill Hembree

I point out that your alternatives are not exhaustive. They do not include leaving Iraq to the Iraqis with a warning that allowing a regime inimical to the United States will result in new regime changes. Nor do they include setting up a subsidized client state. There are other alternatives. If you say we must either build a nation or bug out, then the question comes: what is possible?


Subject: Troops 'Sweep' Through Lawless Iraq Cities - Yahoo! News



This article is quite good. And it needs to be carefully read by anyone enraptured with 'stay the course' delusions. One continuing problem with the present force level is there are too few U.S. troops in country to implement the current policy. Whenever enough are massed in any one place to obtain decisive tactical results, say Fallujah, insurgent activity merely spikes in the rest of the Sunni triangle. Out of 135,000 I seriously doubt CENTCOM could muster more than 20,000 in any one place no matter how great the tactical opportunity or need. They can of course introduce nearly infinite air power to any spot where US forces themselves are in imminent danger of annihilation.

Our rulers in their wisdom recognized this in late 2003 and therefore accelerated their efforts to raise indigenous Iraqi forces. Close followers of our fortunes in Iraq have noticed how the U.S. Senate is almost entirely focused on the policy of Iraqi-ization. Progress there is their sole subject of inquiry anytime they interview serving senior commanders.

The concurrent policy of de-Ba'athizing these forces has resulted in many privates, few sergeants and almost no officers with any experience. People with more than two years' military service also have a prior history in Hussein's regime. Despite this obstacle two years later we, or 'they', actually have one battalion ready to stand alone. This is breakneck progress.

It took from 1955 until 1962 to get a similar number of South Vietnamese battalions up to this level. Two years later in mid-1965 there were two or three such units, plus the Airborne Brigade which fought very effectively with American advisors and air support.

Impatient nay-sayers like Dr. Cochran need to get some perspective. I'm sure the situation there will be greatly improved come 2013.


And when you are done building a Shiite army, what will it do in Sunni and Kurd territories? I ask seriously.  =

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You write -

"I am convinced that we will not build any kind of democracy in Iraq".

Am I being misled when I read that the Kurds are more or less a

functioning democracy and have been for some time, with freedom for women

established at a fairly high level ? All I know is what I read on the web

about this. But that idea has been a basis for my hope in Iraq. And what about

the elections in Afghanistan, Egypt and Lebanon ?

And Best regards to you sir.

Tom Slater

Kurds are not Arabs, Kurdish culture is not Arab culture, and Kurdish traditions are not Arab traditions. The only reason for the Kurds to remain as part of Iraq is their claim to part of the oil, all of which seems to be in Arab lands (so if they are not part of a united Iraq they will have to include non-Kurd areas in their state). That is a formula for civil war. Why people assume that a democracy will be peaceful is a bit beyond me.



Bravo to your answer to Young Jacobite. [sic. Jacobite =/= Jacobin. Ed.]

>>we have to go in there and set up a democracy preserving the integrity >>of a "nation" created not long ago as a consolation prize to the >>Hashemites for their loss of Mecca.<<

The real British interest in keeping those three ex-Turkish Empire vilyets banded together was to provide easy access to the Mosul oil fields, and also prevent the French next door in Syria from absorbing anything left dangling. Winston S. Churchill played a major role in this as Colonial Secretary in 1921.

>>nor how to keep Iraq intact when it never was so<<

This one is easy. Hire someone like Saddam Hussein.



Subject: Greg Cochran on Iraq

Whatever his attackers may say, Mr. Cochran's facts have convinced me that Iraq never was the threat I had believed it to be. I had never considered population sizes nor industrial capacity, and in fact I had assumed that making a nuclear bomb was pretty easy if you could just get hold of the uranium. So while I'm not on intellectual par with some of your correspondents, I've at least been partially-reeducated by the discussion here. Thanks, and I hope we wake up in time to compete with China.

Max Wilson

And that should be quite enough on this subject for the day.


Subject: Political Corruption/Louisiana

Sorry, but I don't buy it. I moved from Louisiana (born and raised, and worked 20 years for major industry there.) to Washington. The politicians in Washington are AT LEAST as corrupt as those in Louisiana. And given what I "read in the papers", I would say California is "right up there", as well. The only real differences are that in Louisiana, the corruption is "personal" (i.e. devoted to enrichment of the politician), while in Washington and California, it is "political" (i.e. devoted to fostering "party interest"), and that Louisiana politicians are "more honest" (i.e. less hypocritical) about being corrupt.

I would question 3rd Most Corrupt state of the Union. Louisiana can do better than that. Second at least. First sometimes.

Duane Walcott

There is also the competence issue. I grew up in Memphis, which was run by a city boss named Ed Crump, and it was about as well run as any city has been in the US; certainly better than it is now. Chicago is another example of competence...


I have a series of letters from a serving officer in Iraq. There are enough that I have put them into a special report. You may find those here.


A Canadian view:

For all our faults we are still Great among Nations.


David Warren…The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, September 11, 2005

There's plenty wrong with America, since you asked. I'm tempted to say that the only difference from Canada is that they have a few things right. That would be unfair, of course -- I am often pleased to discover things we still get right.

But one of them would not be disaster preparation. If something happened up here, on the scale of Katrina, we wouldn't even have the resources to arrive late. We would be waiting for the Americans to come save us, the same way the government in Louisiana just waved and pointed at Washington, D.C. The theory being that, when you're in real trouble, that's where the adults live.

