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Mail 387 November 6 - 13, 2005






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Monday  November 7, 2005

It is column deadline day. Please see weekend mail. There was a lot.

The column is done.




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Tuesday,  November 8, 2005

Subject: Letter from England

France's internal insurrection and related stories. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4413250.stm  http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/11/07/france.riots/index.html  http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,11882,1635941,00.html

Terror plan deal. I've heard the reason for holding suspects for 90 days is that is the time required to break security on hard drives now. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4411358.stm

Order to kill was 'never given'. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1861022,00.html 

Research funding problems in the UK. We send most of our grant proposals to the EU despite the politicisation of the EU grant review process simply because the UK no longer funds much research. Other budget stories, too. http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2025805

On Slashdot postings: I hear you, Jerry. In the future, I'll post links to the original pages in addition to a slashdot link. The original pages may not be accessible until after the slashdot crowd finish visiting them, so often the contents are uploaded to the slashdot discussion to reduce the load on the original site.

-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) Harry Erwin


More on Paris Riots

A Parisian's insight into the riots. He talks mostly about the unintended consequences of eliminating the requirement for military service in France.




Gigantopithecus blackii.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Global Strategy Against Islamo-Facism

Dr. Pournelle

After reading letters on the subject of "The Beginning of the French Civil War" on Friday, I was reminded of the early days of the original conquest and later establishment of the Caliphate described in Fletcher Pratt's "Battles that Changed History." Pratt notes the rapid expansion and conquest by the faith after the death of the prophet was a surprise to some, but in hindsight was far easier to predict, given the wide dispersal of Arabs in the region. All they needed was something to unite them. The prophet gave them that uniting element.

Now we see the pockets of influence of violent islamists throughout Europe where they combine their voting power with violence and take control of regions of major cities in Europe. The leaders in those countries lack spine and lose support. People back a winner. These stories demonstrate an effective guerrilla war being waged by these Islamo-Fascists in countries that do have real rabble to rouse. We are not talking about just the Middle Eastern nations, but European countries with significant conventional and nuclear weapons.

My earlier letter regarding Hitler and Stalin contained descriptions of them stated by people who dismissed Germany and Russia (and the fascist movements within them) as threats. They dismissed them as harmless and later lived to regret it. They did not know have an accurate picture of the truth. Our intelligence of the Middle East is faulty at best and the events described in "The Beginning of the French Civil War" are not widely known in the world today. I think we dismiss the threat of Islamic-Fascism at our peril. We are watching European police forces melting away in the face of "youths."

On the other hand Pakistan did not have to win very many Nobel Prizes before AQ Khan was able to produce nuclear weapons...

So the question becomes what is the strategy? Do we have a plan at the strategic level combining morale, military, political, and economic power against this movement? Rice and Bush have put forward one by taking the initiative in the heart of the Arab world using representative governments. Based on the descriptions of soldiers on the ground, we are winning and the Iraqi troops are taking up the fight as their own. Lebanon is falling. Syria is feeling the effects.

Any strategy will be a long arduous fight, if we are willing to conduct it. Europe has already signaled their desire to surrender the initiative. Time will tell if they surrender the fight entirely.

Movements and people back a winner.

This is not to say we should ignore our other strategic competitor, China. Their active attacks by non-military means and their military build up cannot be ignored either.

Serving Officer, another young Jacobin.

=You state your case well. The question is, whose business is it to save a world that does not want to be saved? And what assurance do we have that we will face up to the problems at home when we do not protect our borders?

It may be that we now have no choice but to go abroad looking for monsters to slay. It may be that it is time to cultivate entangling alliances, and concern ourselves with territorial disputes in Europe -- e.g. former Yugoslavia vs. Albania, Iraq vs. Kuwait (not precisely Europe, but certainly a territorial dispute between two sets of thugs)and so forth.

But I  continue to believe that if the Navy does its job, and the Army returns to protecting the borders, and we return to the foreign and domestic policies of the republic, we would be a lot better off. America is a bad conqueror because we don't really know how to govern places without the consent of the government. Being intelligent and adaptable, it's obvious that the armed services can learn how to do that. Whether that knowledge is a good thing is another story.

And that, finally, is the issue: is the world a better place if the United States minds the business of the United States, which is rule of law, and government by consent of the governed, and minimizing the size and scope of the nanny state; building the shining city on a hill that is the envy of the world -- or if the United States goes abroad seeking monsters to slay, adopts the inevitable measures that accompany government when a great part of the population does not consent: military tribunals, search and seizure authorized by letters from Executive Branch without any judicial review; writs of assistance issued by judges from secret courts; prisons located overseas in secret places; the Patriot Act in all its glory? That is the real question.

I do not think we can slay monsters overseas and stay the republic I grew up in. We may for a while be able to prosecute military people for violating the rules and abandoning the rule of law, but if insist that they govern without the consent of the governed we will, I think, inevitably be forced to accept the methods required for governing without the consent of the governed.

And having said all that, I hate this kind of debate because the last thing I want is to have our officer corps questioning their missions and having doubts about the legitimacy of their service. And God knows you have earned the right to opinions on these matters.

And we are in complete agreement about China. I do not think Saddam had the means to mount an invasion of anyone, nor do I think the entire Middle East can produce a force that can take a drink from Lake Tahoe without our let and consent. That's not true of China. I am concerned that we expend so much effort in the Middle East that we have insufficient resources to meet the threat of China: and that threat is not so much military as economic, and meeting the Chinese threat requires reform of our schools, recovery of our manufacturing dominance, and rebuilding our industrial base. Whether we can do that and carry liberal democracy to end history in the Middle East is a question worth discussion. It may be that Patriot Act measures required to do the foreign tasks undermine our capabilities to meet the domestic problems.

I still believe the solution to the energy problem is technological, not military; and that requirements for military success eat up the resources needed for technology development. 

I think our choices are Republic or Competent Empire. We seem at the moment stuck on incompetent Empire. But that will change. One way or another. And I can hope that at the end we can prevail in these struggles and remain a republic. I would be delighted to live long enough to eat my predictions.


Dear Dr. P.

As usual, I'm greatly enjoying the various threads of discussion at Chaos Manor. As regards epic poetry, I fondly remember my first reading of "Saul's Death," (found in one of your excellent "There Will Be War" anthologies) both for content and for introducing me to the sestina form.

The fact that I could both grasp and enjoy it probably has much to do with parents, at the time of my birth (1967) both English Teachers, who raised me on Kipling. Back in those days Dad even assigned "Starship Troopers" to his freshmen students at the old Northwood Institute in mid-Michigan. The story is still told at family gatherings of the time at my Grandparent's home when it was suddenly realized that no one had seen my six year old self for quite some time, and after a brief, but frantic search, I was found in the spare bedroom contentedly reading through Grandpa's Louis L'amour novels. (I still have copies of The Aviator and The Ferguson Rifle)

When I went to public High School in the early 1980's, Beowulf was still taught in English Lit classes.

Do not grow weary in fighting the Good Fight, for in due time you shall receive your Reward.

Dave Porter

First Sergeant B 2/19 Infantry Training Brigade Fort Benning, GA

Thanks for the kind words.


Subject: I thought you would be interested to read this article from The Times


Iraq battle stress worse than WWII <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1859664,00.html> Senior army doctors have warned that troops in Iraq are suffering levels of battle stress not experienced since the second world war



On the New Civil War in Europe

Allons Enfants de la Jihad.


-- Roland Dobbins

An important observation

Insightful piece, cites de Tocqueville.

The Riots of Ramadan.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Riots in France

Seems the riots in France are finally beginning to receive media attention in the USA, Dr. Pournelle. I heard a lengthy report on NPR while driving to work this morning, and then found this report:


   "Police officers, exhausted and dispirited after 11 nights of street battles, say their mainly young African and Arab adversaries have access to sophisticated weapons including grenades and could soon begin using them.

"A dozen officers were injured, two of them seriously, after being shot with hunting rifles fitted with lead pellets during rioting last night in the suburb of Grigny, south of Paris, police said." [In the south we call the weapons apparently being described here 'shotguns'.]