And that isn't an exaggeration. Almost everything that has worked in the recovery operation along the U.S. Gulf Coast has been military and National Guard. Within a few days, under several commands, finally consolidated under the remarkable Lt.-Gen. Russell Honore, it was once again the U.S. military efficiently cobbling together a recovery operation on a scale beyond the capacity of any other earthly institution.

We hardly have a military up here. We have elected one feckless government after another that has cut corners until there is nothing substantial left. We don't have the ability even to transport and equip our few soldiers. Should disaster strike at home, on a big scale, we become a Third World country. At which point, our national smugness is of no avail.

From Democrats and the American Left -- the U.S. equivalent to the people who run Canada -- we are still hearing that the disaster in New Orleans showed that a heartless, white Republican America had abandoned its underclass.

This is garbage. The great majority of those not evacuated lived in assisted housing and receive food stamps, prescription medicine and government support through many other programs. Many have, all their lives, expected someone to lift them to safety, without input from themselves. And the demagogic mayor they elected left, quite literally, hundreds of transit and school buses that could have driven them out of town parked in rows, to be lost in the flood.

Yes, that was insensitive. But it is also the truth; and sooner or later we must acknowledge that welfare dependency creates exactly the sort of haplessness and social degeneration we saw on display, as the floodwaters rose. Many suffered terribly, and many died, and one's heart goes out. But already the survivors are being put up in new accommodations, and their various entitlements have been directed to new locations.

The scale of private charity has also been unprecedented. There are yet no statistics, but I'll wager the most generous state in the union will prove to have been arch-Republican Texas and that, nationally, contributions in cash and kind are coming disproportionately from people who vote Republican. For the world divides into "the mouths" and "the wallets."

The Bush-bashing, both down there and up here, has so far lost touch with reality, as to raise questions about the bashers' state of mind.

Consult any authoritative source on how government works in the United States and you will learn that the U.S.federal government's legal, constitutional, and institutional responsibility for first response to Katrina, as to any natural disaster, was zero.

Notwithstanding, President Bush took the prescient step of declaring a disaster, in order to begin deploying FEMA and other federal assets, two full days in advance of the storm fall. In the little time since, he has managed to coordinate an immense recovery operation -- the largest in human history -- without invoking martial powers. He has been sufficiently presidential to respond, not even once, to the extraordinarily mendacious and childish blame-throwing.

One thinks of Kipling's poem If, which I learned to recite as a lad, and mention now in the full knowledge that it drives postmodern leftoids and gliberals to apoplexy -- as anything that is good, beautiful, or true:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise.

       Unlike his critics, Bush is a man, in the full sense presented by these verses.


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

Things remain quiet as the parties hold their fall meetings. The Tories are looking for new leadership (again).

Mother's care is best for young children: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/ uk/4304528.stm> . Not surprising.

Looks like Turkey may be joining the EU: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/ world/europe/4305500.stm

Having children who used laptops in college, this looks to me like it may be buying into a lot of hassle: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/ 2005/10/03/bookless_school/

If things get hot later in the week, I'll follow up, but right now that looks unlikely.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)




This week:


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Tuesday,  October 4, 2005

RE: And now for something completely different ...


Your wrote recently of the possible benefits of a strongly typed language like Modula-2. I too have generally been of that opinion, but right after reading your post I ran into Bruce Eckel’s discussion of the subject at http://mindview.net/WebLog/log-0025

Many of your readers will know Bruce Eckel, well known author and consultant on C++, Java and other languages. Bruce had generally been of the same opinion on strong typing but his very positive experiences with Python has changed that. Bruce discusses these issues in the link above and is worth a read if someone is interested in this subject.

The Dutchman von Rossum who wrote Python (named after Monty Python, not the reptile) interacted with the Modula team, but ultimately went a different route. I understand that much of Google is written in Python.

I also seem to remember that we had a space exploration probe (to Venus?) crash, and NASA traced it back to a variable that had not been declared. Perhaps you or your readers could recall this event and more details.

Mike Cheek


The way I heard this story, years ago, was that a line of code like

DO 10 I=1,3

was written as

DO 10 I=1.3

In fortran, blanks are not significant and variables have default types based on the first character of the variable name, so the statement was read as

DO10I=1.3 a fine assignment statement of the value 1.3 to the float named DO10I

and the probe crashed.

However, this story isn't true. An error of this sort DID occur, but was associated with early Mercury flights. See the book "Expert C Programming" by Peter van der Linden, page 31-32 for a detailed discussion and the citation to the original reference from Fred Webb, who worked at NASA at that time.

Mariner 1 was destroyed by the range safety officer very early in the flight because a programmer incorrectly used the instantaneous (and subject to noise jitter) value of a velocity and the steering system for the rocket was then being fed a noisy input, so the rocket veered off course.

Even if this isn't what crashed Mariner 1, it is still a lesson on declaring the variables before you use them! And those of us who still use Fortran know to use IMPLICIT NONE everywhere....

Chuck Bouldin


Subject: This is the Free-Speech Party?

This is the Free-Speech Party?


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Dime novels and penny-dreadfuls.


 Roland Dobbins




This week:


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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Begin with this:

Subject: Idiocy taken to it's logical extent

Dr. Pournelle,

Apparently babies are too cute for their own good:


And regarding the e-books e-mail, I'd certainly be willing to pay a few dollars to download the text, or better yet audio, of any number of author's books. While I enjoy perusing Half Price Books, they often don't have what I'm looking for, and there's not one within a convenient distance from my school. There are enough subscription services for music; I don't see why the same thing wouldn't work here.

Ryan Brown


Re: Donald Kennedy:

Before we get through with Donald Kennedy, I yearn to mention another example of censorship on his watch at Stanford.

The time was 1989, five years after the Mosher affair erupted. Stanford at this time had a UNIX-based computer system that gave people there, and at many other universities, access to an internet joke program called rec.humor.funny.

In 1989, a student at MIT complained about anti-Semitic thinking in one particular joke. This was the joke: A Jew and a Scotsman are having dinner. The waiter brings the bill, and the Scotsman says, "Here, I'll take that." Headline in the next day's paper: Jewish Ventriloquist Found Murdered in Alley.

The controversay over the joke spread to Stanford. Kennedy met with the university's executive committee, which decided that rec.humor.funny must be banned from the campus. At the time I wrote about this, the Stanford Computer Science Department was refusing to comply, and complaining about censorship. I never did find out if the administration finally enforced the order.


Donald Kennedy left Stanford under a bit of a cloud. He is now Editor of SCIENCE.


Letters on Languages:

Subject: Programming languages

I see that you have mentioned Modula-2 on a few occasions as a good language. What is your opinion of Ada? This language also has strong typing, and the Ada 2005 standard includes container classes that implement some of the functionality in the C++ Standard Template Library. It is also available as part of the Gnu Compiler Collection, so people can play with it for free.

My favorite language is still APL, which makes it possible to do many things quickly and easily. It catches many errors that C and C++ do not, such as attempts to index past the end of an array, so it is safer to use. But like any language there are tasks that it is not well suited for.

--- Brian


>>“Perhaps it is time to have a new language debate. I am still of the opinion that if our operating systems and software were written in something like Modula-2 (expanded and with better I/O libraries), with strong typing, mandatory declarations in the heading sections, and both type and range checking during compilation we would have far fewer bugs, and far fewer security holes. It would run slower but the hardware is taking care of that; you would not notice the speed difference now. And some of it would run faster because it wouldn't be patched so often. With strongly typed and structured languages, the compiler catches many of the bugs; and once it is compiled it generally does what you expected it to do. As for speed, you can always go in and hand optimize loops if need be.”<<(Pournelle)


 I know I’ve told you this so I won’t belabor the entire story, but please indulge me: In the 1982-1987 timeframe, I worked as a software developer for DBMS, inc creating IDMS (Codasyl Network Database, remember those ?) database utilities. At the time, my manager, a John Wark, had the sense to bring in the IBM FDP compiler Pascal/VS, which later became an IBM Program Offering VS/Pascal. The products we built in that language, database utilities of considerable complexity, were NOT Operating System code, but utilities which, among other things, did Reorganization of IDMS databases literally tore customer databases apart (physically) and put them back together in an optimized fashion. We did a lot of “thinking” in that utility, and moved a LOT of data, and it was incredibly flexible and even more incredibly reliable, and customers loved it and it had Virtually No Problems. Other products read IDMS dictionaries and diagrammed Network Database relationships and the like. All pretty complex stuff, with reentrancy, and recursion, and stone-cold reliability, and enough speed to keep customers with “batch windows” to work in more than happy.

Kind of proves your point. I was the DBMS SHARE representative for 18 months on the Pascal Project, before it succumbed to the wave of the “C” project (which was wildly popular by then) and the whole thing went DOWN from there. Very, Very Sad, for the industry and the world. But you Just Couldn’t Stop C…


Thanks for telling the truth, again…

Larry O'Neal


Hi Jerry,

Here's my take on the language wars, and it's a bit different than my past comments:

Given the following assumptions:

1) Professional Software Engineers can write robust, near-bug free code in any programming language. 2) Programmers can write robust, near-bug free code in a language with a robust sandbox/compiler/interpreter, but tend to focus on features more than reliability. 3) Code Monkeys can write bugs in any language (and will go out of their way to do so) 4) Professional Software Engineers are few and far between. Programmers are more common than SE's, and Code Monkeys are far more common than either.

We generate some principles:

1) No software development team will ever be completely made up of SE's. It will always have a mix of the three. 2) No code of any significant complexity will ever be completely bug free. 3) Creating a well-built Programmer's sandbox will reduce the number of bugs. Creating an armor plated sandbox will even reduce Code Monkey bugs. 4) Strongly typed languages provide armor plating against a some, but not all, very common, very destructive, types of bug. 5) As sandboxes are also software applications, points 1 and 2 also apply.


1) Strongly typed languages are essential for use in building nearly all modern software. 2) Relying on a sandbox/interpreter/compiler to prevent all bugs is not reasonable 3) Software testing (including IV&V) needs more attention, and that role needs a career path, rather than just being an entry level position. 4) All software-based systems need redundancy - preferably by independent software, or non-software systems, especially in life/safety applications.

The last is why Oracle excludes Nuclear facilities from it's license agreement. It's also why I'm not a big fan of fly-by-wire systems. Bruce Schneier (http://www.schneier.com) just posted a story to his blog about Airbus 380 concerns. I don't think I'll be getting on that plane anytime soon.

I'm convinced that history will record that Microsoft's greatest early impact on computer science was to reduce users expectation of quality. How often did WordPerfect for DOS crash? How often did Microsoft Word for Windows crash? But the GUI was so cool that users put up with the problems, and let Microsoft (and later other vendors) off the hook, and WordPerfect is now a historical relic. Now that there are competitors, Microsoft is faced with having to stabilize their products - and Windows XP went a long way in that direction, but I'll bet that buried deep down inside Windows Vista, you can still find code from DOS and Windows 3.1.