"With every passing day, the violence gets worse and we are incapable of dealing with it," Mr. Carne said. "Morale within the police is at zero, and I am very pessimistic that the situation can be resolved without a major reinforcement of security."

"Mr. Carne [police union president] said three policewomen assaulted in the Normandy town of Evreux on Saturday night were likely targeted because they were outnumbered by attackers, adding that it took two hours before additional officers were able to reach the scene.

"Arsonists destroyed more than 3,300 vehicles and dozens of buildings since the unrest began. In an unprecedented show of hostility, gangs of youths yesterday also began increasing their attacks on police, hitting them with everything from rocks to Molotov cocktails."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: European Rioting

From Saturday's Mail: <Quote> Maybe the mainstream US media isn't covering this story very much, but it's been headline news here in Canada, with front-page pictures and articles in the major newspapers and lead-in stories on the TV newscasts. It's also the lead story on the CBC News site this morning: http://www.cbc.ca/news/  Some countries pay more attention to what's going on around them than others. It's what happens when you have to sleep next to an elephant. Best Keith <end quote>

My newspaper (Raleigh News and Observer) carried as much information as the CBC article quoted. I went to that article and read searching for the word "Muslim". The rioters were described as "Young men", "young people", "youths". Finally, in the last paragraph, the article comes of he meat of the matter "Many people view the violence as the expression of pent-up anger by the country's unemployed and underemployed youth, particularly in Muslim immigrant communities, and as a sign of the difficulty North Africans have experienced in trying to integrate into French society."

I love that "particularly". And what are the other groups rioting? It's as if the Watts rioters were described as "suburban youths" (the preferred euphemism in my paper for the European rioters) leaving European visitors to LA to wonder if it was safe to visit Torrance, or Van Nuys.

-- Cecil Rose
Apex, NC

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. But that's a Christian, Western Civilization position. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.





AS THE night falls, the "troubles" start — and the pattern is always the same.

Bands of youths in balaclavas start by setting fire to parked cars, break shop windows with baseball bats, wreck public telephones and ransack cinemas, libraries and schools. When the police arrive on the scene, the rioters attack them with stones, knives and baseball bats.

The police respond by firing tear-gas grenades and, on occasions, blank shots in the air. Sometimes the youths fire back — with real bullets.

These scenes are not from the West Bank but from 20 French cities, mostly close to Paris, that have been plunged into a European version of the intifada that at the time of writing appears beyond control.

The troubles first began in Clichy-sous-Bois, an underprivileged suburb east of Paris, a week ago. France's bombastic interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, responded by sending over 400 heavily armed policemen to "impose the laws of the republic," and promised to crush "the louts and hooligans" within the day. Within a few days, however, it had dawned on anyone who wanted to know that this was no "outburst by criminal elements" that could be handled with a mixture of braggadocio and batons.

By Monday, everyone in Paris was speaking of "an unprecedented crisis." Both Sarkozy and his boss, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, had to cancel foreign trips to deal with the riots.

How did it all start? The accepted account is that sometime last week, a group of young boys in Clichy engaged in one of their favorite sports: stealing parts of parked cars.

Normally, nothing dramatic would have happened, as the police have not been present in that suburb for years.

The problem came when one of the inhabitants, a female busybody, telephoned the police and reported the thieving spree taking place just opposite her building. The police were thus obliged to do something — which meant entering a city that, as noted, had been a no-go area for them.

Once the police arrived on the scene, the youths — who had been reigning over Clichy pretty unmolested for years — got really angry. A brief chase took place in the street, and two of the youths, who were not actually chased by the police, sought refuge in a cordoned-off area housing a power pylon. Both were electrocuted.

Once news of their deaths was out, Clichy was all up in arms.

With cries of "God is great," bands of youths armed with whatever they could get hold of went on a rampage and forced the police to flee.

The French authorities could not allow a band of youths to expel the police from French territory. So they hit back — sending in Special Forces, known as the CRS, with armored cars and tough rules of engagement.

Within hours, the original cause of the incidents was forgotten and the issue jelled around a demand by the representatives of the rioters that the French police leave the "occupied territories." By midweek, the riots had spread to three of the provinces neighboring Paris, with a population of 5.5 million.<snip>

A busybody called the police.


Bonfire of the Vanities.


- Roland Dobbins







Re: Lake Woebegon

Dr. Pournelle,

I know the education discussion has waned, but this might still be relevant. Every two years or so, according to a high school teacher I've spoken to, the California tests are recalibrated so the bottom three quintiles cannot pass it. This meshes with the commentary on your site. Of course, it also means that the goal is not fixed; it will keep shifting so as to be continually difficult to reach. Why there has not been an outcry, I am not sure; perhaps people haven't yet noticed the correlation.

At least some people appear to be noticing the 40%-proficiency rate, and suggesting solutions...


<<Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, put a positive spin on the results of the annual testing of students against state proficiency standards, noting that the numbers have improved over the last few years and citing "a clear trend of student gains in nearly every subject and every grade." But the pace of improvement has been glacial, and even if it continues - which is not, by any means, a certainty - it will be at least a few more years before even half of California's K-12 students are proficient in vital skills. Millions of kids now in school are fated to fail, as the state's embarrassing high school dropout rate attests.>> [Snip]

I wonder how long it will take for the politicians to notice, and take reasonable steps to fix it. Assuming they do, of course. If these don't, the next crop might. They might even listen to the teachers' recommendations -- long odds, but I can dream, can't I?

Sincerely, Susan Shepherd

The problem with US education is not that we do not have great teachers. We do. The problem is that we have a great number of incompetent teachers, most of whom desire with all their hearts to get out of the classroom and into administration, and until then are timeservers. And, alas, the great teachers join unions to protect the incompetent, then discover that the incompetents, who want to be in administration rather than be teachers, are in charge. And the incompetents mean well.

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."  Napoleon Bonaparte


Union thugs attack in L.A.


-- Roland Dobbins

The propositions will probably lose, and since the state is broke, all this will have to be done again. And as I listen to the rude fanatic who claims to speak for the teacher's union, I can see why the United States is doomed. This man is a teacher? 


More on the Civil War in Europe

Frank Furedi on the politics of fear and exhaustion.

Extremely insightful:


- Roland Dobbins





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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

On the Civil War in Europe and what may happen in America

Dear Jerry,

Here is a letter from "Marianne" in France, by way of the Anchoress. Her observations which make our media coverage look downright objective:


May I ask you to pray for us in France, just ordinary decent people who do no have the means to go elsewhere? I do not sleep much. The situation is frightening. I have already lived this kind of events in my life, and I have been many times so anxious about members of my family who lived in Zimbabwe.

I love my country; I have so much sorrow in my heart, so much revolt.

Do not think our media are very informative.

1) To night, [one nights ago, November 7 - admin] one state channel, FR3, has decided not to speak about burned cars. No fire reported=no fire at all. Most people don’t even know that dozens and dozens of little churches all over France have been set on fire during these past years. Our media don’t like the Catholics and as they despise the ordinary French people, they did not want us to put 2 and 2 together.

2) Some nights ago, “youths” threw Molotov cocktails in a bus. People scrambled outside. A poor handicapped woman was sprayed with petrol by the very same thoughtful “youths” and was saved by the bus chauffeur. The poor lady was badly burned.

FR3 channel showed the lady’s 2 daughters, Yaël and Anastasie; they were European and wore no Islamic scarf. They expressed their gratitude to the courageous chauffeur. On another channel, well there was only one daughter… whose name was Fadella and who wore an Islamic scarf! She said that her mother (??) was saved by the courageous “youths”. What do you make of this? Was Fadella an actress? You bet!

It is so insulting for us! But our media are leftist and that’s it.

We had to wait 7 days before they spoke about “Islam”. All the while, our Jak Ben Chirak remained silent. When he deigned to speak, it was to say that we, French people, were responsible, because we have not fully accepted the “immigrants”. I do not know where this man is living! He does not have to go in the metro or to take a bus. He lives in the quartiers chics, like most politicians.