So will strongly typed languages solve the problems? For a number of them, probably, so it's worth doing. New applications will reap those advantages. But it will take a generation (literally 20 years) to replace the current batch of software - if there is market pressure to do so. And that's the real rub - the language wars are largely irrelevant - design is much more important.

Until the market demands software that is secure, stable, and reliable, we won't get it. By allowing vendors to 'license away' liability, we eliminate the incentive to correct the problems. Until vendors are held fiscally responsible for their product's flaws, we're largely stuck.





"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 thought I had far more than these; perhaps I did and I have lost them. But this will start.


Subject: 'Firefly' movie outstanding.

Based upon your advice, I made another attempt to watch the 'Firefly' series on DVD - as long as I fast-forwarded through the abysmally hokey theme-music at the beginning of each episode, I found them to be quite enjoyable.

The follow-on movie, 'Serenity', is in the cinema now - highly recommended.

-- Roland Dobbins

We saw it the other night; Roberta liked it well enough but says I will now have to take her to two chick flicks. At first she said three but decided there was enough romance in Serenity to make it only two. It will definitely be the movie of the month in the column.


Moving to more important topics:

The ICBM Makeover.


- Roland Dobbins

Not being in the game any longer, I have no way to know if this makes sense. Peacekeeper was a very cost/effective system, but designed for one purpose and use; perhaps we no longer have a mission for it. Perhaps.


But we do have Thoth missiles now:

Subject: Guided 70mm (2.75 inch) Rocket Finally Works


October 5, 2005: After nine years of effort, the U.S. Army has finally gotten a guided 70mm air-to-ground rocket that works. The APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) is a 25 pound rocket, with a laser seeker and a six pound warhead. It has a range of about six kilometers. The recent tests had one APKWS hit a stationary target 1.5 kilometers distant, while a second rocket hit a moving target 3.3 kilometers away. Laser designators on the helicopter, or with troops on the ground, is pointed at the target, and the laser seeker in the front of the APKWS homes on the reflected laser light.

The 2.75 inch (70mm) rockets were developed during World War II as an air-to-air weapon for use against heavy bomber formations. The Germans had developed such a successful weapon (the R4M), but before long it was noted that neither the Japanese nor the Germans had any heavy bombers, and the weapon was switched to air-to-ground use. Actually, the 70mm rocket was retained for air-to-air use into the 1950s, but it was never successful in that role. The 70mm rocket became very popular in the 1960s, when it was discovered that the weapon worked very well when launched from multiple (7 or 19 tube) launchers mounted on helicopters. The 42-55 inch long rockets could be fired singly or in salvoes, and gave helicopter pilots some airborne artillery for supporting troops on the ground. There many variations in terms of warheads and rocket motors. Some versions can go over 10 kilometers.

Developing the APKWS took so long because the manufacturers underestimated the technical difficulties of getting the laser seeker and flight control mechanisms into that small a package, at a weight and price the army could afford. The price of the APKWS is supposed to get down to $20,000 each (about the cost of a smart bomb), but the manufacturers have been having problems doing that. As a result, Congress may cancel the APKWS before it enters mass production. The APKWS is to be used against targets that don’t require a larger (hundred pound), and more expensive (over $100,000) Hellfire missile, but still need some targeting precision. In tests, the APKWS hit within a few feet of the aiming point.

John Monahan


What we don't have is much competence at home:

Nothing FEMA does surprises me, anymore.


-- Roland Dobbins

But we are all so much safer, and besides it's racist to think they might need armed cops there.

Clearly what is needed is Civil Defense; but we are more likely to get an imperial structure. Tell your children as they plan their lives to budget several months in which they are likely to be incarcerated or incapacitated or in some other form of bureaucratic limbo simply due to "routine procedure" that comes with anarch-tyranny; and do not think you can have empire without anarcho-tyranny no matter how much the incidents disturb the political authorities at the top. If only the Little Father knew what the Cossacks are doing to us...

Of course we are not the only ones with bureaucratic problems. Look at what we have done to the Capitol and the Mall. But at least we don't have this:

The trouble with Vladimir.


- Roland Dobbins

Perhaps Michael Valentine Smith could help.


And now for something important if obscure:

Subject: Another take on la Plame.


-- Roland Dobbins

In which the author asks very intelligent and reasonable questions. This whole affair reads like a badly plotted novel; the questions remain. Langley vs. Bush?


Energy Policy

Subject: energy policy absence -

As a former oil executive, it is so sad to see such feeble and fanciful attempts at relevancy. See below:

There is no shortage of oil; it is refining of the oil that is impacted by these storms. All I see is an attempt to "make this go away". My oh my, how far would the $400 billion to $500 billion go to true energy independence. My view is that we need an import tax on non-overland produced oil and natural gas, and a higher fuel tax for land-based transportation fuels. This would drive us toward higher efficiency vehicles and tend to create a bias toward efficient overland commerce on hard rails and water as we are working on energy independence. This does not bode well for the logistical cost model of the WALMART crowd in the short run. And of course, the poorer consumers will be hurt the most.

It would also help to focus the country to "pay as we go", rather than bankrupt my children and grand children.

G. Allan Smalley, Jr.

Bush urges gas conservation Sep 26 11:21 AM US/Eastern <http://img.breitbart.com/images/reuters.gif

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Monday that about 1.8 million barrels per day in Texas and Louisiana refining capacity shut by recent hurricanes will be back on line soon, but urged American motorists to conserve gasoline wherever possible.

The 1.8 million bpd refining capacity will return "relatively quickly because the storm missed a lot of refining capacity down the Texas coast," Bush said after meeting with Energy Secretary Sam Bodman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Rita hit the Texas-Louisiana border on Saturday with winds of 120 miles per hour and dumped a foot of rain on the coastal region. Two large Port Arthur, Texas, refineries owned by Valero and Total were expected to remain offline for repairs for up to a month.

Bush also said he would continue suspension of antipollution laws for gasoline and the Jones Act shipping law to help oil shipments in the wake of the hurricane. Both actions were taken after Hurricane Katrina last month hit Gulf Coast refineries hard.

"We will continue the waivers to allow the winter blends to be used through the country," Bush said, referring to Environmental Protection Agency actions soon after last month's Hurricane Katrina. "We have instructed the EPA to ... keep the suspension in place, which should ... increase the supply."

Bush also repeated that he was prepared to loan crude oil to refineries from the government's emergency stockpile.

"We're willing to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to mitigate any shortfalls that affect our consumers," he said.

Bush, a former Texas oilman, also said that the back-to-back hurricanes show the need for more U.S. refining capacity to meet gasoline demand.

"The storms have shown how fragile the balance is of supply and demand in America," he said.

In the meantime, American consumers should try to conserve fuel when possible. Federal employees will be encouraged to carpool or use mass transit, Bush said.

"We can all pitch in by being better conservers of energy -- people need to recognize the storm has caused disruption," he said.


And Related:

Subject: What happens when you no longer make things

Hi Jerry,

It seems Ford would be making more hybrid vehicles... If only the Japanese weren't hogging all the parts!






Fred's Links

Jerry, Your comments about links to Fred's articles are valid. I [generally] think he is wonderful, but since he "fluffed up" his site a year or so ago, referencing a given article has become difficult (without some work, they all link as "FOE_Frame_Column.htm")...but not impossible.

If you drag the link under "All Columns" onto the desktop, it will contain a proper unique link directly to the article...which may then be pasted into your text.

FYI, the unique links to the two articles to which you referred are: http://www.fredoneverything.net/HollowedOut.shtml  and http://www.fredoneverything.net/Poverty.shtml 

If you ever change your web page as you are wont to ponder from time to time, please don't let "web designers" add too much fluff like this.

Thanks for decades of great reading, Ted Longman


Serious Answer

Dear Jerry,

        >>And when you are done building a Shiite army, what will it do in Sunni
        >>and Kurd territories? I ask seriously.<<

My opinion? The serious short answer is they'll do the same thing the Ba'athist-Sunni Republican Guard was previously doing in Shi'ite & Kurd territories. They'll have a harder time doing it, unless someone chooses to arm them as well as the Republican Guard was armed previously.

I have a serious long answer written and only needing editing if space becomes available. The short answer again is there is no exit door marked "Unified, Democratic, Constitutional, Secular" Iraq. As you alluded, we haven't even managed to find that one in Bosnia yet. This is why US troops are still there 10 years after Bill Clinton promised in December, 1995 they'd only be there one year.

Best Regards,



Subject: Wall from texas to california

Hey, you left out the annual cost of patrolling/manning/repairing the wall. Easily 100 million a year, plus another 100 million to make sure we don't lose 10% of the first 100 million to fraud. Ha, so there. Knocks it down to 19.8 billion to 24.8 billion per year in savings.

Symbolically, however, our own version of Hadrian's wall to keep the barbarians out... might as well put a wall around the statue of liberty. "Give us your tired, your poor, your pole vaulters yearning to be free..."

-Fred Stevens

Huddled masses longing to be free is one thing; longing to bring in their relatives to get them on Medicare is perhaps another.



Please pardon my indignation if this message comes to you as a surprise and if It might offend you without your prior consent and writing through this mdium.

I am ( R. Overs.) a steward to ( Dr. David Morgan) who was a victim of the Thursday 7th july 2005 bomb explosion in king’s cross station London.He was admitted in an intensive care unit but gave up the ghost after 48hrs.Prior to my master’s death we maintained a good relationship like father and son since he does not have his family or any relative. He handed over the documents which he used to lodge some money in a financial institution.

The total amount of money involved is seventeen million seven hundred and fifteen thousand pounds(£17,715,000.00). I am looking for a reliable person who will assist in transferring this money to his account and likewise will invest it wisely.

Presently,no body have access to these informations apart from me and I will not disclose certain informations until I am convinced without doubt of the honesty and reliability of the so called person. I am going to discuss the sharing modalities with you as time goes on which will be subject to negotation. Please contact me with this email address


Looking forward to hearing from you.

R. Overs.

How can I resist such an offer?


Subject: Microsoft Office SP2 Updates

Dr. Pournelle:

In regards to your post today (Wed) about the Microsoft Office SP2 patches (you must have missed my message last week about this; not surprising considering all the mail you get):

Details and KB references are in the "Internet Storm Center" analysis: http://isc.sans.org/diary.php?storyid=710 . There are fixes for Word 2003, graphics (JPEG) processing, WordPerfect conversion, Visio 2003, Project 2003, and updates to the Outlook junk mail filter (including one that blocks any links that might connect to unsafe/fraud sites).

That last one is interesting....I believe it is related to the new anti-phishing/fraud features that are in the beta of Internet Explorer 7. It's enabled by default. On my system, the Outlook junk mail filter seems quite efficient, except for the inabiliy to block the "419" and "lottery" scam mails (not many email filters can catch those). But I don't get as much unsolicited mail as you do.