The Islamic immigrants from Maghreb and Africa scorned France and were far too superior to deign to accept us…

When we dare to grumble, when we dare to murmur that Islam is a religion of death, that we do not want to become an Islamic republic, the media and the politicians also scorned us saying we were racist and fascist and anti-arab, and islamophobic, and anti-Semitic. But our money was not scorned upon. (we have to pay to sustain the newspapers which would collapse if it were not for our forced contribution. I pay for abortions, even if I disagree; I have to pay for communist and Trotskyite newspapers, even if I loath them; I have to pay for bad comedians who have no talent)

We pay, with our taxes, scores of “associations” full of communist-islamics and we just have to shut our mouths and say amen. Well, not “amen”; amen is not politically acceptable.

Villepin does not see what I would call “the Islamic touch”in the riots; it was very much lost in translation. The man needs to have his head examined: We all heard : “Allah Akbar! It is Jerusalem here! C’est Jerusalem ici! Attends, on va les péter! On va leur péter la gueule! On va tous les niquer à mort! Allah Akbar!”

The barbarians are poor victims. Right is left, left is right, bad is good and good is bad.

A fortnight ago, Sarkozy and the police had broken up an important network of arms and drugs dealers in the same banlieues. The banlieues live on underground economy : prostitutions, arms and drugs. Do you see a relation with islamic networks? Heaven forbid!

On the 11 November, the thugs have decided to invade Paris, near the Tour Eiffel, aux Champs de Mars. What barbecue will they have? Will they invite our grand vizir ?

To day, I put a piece of paper [a sign] on my coat: “Do not touch anymore to MY France!” Most of the people are blind; women are more observant than man, some people do not even dare to really see what they saw, I don’t care: I just wanted to sow an idea (while saying “Hail Mary”).

A protestant church in Meulan has been put on fire [today, November 8]. Nothing about that in our media. Too many are asleep.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians)



Bob Thompson made a very good observation this morning:

"Many have commented that we can eventually expect to see such outrages in the United States. I don't think that's true, at least on a large scale. I do know that if rioting Islamic "youths" attempted to burn down our neighborhood, they wouldn't know what hit them. Like most middle-class neighborhoods outside the effete liberal urban areas, ours is well armed. If Islamic riots broke out around here, our neighborhood would immediately be closed down, secured, and patrolled. Any punks who showed up with Molotov cocktails would quickly find themselves perforated with buckshot."


Thank God for the Second Amendment.

Take Care,

Rod Schaffter

-- "I find, for some odd psychological reason, that I can deal better with a man's exercise of free will if I believe that he has got it." --G.K. Chesterton

Mr. Thompson may find himself facing BATF and Federal Marshals. It is likely that the federal authority will support the rioters, who will only be demanding their rights. After the Watts Riots, the Christopher Commission found some very interesting conclusions, and none of them had much to say in condemnation of the rioters.

Besides: while Mr. Thompson is formidable, he can be isolated, demonized as an extremist, and carried off to a Federal prison. Probably charged with terrorism.

Yes, perhaps one day, there will be a military revolt in defense of the people of the United States, but it is not likely. We have put up with anarcho-tyranny for some time now. Why will it be different here? Our reaction to "punks" and slackers who riot is to ask what we did to deserve that, and build some more youth centers, and have midnight basketball. And to jail anyone who defends himself, as a number of Korean shopkeepers found during the last riots here.

And another letter from France:


There is a strange affair in France about media. You can find photos and videos here:
http://www.france-echos.com/actualite.php?cle=7532  and I've written about it (in French) on my blog here: http://www.evoweb.net/blog/index.php/2005/11/06/p167/Banlywood-.html

In short: last Wednesday, some "youths" had attacked a bus, spread petrol in it, and put it on fire. A disabled woman was in the bus, unable to leave the bus alone, and she tells that the youths spread petrol directly on her. Fortunately, the bus driver came back to help her, and she is just severely burned, alive.

At first, the media tried to avoid this affair: it would give a "bad image" of the rioters, and they want to "appease the tensions". However, on Friday evening, France 3 (a part of the national TV group France Television) diffused a interview of 2 daughters of this woman (according to the newspaper "Le Figaro", she has 3 daughters). These two girls are, as their mother, whites, Europeans, and one looks like a lot her mother.

A few hours after, TF1 (private TV) and France 2 (another of the group) diffused their interview of the daughter of this woman: an Arabic islamist girl...

Sure, it is possible that this woman has really 3 daughters, and that one of these is Arabic and Islamist: I do not know. But it is very surprising: in such situations, France 2 should use the France 3 images, because of synergy in the group, the competition is against TF1.

So, even if it is all regular, that this woman has 3 daughters, one being an arabic islamist, that France 2 with 24 hours late decided to find the daughter of this woman, and film her, even if there is nothing behind, that it's just genuine journalism, it fits so much with the current propaganda that Islam has nothing to do with riots that it is surprising. An extraordinary luck, I would say.

For my post on Evoweb, I've coined the word "Banlywood", on the same model as "Pallywood", from "Banlieue" which means "Suburb". As I wrote the other day in the FAQ, an own Al-Durah affair is a necessity for rioters if they want to be a real intifada. Maybe this is their first attempt.

A bientôt,



A letter not printed by the Wall Street Journal

Carol Hymowitz bases her column (October 25) on a fallacy that is common to the point of ubiquity in discussions of sex differences.

Hymowitz attempts to refute various explanations of why only two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women by invoking the fact (let us assume that it is a fact) that "these theories belie the basic truth proved by countless surveys over the past decades: There is little difference between the leadership styles of successful male and female bosses."

Explanations of the male-female difference do not (necessarily) deny that those men and women who attain the upper hierarchical positions exhibit similar characteristics. The explanations-even those emphasizing hereditary psychophysiological differences between males and females-attempt to explain the statistical difference between the numbers of men and women attaining the positions, not the characteristics of those who do attain the positions. In other words, the question that these explanations attempt to answer is the huge difference in the numbers of men and women who attain these positions, not any difference between the men and women who do attain these positions.

This is clear from an analogy that should always be kept in mind in discussions of sex differences: The claim that heredity and physiology accounts for the male-female difference in height does not imply a height difference between those men and women who are exactly seven-feet-tall.

Steven Goldberg


Subject: Paris is Burning

There's a developing consensus that current events reflect a society that had been ghettoizing its minorities--warehousing them in lawless banlieues out of sight and out of mind. Most of the rioters seem to be young males 12-25 living in areas where there is no community, no adult leadership, and no opportunity. It's not a religious thing; it's not even a cultural thing--these are second generation French citizens, and the cars they are burning belong to their elders. At least America had the Army during the 1950s as an acceptable career path for middle class blacks.

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

So it is all the fault of Western Civilization, which did not abase itself enough to accommodate a bunch of people who do not want to be assimilated?

I fear I cannot agree. The fault is that liberals do not believe in Western Civilization. They piously hope that the principles of liberal democracy will be obeyed by all, but they don't have any reasoned defense or philosophical stuffing for those principles. The result is that when people behave as Hobbes predicted, they have no answer.

For Dr. Erwin's reply, see below.


Subj: Iraq: The Return of Chalabi


=A year ago the Bush Administration tried to destroy Ahmed Chalabi's chances of ever leading a free Iraq. This week the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister has meetings scheduled with Bush Cabinet members Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and John Snow, as well as National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. What gives? ...=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Unreasonable faith in Chalabi's ability and his supposed influence and understanding got us into this war. Who knows, maybe he can get us out. This time for sure.


The trip to Egypt as part of an international military exercise didn't happen, instead we were kept here for the hurricane relief operation instead.