Users that have their Automatic Updates set should have recieved SP2 by now. Those that don't should visit http://www.microsoft.com/protect and follow instructions there. That site also has some good consumer-level (non-techie) tips for computer security and safety.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, October 6, 2005

All Iraq, all the time.


-- Roland Dobbins

Perhaps a needlessly flippant subject title for an important point about the costs of war.

Disrepair Cited in U.S. Arms
Much of War Gear in S. Korea Was Not 'Fully Mission Capable'

Subject: Robotic-vacuum maker, BU team up on antisniper device

Colonel Falkenberg, please contact your T&E staff.

The following appeared on Boston.com: Headline: Robotic-vacuum maker, BU team up on antisniper device Date: October 4, 2005

"(Correction: Because of an editing error, a story in yesterday's Business section about an anti-sniper system developed by iRobot misidentified the date on which the company unveiled the system. It was demonstrated by iRobot on Monday at a convention of the Association of the United States Army in Washington.)"

To see this recommendation, click on the link below or cut and paste it into a Web browser:



This message was sent by Rod McFadden


The Okie from Riyadh?


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: egregious Frum


He was on CSPAN this AM on Washington Journal opposing the nomination of Harriet Miers. I pay attention to political commentators of a different stripe, so I blush to say that I didn't even know the name until reading your mentions of him. The phrase "egregious Frum" has stuck in my mind as an indivisible whole and reminds me of the phrase "flup" from Ringworld.

He is quite opposed to this nomination and the entertainment factor is to hear him trying to reconcile that with his previous "my way or the highway" statements.

Chuck Bouldin

I have not been paying sufficient attention to the nomination to have much of an opinion beyond the general view that opposition is futile and I do not want her taking office thinking conservatives are unthinking boors. Of course the egregious Frum would never think along such lines.


"Egregious" Frum may or may not be, but he's got some non-egregious company in his questioning the Miers appointment. Peggy Noonan, certainly, and Alexander Hamilton, arguably:



As for whether the appointment's inevitable: only if the Senate treats it that way, which I agree is certainly probable, but ought not to be a robotic given.

--Erich Schwarz

I give considerable attention to Miss Noonan's views. Hamilton is perhaps not so relevant; we have a lot of experience with justices who have not previously been judges, including Earl Warren who heard his first case as Chief Justice (it was argued by Robert Kennedy who made his first appearance in a courtroom as Solicitor General).

The situation was created by the Bork hearings: it became clear that stealth candidates were the only possible candidates in the poisonous atmosphere of the decayed republic. The results are not good, but then that was more than predictable. What do you suppose would happen if Bush nominated a strong judicial "Original Intent" conservative with a long bench record? He would have to find someone who never made a wrong decision, has never been reversed on appeal, and whose decisions have been not only sound but unassailable: a person who never lived.

One the waters are poisoned, the kinds of creatures who can swim in them change.

We have sown the wind. The Bork hearings were the sowing; now we reap.



Re: Getting a URL that goes directly to a specific Fred column and not just to Fred's columns page:

I've found a short trick to getting an URL directly to a specific Fred column: At the bottom of the column, click the "Printer friendly" button. That opens a new window without frames, and in the address bar is the URL specific to the article you are reading.

Valerie Milewski

Of course that would work, and I should have thought of it. Thanks!


Affirmative Action

At the moment, I'm waiting on a job (though I'm told it's "in the bag" by the guy hiring). The hang-up, apparently, is that the head of affirmative action is out of town, and every application needs his signature.

Which is kind of strange because the employee handbook reads this way: "We recruit and employ the best qualified individuals without regard to race, color, creed or religion, national origin, age, sex, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition or veteran status except where these may be bona fide occupational qualification. Equal opportunity is not restricted to the employment procedure, but applies to all actions such as compensation, benefits, promotions, transfers, termination, layoffs, return from layoff, opportunity for training and development, and for social and recreational programs."

Luckily, computer networks aren't like teaching students: the network actually has to work.


And we wonder why he have problems competing. If we are to have free trade and worldwide competition, we ought to think hard about how we load down the system with rules. We also need schools that work but that is another matter.


On 'Alias,' the Star Is Now Spying for Two


Tonight's episode of "Alias," the spy drama starring [3]Jennifer Garner, will involve a typical night's work for secret superagent Sydney Bristow: she will pummel a few bad guys, steal some intelligence, nearly be sucked from a speeding airplane. It's routine stuff for the show, but for one thing: both actress and character will have a belly that is visibly, strikingly swollen from its normally taut state.

The article goes on to trace the history of pregnancy on TV...


And now for a matter of some importance:

Subj: Engineering Life-Cycle Cost Comparison Study of Barrier Fencing Systems


== Abstract: The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. Enforcement mainly involves apprehending illegal immigrants and assisting with the inter-diction of illegal drug smugglers and suspected terrorists. The United States has approximately 6,000 miles of land-based international border. By far the largest problem with illegal immigration occurs along the 2,000 miles of border with Mexico. Along this border, nearly 90 percent of the apprehensions occur along 200 miles distributed near nine major U.S. cities and towns such as San Diego, CA, and El Paso, TX. Current fencing, where it exists, is often in a severe state of disrepair. To cost effectively increase deterrence against illegal entry, the INS is considering the widespread application of several different fencing systems for these high traffic areas. Little to no detailed engineering-based comparisons have been made for these fencing options so no basis currently exists with which to make an informed decision based on reliability, effectiveness of deterrence, economics, and ability to withstand attack. This report discusses analyses of several fencing system options that would provide both effective and minimum life-cycle cost service for primary, secondary, and tertiary barrier needs.