I do think that I'd state the situation in Iraq a bit differently than you. I have utter confidence in the military situation. Every time I look at it I'm struck at how much improvement I see and how quickly it gets better compared to what I would have expected. Where I see signs for concern is in the politics, here and there, and the media. I worry about what happens if the wrong people within the US gain power to achieve their ends, since I can't think of a worse result than teaching our foes that if they hold out long enough we'll fold, and I worry that we can't produce a good enough government in Iraq to keep the place from sliding over into variously anarchy, despotism or theocracy, or some combination thereof. However, my main fear is the media. I can defeat the armed foes of my nation. I am utterly convinced of that and I can make a pretty good case. I'm not so sure I can deal with those foes armed with the means to spread their opinion around the world. We j! ust don't have much of anyone fighting on that front for us.

Compare coverage of Iraq, where we've already built the start of an army and had successful elections, with Kosovo, where they have ... well, less organized killing after a couple of times as long by the UN and EU.

A Serving Officer (Middle East veteran)


Thank you for posting the letter from "Marianne". She sounds like a younger version of my grandmother (I just finished a two-week visit with her in Paris).

It is depressing sometimes to look at France and see only evidence that the entire country is going down the tubes, but things like that give me hope. The main problem is the French elites, who dictate to the rest of the people what they should think. If they can be tossed aside (and socialism with them), I think the ordinary French have the guts to handle this.

In some ways I think it is good that this has happened now. France is still strong enough to fight off the infection if it becomes aware of it quickly enough. If the underclasses had waited another 10-15 years or so before making a major move, they'd be much stronger.

Kent Peterson urquan @ rocketmail.com

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_


Subject: Marine Spec Ops ?

Dr. Pournelle,

Not that I disagree with the move to create a Marine Corp Special Operations Command, but I thought the Corp was already considered an elite force. I guess now they're looking for a few better men.


Ron Booker


Subject: Whack the Wahabi Map

Here is a most excellent and fully active data fusion map overview of the Afghan-Pakistan happy hunting groud, brought to you in the interest of earthquake disaster relief, but mighty handy for keeping up with the hunt for what remains of OBL and the Taliban.


be sure the # is part of the adress, and use broadband- this is a very high resolution map, and you can zoom as much as bandwidth allows. RS


Subject: Greenland icecap


To add to the never-ending stream of contradictory climate information, satellite radar mapping is showing the Greenland icecap to be growing. You may also find the related links at the bottom of the page interesting.



'Every special interest is entitled to justice full, fair and complete....but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench or to representation in any public office.' Theodore Roosevelt

Actually, that's not entirely incompatible with warming. There needs to be energy to transport water vapor to the north icecap areas. But it is an indication that we don't really understand what is going on.

There are two major questions: what human activities contribute significantly to global warming -- and is there any warming at all. In both cases the theory indicates we ought to be seeing more warming than we see.  Finally there is the question: if it's not a lot of warming, will that be harmful or beneficial? Longer growing seasons and milder northern weather are not obviously a bad thing.


The global decline in seabird populations is of growing concern to ecologists, and now researchers have discovered a new cause – some may be becoming too stupid to survive.



Subject: Router

Dear Jerry,

Quite some time ago, you advised me to get a router for my stand-alone Windows PC. I did not quite understand at the time why you were so insistent, but I took you at your word and got a D-Link DI-604. I don't do wireless, except for Bluetooth with my Palm Tungsten T3, so the DI-604 is satisfactory. Since then, I have not had a single problem with a worm. Once in a while, Norton AntiVirus traps an email virus, but the thing is, it all works. You have saved me so much trouble.

I subscribe to your website and am happy to to do so.

Warmest Regards, Bill Dooley


Subject: Tom Bethell and AIDS, Abolishing the Dept of Education

Dr. Pournelle:

I have also searched the Spectator site (www.spectator.org) but can not find that article. I even searched under their columnists (link at bottom of their home page), found a link to Tom, and got a list of his articles. There's one dated October, but has nothing to do with AIDS. It could be that electronic versions aren't archived until a later date, OR, they do not archive the print edition in its entirety.

I agree with you regarding abolishing the Department of Education. This Jimmy Carter sop to teacher's unions has done absolutely nothing to improve education. While I agree in principle with you regarding returning control to local districts, it would be impossible here in Texas. First and foremost, we have the "Robin Hood" school finance rule which takes money from wealthier districts and distributes it to poorer districts. This disaster came about as a response to a 1980s lawsuit that claimed the then-current funding to schools was unconstitutional. As a result, school taxes are ridiculous in better school districts. My school district (Spring Branch Independent Schol District) charges $1.81 per hundred dollar assessed valuation. This is in addition to the $2.38 per hundred dollar assessed valuation for property tax for Harris County, but I digress. Houston Independent School district, which is also completely within the confines of Houston, Texas, charges only $1.62. HISD is an underperforming district that gets additional moneys from wealthier, better performing districts. Many districts in poorer areas charge less because they receive largesse from other districts. This law has been upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, and I think we'd be stuck with it. It'd be nice if we could get back to teaching the basics, instead of paying for everything from breakfast to computers, to babysitting, to self-esteem programs. I don't see that happening. Unfortunate, but true.

I think that teacher's unions have too tight a grip on our education system, and without a Chinese "Cultural Revolution" type of purge, they aren't going anywhere. I say this as the son of a teacher (and union member, who ran unsuccessfully for statewide office because she was a registered Republican).

With teaching, where do you start? I would go with the stream theory... teach college prep to those qualified (the A stream) teach trades and careers to the capable (but less qualified) (the B stream), and teach basic skills to the minimally qualified (the C stream). My high school had a "career center" that focused on jobs such as machinist, welder, and other manufacturing jobs (I graduated in 1978) that were useful in the oil, gas, and agricultural industries. Today's career centers could teach IT and similar skills. I've gotten into very heated arguments with folks when I state, "Not everyone should be in college." If you want to cause a few strokes, say that to members of the "equality of outcome" crowd. Schools should also not be daycare centers, nor should they be feeding children free breakfast, lunch, and in some cases, dinner. Schools should teach skills. They should neither babysit nor even teach sex education.

I've ranted enough. Have a pleasant day!


Bill Kelly Houston


Subject: 10 worst software bugs


Interesting little article. Some occurred in the early 60's. Some actually caused deaths (you don't often hear about those.)

I would bet that there are some we aren't hearing about because they happened on secret projects, weapon systems, etc...


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint


Subject: Educational theory and practice

Came across this in today's paper, and thought it fit in well with the earlier IQ and education discussions. It would be almost funny if it weren't true. I'm sure some brilliant, properly credentialed educational theorist thought this was an excellent idea...


Seems to me that it would probably be difficult to teach "why" something works before the student knows what it is that the "why" is explaining. Number theory prior to arithmetic? As you've more than adequately argued many if not most students have neither the aptitude or the necessity for esoteric abstract concepts - and that is this schools primary curriculum? I can't even come up with a reasonable metaphor for this sort of inverted logic.

I especially liked how the school's highest performer in maths ascribed his achievements to his parents and teachers "in spite of" the school's curriculum, and that it is the students that seem to be the first ones to recognize the implications of such lunacy.

Between this and Kansas's school board decision yesterday, one wonders exactly how many and how far students will be left behind by such "enlightened" folks.

As you often say "we have sown the wind..." and I am *not* looking forward to my generation having to harvest it in the not-all-too-distant future. The baby-boomer/60s generation from whence many of these "unstructured learning" ideas have come has done far more (albeit well-intentioned) damage than any invader or terrorist could possibly have done to our society and our future. My generation (the so-called apathetic Gen-X children of that generation) are inheriting quite the mess.

Regards, J. Scott Cardinal


Subject: Rebels with a cause

Hi Jerry,

The newest fad in education is to force children to independently reinvent every concept of mathematics from counting to calculus. This approach might work for the next Richard Feynman, but it is a disaster for every child who is not a mathematical prodigy.

Both parents and classroom teachers are protesting the lunacy of the new "innovation". The professional educational establishment is trying to suppress the rebels. The Board of Education has decided to overrule the parents.


The terminology used by the proponents of the new method of instruction is almost Orwellian. "Constructivists" and "progressives" are good. "Traditionalists" are bad. Multiplication tables are proscribed.