Conclusions Purely on a life-cycle cost basis, the most effective choices are: landing mat (primary), Sandia fence (secondary), and 6-ft chain link (tertiary). However, it is clear that operationally the landing mat primary barrier is inadequate.

Recommendations Based on the experience gained in the course of this study, it is recommended that: 1. Further systematic effort be put into determining the operational requirements, designing, and optimizing an operational and cost-effective barrier. 2. Sections of these design options be built and tried in practice before widespread implementation in order to obtain operational experience and ongoing maintenance cost data. 3. The option of contracting out fence maintenance be assessed for potential savings and improved fence condition, thus freeing up Border Patrol agents for their primary duties. ==

This study was from 1999, but my Googling has not yet yielded anything more recent that has numbers with explanations. I wonder what analysis supports the figure of $2 million per running mile of border ($2 billion for 2,000 miles of border)? I would hope that the budgets that are paying for whatever is being built are based on some kind of analysis. But it is clear, at least to me, that there is more to putting up and maintaining an effective barrier than just planting a few surplus pierced-steel landing mats upright in the ground.

The barrier under construction in California:

http://www.house.gov/hunter/fence.htm  Follow the Construction of Border Fencing 

Looks like there's a measures/countermeasures competition going on: the old barrier defeats vehicles, but not climbers, so they're putting another barrier behind it, that defeats climbers.

I don't see any associated cost figures.

I wonder what the next cycle of the competition will bring?

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

At $2 billion for the 2000 miles it is cheap: Southern California alone spends more than $20 billion a year on services for illegal aliens. Some of that is offset by sales taxes collected, but assuming that fully half is recovered -- a very generous assumption -- the profit from a genuine security barrier of the Israel variety is clear. It won't happen, of course. Imperial objectives include open borders.


Subject: on Disrepair Cited in U.S. Arms

Dear Jerry,

The article mentions how a "classified report" made available to the Washington Post ....

I can not tell you how much I would like to instead read "Government official indicted on unauthorized release of classified document." or "Washington Post reported indicted on unauthorized access to classified information".

It's very true that things get classified that shouldn't. It's also true that they can be legally declassified. But in this case, it really sounds like the Washington Post is very guilty of aiding and abetting our enemies.

Phil Tharp




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  October 7, 2005

Subject: the coming thing

I see where the Prez says that I'm supposed to be all worried about the new Caliphate that hasn't gone through the formality of coming into existence yet. Of course most of the guys infiltrating Iraq were never interested in jihad before we invaded, so the core group we're worrying about, the reason we have to stay in Iraq and continue spending > $60 billion a year for all eternity has what - at most 1000 members worldwide? This is an existential threat to the US - something that doesn't even exist yet, that shows no real sign of ever coming into existence, that hasn't yet managed to take over anything big and scary like, say, Qatar or Dubai.

But they're coming for us. I'm scared, all right.

Gregory Cochran


Gates of Fire.


 Roland Dobbins


Pork Gumbo.


-- Roland Dobbins

I am not getting a free trailer or a stay on a cruise ship. If state governments want to rebuild cities after disasters, they are welcome, and there are charities and what Tocqueville called "Associations". The notion that the Federal Government exists to fix all hurts is alien to the American system; but of course our present system would be horrifying to Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and, I dare say, even to Hamilton.

The worst of it is that we thought we were voting for a saner system with some return to the old republic when we rejected Hillarycare and Democratic control of the Congress. Instead we got imperial overstretch overseas and imperial Emperorcare domestically. Where do we turn? Is there no longer a party that represents Goldwater? Or even Reagan?


The following is a good and clear explanation beginning with basics.

Subject: Easy Phish Detection

There is a particularly sneaky kind of phish message that takes advantage of HTML formatted mail, GIF images of what appear to be legitimate notices, and some image-map bugs for hiding the hook.

Oddly, these messages also give themselves away.

First, if you can look at the SMTP headers, there is usually something amiss with the routing and the origination of the messages. (My mail reader lets me see those by clicking View | Options.) And many times, of course, the phisher impersonates an institution for which you have no account or for which you do not use the email address that the phish is sent to.

But, even funnier is the fact that the messages have material in them that completely gives them away. And it takes about two key-clicks to see the gimmick, as explained at <http://orcmid.com/blog/2004/08/candling-phish.asp>. Why the mystery text? Is it phisher bragging rights or what? Well, no, it is a lame effort to confuse any spam filter and have the phish make it into your in box. This is a kind of catch-22 problem for phishers.

Most of the phish that I have received lately (I've been getting one a day pretending to be from amazon.com, and now a round of eBay and PayPal ones are showing up) are very lame. There seems to be decreasing effort at disguising the origin of the message. And when viewed in plaintext, as my email always shows them to me, the hook, the URL that links to the bogus site, is apparent. These are easy to report to the appropriate security centers, and I've been doing that.