Why does the American teaching profession refuse to teach children the methods used in the real world? When I was in grade school in the 1970's the new fad was ITA (Initial Teaching Alphabet). Warning: no professional writer with a family history of heart disease should ever google this phrase.

My first grade teacher spelled the name of a red fruit as "appul". I corrected her. She told me I had to learn how to spell the wrong way before I was taught how to spell the right way. I ignored her. I saved myself two years of confusion, because by the time I was in third grade ITA had been abandoned. My classmates took years to recover.

Eric Krug


Subject: Paris is Burning (follow-up)

"So it is all the fault of Western Civilization, which did not abase itself enough to accommodate a bunch of people who do not want to be assimilated? I fear I cannot agree. The fault is that liberals do not believe in Western Civilization. They piously hope that the principles of liberal democracy will be obeyed by all, but they don't have any reasoned defense or philosophical stuffing for those principles. The result is that when people behave as Hobbes predicted, they have no answer."

--It's more like a long-term social policy of keeping these people from competing for jobs. France is known in Europe for its 35 hour work week and high job costs. These are the people who have been excluded from the job market to maintain the high salaries for those with jobs. The French government has been using a combination of welfare state programs (the carrot) and brutal policing (the stick) to encourage them to keep their heads down, but those policies have been unreliable for a long time. The same thing could easily happen in Washington DC.

I don't think it's as much liberalism--remember radical liberalism is libertarianism--as it is social policy that attempts to maintain a comfortable status quo long after it is appropriate to the situation. The French government is not interested in free trade, government withdrawal from the economy, and free enterprise capitalism--the policies that would create jobs with living wages for the currently excluded.

Oh, by the way, the UK government lost in Parliament on the Terror legislation. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1864619,00.html

On the other hand, you *really* have to read this story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Education/schools/story/0,5500,1637434,00.html This proposal includes inspections of child-minder's homes to ensure they are teaching the national curriculum to toddlers.

Breaking news: terrorist attacks in Amman http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1638667,00.html

-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) Harry Erwin


=On this month's column in www.byte.com

Subject: Alternatives to Norton Anti-Virus

Dr. Pournelle,

The network administrators here at Michigan State University had a listserve discussion about replacing Norton Anti-Virus just a couple weeks ago. The strongest vote was for NOD32, http://nod32.softwaresecuritysolutions.com/.  On the other hand, AVG/Grisoft is recommended in the latest PC World (Dec 2005).


-- David McFarlane,
Research Technology Specialist
Dept. Psychology, Michigan State University


Subject: Anti-virus suggestions


I gave up on Norton anti-virus last year, like you fed up with the poor performance. I switched to Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security, and other than the silly name I am exceptionally happy with the product. They offer a home networking pack, which gives you three licenses at a fair price. I've been using it on three different machines with no problems for a full year now.

The performance (boot-up, real-time scans and full manual scans) is dramatically better than Norton. And they seem to update their virus definitions much more often (sometimes once a day) than Norton. The included firewall is also quite good -- easy to setup and quite effective.

Keep up the great work,






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy Birthday United States Marine Corps

Afternoon Jerry,

Evidently there's a new way to find booby traps - silly string. I'm sure there's a MilSpec version that costs $200/can.






"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



Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

I know there are a lot of these that are forwarded, so I apologize if this is a repeat for you. Good stuff though. Happy B-Day.


Classification: UNCLASSIFIED


This is good reliable stuff from a friend of mine. It should be of particular interest to those of you who are always looking for Ballistics info,(Rick & WW especialliy). But be sure and read to the end. It will give you a clear idea of how our Marines are REALLY doing. You never hear this spin in the news, not even FOX. I rarely fwd this stuff around, but on our Birthday today, I think it is appropriate to remember how hard those Grunts are working over there. That message needs to be told.


Semper Fi


Interesting report...

Subject: War intel, from owner of bullet company in FL

Got this from a former Marine first sergeant - thought you might be interested in his son's assessment of weapons and enemy tactics in Iraq (the boy is home from his first tour, going back in early 2006, and early re-enlisted for another 4 years.)

Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Jordan, who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early '06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq.

Jordan spent 7 months at "Camp Blue Diamond" in Ramadi. Aka: Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politics here, just a Marine with a bird's eye view's opinions:

1) The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4 carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gunsights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.

2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of shit. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly. (that's fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.

5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 Nato (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!). Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts 'em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. "Ma deuce" is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put 'em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45's are being re-issued en masse.

8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700's. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcock's record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as shit to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullshit about the "old" body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IED's was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases.

12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We've all seen the videos.

13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefire's, and the troops love 'em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.

I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old!!!!!!!!! With all our technology, it's the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!!! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.

Bad guy weapons:

1) Mostly AK47's The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like shit. Undisciplined "spray and pray" type fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our up-armored humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in Jordan's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated "shape charges" (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IED's are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. That's why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm rockets (with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan's NCO's lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage "inside the wire". Jordan's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul ass in a matter of seconds.

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and "Google earth" for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

Who are the bad guys?:

Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly "foreigners", non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then travel down the "rat line" which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that we've been hitting hard for the last few months. Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in "sacrifice squads". Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt.'s, the police forces and the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80's. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.

Bad Guy Tactics:

When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing Ak's and RPG's directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. ( see the M2 and M240 above). Jordan's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeo's (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast mover's, mostly Marine F-18's, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all. Fun fact: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we're seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber shit. The new strategy is simple: attrition.

The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially) Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cant reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.).

The first thing our guys are told is "don't get captured". They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a shit about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option.

The Iraqi's are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a shit. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi's use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqi's were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqi's are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.

According to Jordan, morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just cant stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there).

I have this from many sources including Hairy Redd and Colonel Couv. A couple of them wonder if this is intel that will help the enemy; but since I have it from many sources, it's pretty clear that it's all over the Internet. And see below.

Subject: Reference:  Marine Spec Ops.

Dr. Pournelle,

It was inevitable. Special forces get the funding. So, to get the money they need for advanced training and equipment for the unconventional war on terror, the Corps has to form "Spec Ops" forces. It's been happening for a while, (we've had Recon and Force Recon, the Raiders during WWII), but it's accelerated recently with units such as FAST Companies because of the way the Pentagon divvies up the treasure. Apparently, no longer are the Corps the ones who do the most with the least. The shift towards "Garrisons" and fighting forces has begun.

George Laiacona


The Writing Was on the Wall.


-- Roland Dobbins


The helmets don't work!


-- Roland Dobbins

But -- we all relied on them!


Subject: "Innovative" Math

I've seen where the "innovative" math programs end up here in the UK, where pharmacists can't do the simple multiplication needed to calculate drug doses, where you can't teach data structures or algorithm performance because the seniors can't follow the math, where experimental design is a lost art because the PhD students don't understand basic statistics, and where the math programmes in primary and secondary schools are calling out for teachers, because there's nobody left to teach the teachers.

Just another example of societal collapse (read Jared Diamond's new book).

-- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?" Harry Erwin, PhD


I don't know about others but the Paris Burnings have caused me to lurch to the Right on immigration policy (IMHO; FWIW).

Public policy making has gone backwards since Ike. These guys are simply not prepared to adjust their views to accord with the facts.

My contempt for the New Left-New Right alliance on immigration policy has also deepened. The cultural liberal's reaction to the failure of European Union's *anti-nationalist ethnic* policies in the noughties is analogous to economic liberal's reaction to the failure of the Soviet Union's *anti-capitalist economic* policies in the thirties. Blind denial followed by hysterical denunciation of the messenger.

There has to be a rethink on ethnic selection and settlement policies. The EU has tried a variety of settlement policies in order to accommodate Arabic and African ethnics, most notably multiculturalism (HOLLAND, UK) and assimilation (FRANCE).

Neither has worked very well, although there are distinct differences in the way different ethnics react to policy. North East Asians seem to integrate fairly well over time no matter how badly they are settled. South West Asians seem to segregate over time no matter how much touchy-feelyness is poured into their settlement.

It seems it is the quality and quantity of ethnics the state selects, not the way the state settles them, is what matters. High IQ ethnics seem to settle well. Low IQ ethnics dont settle well at all.

Interestingly the Arabian ethnics are closest in biology and theology to the Europeans. They are more or less Caucasian in race and more or less Abrahamic in religion.

But the big lesson is: numbers are of the essence. France has five million + Islamic ethnics compared to one point five million Islamic ethnics in Britain.

What can this mean for the EU - a jurisdiction in which I hold citizenship - when 70 million Islamic Turks get free range [!] over the continent?

I fear for Europe.




Since last night, some anti-islamist websites (as France-Echos, politically far right, that I've already cited here) are unavailable from France (except via the use of proxies).

I'm not in France and have access to France Echos: I noticed there that the forum is still active (posting from foreigners in majority) and that one of the responsible of the website (Francis Percy Blake) carefully avoid to answer to questions about this censorship.

I've requested a friend in France to check for me some websites, and could notice that France-Echos is not the only one censored, but that the most known islamist forum is NOT censored.

National media have announced that violence has greatly decreased this night ("only" 482 cars burned instead of 610). However, in Nice Matin (the newspaper of the French Riviera) they indicate discretly (not on the front page) that the number of cars burned in the department has increased (30 cars) despite the curfew.

I understand that the strategy is to try to limit the competition between cités which is indeed a part of the problem.

Tomorrow, November 11th, is holyday: it's the anniversary of the end of WWI (nov 11, 1918). An islamist group is calling for a huge demonstration on the Champs Elysées (Paris), on Yahoo! News French I could read an article about it, calling it a "call for peace", but this demonstration has, AFAIK, not yet been allowed. Reminder: Islamists were first beginning to prepare an independent demonstration for Saturday afternoon, but after that have decided to rally the demonstration of Friday whose original aim was "for Palestine and in memory of Yasser Arafat". The Parisian Police has forbidden the detail sale of oil.

The analysis of what appears on AFP shows that the official culprit of these riots are "racism" (of course: only the racism of whites) and "discrimination". Sarkozy has requested that foreigners condemned would be forbidden to stay in France, but the left is against, and SOS Racisme (a socialist association) has intended a complaint at the Conseil d'Etat for illegality.

And a proof of the censorship in a newspaper as important as Liberation (the 2nd after Le Monde) has been found: http://www.acmedias.org/B473.asp

A bientôt,


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away Philip K. Dick


Where do people come up with this stuff?

According to Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute (http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_baeo.htm)  the high school graduation rate in the U.S. is 71%. From the executive summary:

"The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%. For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.

Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 54% of students graduating, followed by Nevada, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate with 93%, followed by North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

Wisconsin had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 40%, followed by Minnesota, Georgia, and Tennessee. Georgia had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students with 32%, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in seven states and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in eight states for which data were available.

The highest rate of graduation among African-American students was 71% in West Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey. The highest rate of graduation among Latino students was 82% in Montana, followed by Louisiana, Maryland, and Hawaii.

Among the fifty largest school districts in the country, Cleveland City had the lowest overall graduation rate with 28%, followed by Memphis, Milwaukee, and Columbus.

Fairfax County, VA had the highest overall graduation rate among the districts with 87%, followed by Montgomery County, MD, Albuquerque and Boston.

Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia. Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia's Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties. Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds a national high school completion rate of 86% for the class of 1998. The discrepancy between the NCES' finding and this report's finding of a 71% rate is largely caused by NCES' counting of General Educational Development (GED) graduates and others with alternative credentials as high school graduates, and by its reliance on a methodology that is likely to undercount dropouts."

The last point is quite significant. All claims of a relatively high graduation rate are based on including GEDs as high school graduates. They aren't. Not just in some technical sense. Detailed studies have shown that GEDs have life trajectories that closely match dropouts, not high school graduates. For example, the military experimented with recognizing GEDs as diplomas with dismal results.

The claim that "only 9 percent of American-born don't have a high school degree" is really awful. Both the Census ( http://www.insightmag.com/media/paper441/news/2004/07/06/National/Graduation.Rates  .At.AllTime.High-691075.shtml) and Department of Education (http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ewp_03.htm)  give numbers around 85% (once again dubiously treating GEDs as high school graduates).

Of course, the truth is worse, indeed much worse. A substantial proportion of the actual high school graduates are graduates in degree only. According to http://www.asbj.com/199904/0499beforetheboard.html  around one fourth of 12 graders don't even have basic reading skills. What exactly does a high school diploma mean in such cases?

Realistically, perhaps 50%-60% of American kids actually graduate high school in some meaningful sense of the word. This of course shows why we need to import unskilled labor from the rest of the world.



Subject: If there was ever any doubt


If there was ever any doubt that the People's Republic of China is not big on freedom of communication...

--John R. Strohm


Subject: Re: intel about the .223 round

>A couple of them wonder if this is intel that will help the enemy; but since I have
>it from many sources, it's pretty clear that it's all over the Internet.

Hell, the uselessness of the .223 rifle round and AR-15 action has been known since the first issue of the M16 rifle! Nobody has ever taken the weapon seriously, (although, of course, any bullet can kill someone, and the man is more important than the weapon.) It's just not suited for a war that lasts longer than it would have taken to vaporize Russia.

Nuclear paranoia had such an incredible influence on the 1950s and 1960s that we are still feeling the effects half a century later. If your riflemen are only there to keep the civilians away from the nuclear launch sites for the two-hour duration of World War III, then a .223 sharpshooter rifle works great. (Similarly, the M1 tank and M2 APC were designed to take on the hordes of Russians that would come storming over the German border--fighting that took place at long range in clear terrain.) I would submit that most of the foreign-policy decisions, and virtually all military decisions (and much domestic policy, such as subsidies and guaranteed loans for airlines and defense-industry companies) have been driven by the fear of nuclear attack.

Lord only knows what our world would look like today if Americans were able to keep a secret for thirty god-damn seconds. I'm left wondering if all the Manhattan Project types shouldn't have "gone on vacation" after the end of World War II...

-- Mike Powers

If it had not been for nuclear weapons, the Russians would certainly be on the Rhine and probably to the Atlantic.







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


FridayNovember 11, 2005

Armistice Day

Veterans Day


Subject: Dedication Is Visible Among new Soldiers


The hearts and minds of our new army:


Inter alia, reenlistments going up after service in Iraq.



Subject: One Passenger, One CPU

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2005/q3/nr_050930g.html  is a press release from Boeing about the spiffy planned In Flight Entertainment (IFE) system for the 787 "Dreamliner" due to fly in 2007. It will use wireless networks to distribute video etc. to a computer in the back of each seat, and allow internet access from the seat without passengers needing to break out their own computers. I wonder how it will work with MS Windows Live?

I am not affiliated with Boeing or any of its suppliers or PR etc., I've just been reading about their record-breaking 777-200LR flight this week, and can't wait to get in-flight internet access to kill time on a long-haul flight...


brian thomson
dublin, ireland

I'd be happy with power and a satellite wireless connection, but this looks cool.


McCartney plans space broadcast http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4425686.stm  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4425686.stm>

 Sir Paul McCartney is to become the first musician to broadcast live music to an audience in space. His rendition of the Beatles' song Good Day Sunshine is to be beamed to the international space station crew. Sir Paul told his official website he decided to make the broadcast after Nasa used the song to wake the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The link-up from his concert in Anaheim, California, will take place on 13 November shortly before 0600 GMT. Sir Paul's performance will be a special wake-up call for the station's two crew members, Nasa astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev.

The pair will be 220 miles above Earth. Space mission He said he was "extremely proud" to hear how the track had been used to let the Shuttle crew know the weather was good enough for an Earth landing.

"In our concert we hope to repay the favour," he said. Sir Paul will also play recent solo track English Tea. The performance will mark the 44th day in space for the two space station crew members, who are in the middle of a six-month flight.