It's not quite so simple, however, with the one that I received yesterday and promptly forwarded to eBay. In this case, the image map trick was accomplished in a way where the exploit was not visible in the plaintext that Outlook 2003 showed me. I had to view in HTML, save the message in HTML, and then display the HTML in Notepad as text. It's very simple and appears to be based on a browser bug, but I can't be sure. Here's the text, which isn't much without the GIF file that is used to cover it all over:


<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN">


  <META http-equiv=Content-Type content="text/html; charset=us-ascii"><MAP

  name=oyijmf><AREA shape=RECT coords=0,0,646,569


  <META content="MSHTML 6.00.2900.2722" name=GENERATOR></HEAD>

  <BODY><B>From:</B> eBay


  Thursday, October 06, 2005 02:02<BR><B>To:</B>

  orcmid@xxyyzz.qqq<BR><B>Subject:</B> Update Your Account Records [Thu, 06

  Oct 2005 02:03:26 -0700]<BR>

  <P><FONT face=Arial><A







  <P><FONT color=#fffff9>Let's face facts. Cliff Notes driving at? in 1986




I have neutered the hook, using IP address 2xx.6y.1zz.1q in place of the actual one. What's nasty is that when you mouse over the image, you'll see the https URL, but if you click on the image, the link in the <MAP> is the one that is used. You can also see the anti-spam text near the end and how it is made invisible (but not to Select All). I don't know where they get these. They are all pretty funny.

Of course, the fact that the phish is entirely in an image is a giant giveaway to start with. And the Edit | Select All will make that apparent too, if cursor shape-changing doesn't attract your notice first.

Now, I detected this over a year ago and I've reported it to some security authorities, but I have never seen it discussed except on my blog. I wonder about that. I think it is a phenomenon that Feynman loved to observe. Technologists have eyes only for technological solutions, and simple things seem uninteresting. (I should have sent this to Raymond Chen. He'd get it.) We don't think of simple kitchen science (O-rings in ice water, for example) and there are many other ways that we overlook the obvious. I do that too. What I liked about this is that anyone can do it. You can candle all the phish you want. You won't catch them all, and you do need to be suspicious enough at the outset. Maybe that's the key.

- orcmid

And we have:

Dr. Pournelle:

About your Friday mail from "orcmid" regarding the use of an image and image map in phishing email:

Your readers might recall my alert back in August 5, 2005 (see http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail373.html#Friday  , several letters into that day). I referenced an analysis in a report at my place (here: http://www.digitalchoke.com/daynotes/reports/phish-080505.php  or http://tinyurl.com/9awcj  ). There's a fairly complete explanation (with html code and screen shots) of those types of emails. These emails are becoming more prevalent, at the office we block 800-1200 of those every day (out of a daily spam load of about 30K).

The sample I reported on includes the evil eBay login dll that can allow the evildoer to capture your eBay login/password. A similar technique could be used for capturing any bank/financial login. All that is required is the email graphic to link to a pop-up login form hosted on the evildoer's site. Once you type it your user name/password, the evildoer can keep your login info, and pass you along to the sites real login page.

I suppose my report could also be used as a template for the spammer/phisher; but the techniques are already well known.

The usual warnings apply...

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Al Gore Speech

Anyhow, an astonishingly good speech by, of all people, Al Gore. At least the first half... then he falls off into gratuitous Bush-bashing, with a swipe at radio "hatemongers"...


But the first half, and a couple of paragraphs at the end, are startlingly accurate.


I had trouble getting past the image of Dan Rather being fired because the White House didn't like him.

Subject: Al Gore Says...

In my opinion, the shift lever between Al Gore's mind and mouth is broken and has been for years. Comes from being a Washingtonian pretending to be a Tennessean for too long.

Charles Brumbelow






This week:


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Subject:  Rebuild New Orleans -- Where?

Dr. Pournelle--

New Orleans probably can be rebuilt, but should it be? At least, should it be rebuilt where it was? I’ve heard comparisons with the rebuilding of Galveston after the hurricane of 1901, but that’s not really a relevant example. Galveston, at least, was and is above sea level, and in 1901 had a far smaller population than the New Orleans of 2005.

Perhaps Louisiana should consider relocating New Orleans on higher ground along the Mississippi River. Jerry, you know a lot more history than I do, so perhaps you could tell us if there is historical precedent. Seems I’ve read of archeologists discovering ancient cities that were rebuilt elsewhere after being destroyed by flood.

I’m not an engineer, merely someone who was raised on a New England seashore, and who spent a lot of his youth absorbing Yankee horse sense. Perhaps Baton Rouge should be considered as the nucleus for relocating/rebuilding New Orleans. Its elevation is given as only 22 feet, but that is higher ground than New Orleans, and far enough inland to have less damage from storms. One objection is that Baton Rouge is about twice as far up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico as New Orleans. HOWEVER, I note there is an offshoot of the Intracoastal Waterway that starts from Port Allen on the Mississippi opposite Baton Rouge and connects to Morgan City, thence to Atchafalaya Bay and the Gulf. This route appears to be no longer than the route from New Orleans down the Mississippi to the Gulf. Surely the cost of making it navigable by ocean-going ships would be less than the cost of rebuilding New Orleans again after another Category 3 storm. Alternatively, a deep-sea ship canal could be dug from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi above New Orleans, about at LaPlace, making it possible to reach the Mississippi from the Gulf via Lakes Bourgne and Pontchartrain.

Perhaps the old part of New Orleans, the part above sea level, could be rebuilt where it is, and the port, etc, could be moved to Baton Rouge.

I don't have much hope for this idea, as it's probably politically unpalatable, but I would like to see it get some serious consideration.

Edwin Frobisher






CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, October 9, 2005

'They beat him until he was lifeless.'


-- Roland Dobbins

A China story we have heard before.













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