Steven Dunn


Sony Strikes Again

Subject: Three viruses and counting

Hi Jerry,

Sony is now the best friend of hackers everywhere.


The next person who is prosecuted by Sony for downloading music could reasonably claim that he was trying to avoid hidden malware.

Eric Krug



If you buy Sonys's latest disc the 3,000 word EULA includes the following terms:-

Sony's liability is limited to $5

If the disc is lost or stolen you must delete the copy on your computer.

Ditto if you go bankrupt.

Ditto if you move to another country.

All this and much more at


What is the Japanese for go stick your head in a pig?

John Edwards


Subject: China plans moon landing by 2017?

Happened again, Dr. Pournelle... One item on Chaos Manor led me to something else, which led me to another item, which led...

The fruit from this latest chain is:


A useful quote:

"Recently, NASA offered a US$100 billion Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) that would return Americans to the moon by 2018. The program would include new spacecraft, launch vehicles, using the ISS as a space way-station, and robotic craft launched as early as 2008 for lunar reconnoitering. In what is seen by some as rising to the challenge of American space hegemony announcements, the Chinese are making some of their own. "China will make a manned moon landing at a proper time, around 2017," so said Ouyang Ziyuan, a leading space exploration scientist."

And how long did it take us, essentially starting from scratch, to reach the moon the first time such a goal was announced? From 2005 to 2018 sounds a lot longer.

Charles Brumbelow


Here is an article on AIDS, you may find interesting?

An a remarkable paper, Andrew Francis (a graduate student at the University of Chicago) examines how AIDS has changed sexual choice. With admirable precision, Francis lays out the price of sex:

...it is thousands of times more likely that a male would get HIV having sex with a man than having sex with a woman. In terms of AIDS-related mortality, the expected cost of having unprotected sex once with a man is almost $2000, while the expected cost of having unprotected sex once with a woman is less than a dollar.

Thus AIDS changes the price of sex, do we observe changes in choice? Francis wants to be careful about causality so he uses a clever instrumental variables approach. He reasons that knowledge of AIDS and thus responsiveness to price is correlated with knowing someone who has AIDS and that knowing someone who has AIDS is exogeneous to other factors influencing sexuality. Unfortunately, it appears that he only has information on whether a relative has AIDS and genetic factors mean exogeneity is unlikely to hold. In fact, we would probably expect that simply knowing someone with AIDS is positively correlated with being homosexual (especially in 1992 when the survey was taken).

Indeed, Francis finds, as expected, that women who have a relative with AIDS are more likely to be engage in homosexual acts and identify as being homosexual. But Francis finds that men who have a relative with AIDS are significantly less likely to:

...have had sex with a man during the last sexual event...have had a male sexual partner in the last year... say they are sexually attracted to men...rate having sex with someone of the same gender as appealing...[or] think of themselves as homosexual or bisexual.

The tendency to greater homosexuality among women and less among men is exactly what the economic theory predicts given how AIDS affects the price of sex. Genetic and social factors will have greater difficulty resolving this bifurcation so I think Francis has the upper-hand on the argument, although there may be counter-arguments based on the gay-uncle theory).

Importantly, note also that Francis finds that not only is sexual choice malleable, as the prison story I opened with suggests, but so are sexual desire and identity. At least on the margin! (A point that non-economists are likely to miss.)






Haven't written in awhile, hope these two items might help you.

First, the Word problem with hyperlinks - Go to format styles and change the style for hyperlinks. Any color, font, underline, or other formatting you desire can be yours, if you only know how. Obviously Help does not know how to tell you this...

Second, enjoyed the column today, as every Monday. Thanks! My solution for a hot notebook was the Antec Notebook Cooler. Might have even heard about it from you. Check out http://www.antec-inc.com/pro_details_cooling.php?ProdID=75004 

It sits under the notebook, drawing air down and out with two relatively quiet fans. Uses a pass through USB plug. I like the white noise in my office, and I hope the cooler temperatures are extending the life of the electronics inside my Gateway notebook.

Keep up the good work, totally enjoy everything you write.


Sometimes the format changes don't stick. I think I have to edit Normal.

Thanks for the kind words.


Subject: Millet, but No Harvest

Dear Dr. Pournelle;

A correspondent of yours who wished to remain anonymous wrote:

“The logical end to letting in huge blocks of racially and culturally different foreigners is surrendering some of your territory to them, in effect displacing your own children.”

I doubt if any of your regular readers have failed to note that the French are not having children; that is why they and other Old European nations settled Gastarbeiter on their soil in the first place, to provide them with regular government pensions until they died of old age. Of course, it now seems that the rioters will not wait that long…

John W. Braue, III

<braue@ ratsnest.win.net> 


"Be not as those who serve in hopes of a reward, but rather as those who serve whether or no there be a reward." - Antigonos of Sokho


Heads they win, tails we lose.


--- Roland Dobbins

Picture of the future? Or will the Gauls return? And will the Goths permit it?


Subject: Northrop CEO on "investment"

My, how far they have fallen. I can't believe they get away with calling taxpayer dollars for cost-plus contracts "investment."


 As a corporate executive and businessman, I am trained to make a rigorous business case for any large investment. But again, contrary to my training, I will not do that here because the future promise of space exploration is inherently unknowable today. What we do know for certain is that investments in exploration have historically returned enormous benefits to those nations that made them. So let's start with a little history.

Industry Observer


Dust Jamming Guns.


When I was soldiering in the North African desert an old sweat told me that the cure for a jamming automatic was to wash the action with petrol to remove the surface oil, bake it in the sun to drive more oil out of the metal, and repeat as necessary. When the oil has all gone lubricate with straight graphite, or possibly now, dry motorcycle chain lubricant. This is quite plausible as even good steel is surprisingly porus. Try it on the range first though. It sounds as if Iraqui and Afghani dust is finer than the North African variety. Also, the weapons we had were WW2 designs that sacrificed refinement for the ability to go on working when the soldier, his rations, and his weapon were all covered in mud.

On a related topic, I wonder if the weapon designers decision to go for a small light round was unduly influenced by Viet Nam. Much jungle shooting is necessarily spray and pray as the enemy can always find cover from view which is not the same as cover from fire. For this duty the amount of ammunition that can be carried is paramount and justifies a small light round. For fighting in Iraq fewer heavier rounds that penetrate buildings and are more likely to be lethal when someone is hit might be better. To quote a Viet Nam veteran on the subject; "No one I shot with my Colt .45 ever got up and annoyed me a second time".

Lastly. Using silly string to find tripwires is a brilliant idea. If you run out of it carry a very light stick in front of you. You will feel the tripwire without pulling on it. Except the last time.

John Edwards


Subject: Health and IQ linked

Dear Sir:

I just ran across this article that may fit somewhere in your discussion of IQ. My own take on the matter is why would anyone be surprised? Then again, I have always been of the less than PC opinion that the reason for the normally lower than average IQ in our black population, may have something to do with smart Africans not having been caught by slavers.


Very truly yours, Paul Bloom


Corpsman Robert Bush, USN, CMH, RIP.


- Roland Dobbins








This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 12, 2005

There's a lot of chatter about the "leaked" Microsoft documents. Here is the notorious Bill Gates memo.

From: Bill Gates Sent: Sunday, October 30, 2005 9:56 PM To: Executive Staff and Direct Reports; Distinguished Engineers Subject: Internet Software Services

Microsoft has always had to anticipate changes in the software business and seize the opportunity to lead.

Ten years ago this December, I wrote a memo entitled The Internet Tidal Wave which described how the internet was going to forever change the landscape of computing. Our products could either prepare for the magnitude of what was to come or risk being swept away. We dedicated ourselves to innovating rapidly and lead the way much to the surprise of many industry pundits who questioned our ability to reinvent our approach of delivering software breakthroughs.

Five years ago we focused our strategy on .NET making a huge bet on XML and Web services. We were a leader in driving these standards and building them into our products and again this has been key to our success. Today, over 92% of the Fortune 100 are utilizing .Net and our current wave of products have XML and Web services at their core and are gaining share because of the bold bet we made back in the year 2000.

Today, the opportunity is to utilize the Internet to make software far more powerful by incorporating a services model which will simplify the work that IT departments and developers have to do while providing new capabilities.

In many ways this is not completely new. All the way back in 1998 we had a company meeting where we outlined a vision in which software would become more of a service over time. We've been making investments since then -- for example, the Watson service we have built into Windows and Office allows us and our partners to understand where our users are running into problems and lets us improve their experience. Our On-line help work gives us constant feedback about what topics are helping our users and which we need to change. Products from MSN like Messenger and Hotmail are updated with new features many times throughout the year, allowing them to deliver innovations rapidly. Our Mappoint service was a pioneer in letting corporations connect up to a web based API on a subscription basis.

However, to lead we need to do far more. The broad and rich foundation of the internet will unleash a "services wave" of applications and experiences available instantly over the internet to millions of users. Advertising has emerged as a powerful new means by which to directly and indirectly fund the creation and delivery of software and services along with subscriptions and license fees. Services designed to scale to tens or hundreds of millions will dramatically change the nature and cost of solutions deliverable to enterprises or small businesses.

We will build our strategies around Internet services and we will provide a broad set of service APIs and use them in all of our key applications.

This coming "services wave" will be very disruptive. We have competitors who will seize on these approaches and challenge us – still, the opportunity for us to lead is very clear. More than any other company, we have the vision, assets, experience, and aspirations to deliver experiences and solutions across the entire range of digital workstyle & digital lifestyle scenarios, and to do so at scale, reaching users, developers and businesses across all markets.

But in order to execute on this opportunity, as we've done before we must act quickly and decisively. This next generation of the internet is being shaped by its "grassroots" adoption and popularization model, and the cost-effective "seamless experiences" delivered through the intentional fusion of services, software and sometimes hardware. We must reflect upon what and for whom we are building, how best to deliver new functionality given the internet services model, what kind of a platform in this new context might enable partners to build great profitable businesses, and how our applications might be reshaped to create service-enabled experiences uniquely compelling to both users and businesses alike.

Steve and I recently expanded Ray Ozzie's role as CTO to include leading our services strategy across all three divisions. We did this because we believe our services challenges and opportunities will impact most everything we do. Ray has long demonstrated his passion for software, and through his work at Groove he also came to realize the transformative potential for combining software and services. I've attached a memo from Ray which I feel sure we will look back on as being as critical as The Internet Tidal Wave memo was when it came out. Ray outlines the great things we and our partners can do using the Internet Services approach.

The next sea change is upon us. We must recognize this change as an opportunity to take our offerings to the next level, compete in a manner commensurate with our industry responsibilities, and utilize our assets and our broad reach to reshape our business for the benefit of the users of our products, our customers, our partners and ourselves.


You will find Ray Ozzie's memo here:

With some discussion here: http://www.hypercamp.org/2005/11/09#a43

Which leads to this analysis by Cringely:


Paper War.


-- Roland Dobbins

It's not generally known, but the "Cringely" column was a house-name column at InfoWorld in the old day. I wrote a few of them. Laurie Flynn wrote some. Just about everyone in editorial at InfoWorld wrote one at one time or another, until the present Robert Cringely -- he had a different name then but he legally changed it -- did it full time, inventing a life with a girl friend (Pammy as I recall) and other personal life details, and made the column quite popular. Cringely and Pat McGovern had a falling out over electronic rights to old columns, and he left; by then I had left InfoWorld and I have no idea what happened to the column. The original Robert X. Cringely was a house name of a non-existent "Field Editor" to whom unwanted calls were referred -- only of course he was never there.

Mr. Cringely's analysis of Microsoft/Google is fairly standard, if incomplete. His observation that there's not enough ad revenue out there to keep Microsoft afloat is quite correct. As I've pointed out in the past, there's not enough revenue in many of these businesses to justify the price to earnings ratio of their stocks. A P/E ratio of 100 means that it will take 100 years for the company to earn enough money to pay back the cost of that share. Clearly one isn't relying on revenue when buying that share. Investors may not know it, but they are betting that (1) earnings will increase, and/or (2) that the company will grow and be worth more. Growth can be by acquisition which may or may not increase earnings as well as the capital value of the company (but may increase debt depending on how the acquisition was financed); or it can be by increasing revenues without corresponding increases in expenses.

But if the market share of the company is very high, then the company has already got just about all the revenue it's going to get unless the market itself is growing. For PC's for a long time that market grew at phenomenal rates, and since most of those PC's had Microsoft software and lots of it -- Gates famously said once that he made more profit from each sale of a Macintosh than Apple did -- since most PC's sold had lots of Microsoft software, Microsoft grew and grew.

That growth in the PC market is slowing. Most of us agree that PC's are pretty well good enough, and aside from games there is no need for upgraded machines. I will build a few new machines here at Chaos Manor, but I don't really need them. My most pressing "need" is for a dual processor system to handle communications, and I don't really need that; it's just that Outlook plus the Mirra backup software plus the myriad mail sorting rules, plus FrontPage will sometimes use up the available cycles and slow things a bit. Not horribly. Just enough to notice. So I'll probably build a new communications system and let this one run Windows Server 2003 or become the Vista test system; but I don't really have to do that.

So if the market expansion is slowing, and Microsoft already has most of the market share in the PC market, there are precious few choices: stop growing and be a cash cow company, meaning that it will be harder to hire the best and the brightest because stock options won't be attractive and the buzz is gone; or go after new markets. This is obvious. The question is, where is the revenue in the new markets? Just how much revenue is there in providing free web services to attract eyeballs to advertisements?

Because that's the key question: what is the next big thing? Amazon invested wisely and built one market. Google built another. The market treated both well. But -- do they have the growth potential to justify their P/E? Is there enough in that market to justify expectations of growth?

That's the real question.

Hint: to find the doubling time for exponential growth, divide the number into 70. Thus if you have 5% a year growth in potential income, it will take 14 years to double the income.

The PC market isn't growing at 5% a year. What revenue source is? Sustainably?


I don't know if a wolf-dog would like this . . .


-- Roland Dobbins


On Moore's Law

Don't Become Moore Confused.


-- Roland

This is a long exposition on the "true meaning" of Moore's Law. It's accurate for those who want to really understand what Moore said, and why the "law" hasn't predicted raw computer speed lately. I point out I always used Moore to predict "power" which is a nebulous and rather hard to define term, and it still does.

Moore' Law isn't a law, but it did cause us to make empirical observations and extrapolate with some confidence that there was some physical stuffing under the empirical predictions.


Anonymous sperm donor traced on internet


These are our times:








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Subject: NASA prizes axed buffy willow

Congress has zeroed the NASA Centennial Challenges prize program's $34 million request for '06. Further, they've directed that while existing prizes can continue, NASA cannot fund any new prizes from internal discretionary funds without specific Congressional authorization.

Predicted and predictable; CEV/CTV is already eating all else's lunch at NASA, and prizes were specifically mentioned by the Administrator as not essential to the new Moon plan in recent testimony to Congress. Next to go I expect will be commercial crew/cargo to Station; that was cut by $60 million to $100 million in the coming year's budget (plus $98 million still unspent on the project this year) - apparently still substantial money, but we'll see if that lasts long enough for the money to actually be spent on anything other than NASA project office employees and BoeNorLock viewgraphs.

Cynical? Moi? No, just realistic.

Henry Vanderbilt

If you are not familiar with Henry Vanderbilt and the Space Access Society, you probably should be. Go to http://www.space-access.org/   for more information. Fair warning: if you think this site is a bit Spartan in its graphics, wait until you see Henry's.


If you drive in traffic, you might find this interesting: http://www.vizzion.com/index_files/features.htm but be careful about using it when driving.

I am not sure who sent me this one, but thanks.


And now for much of the story -- hardly the rest -- on the Sony Rootkit DRM. It's fascinating:

Subject: Piracy of disguised non-pirate

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Here's something for those who like a little humour with their outrage. Most readers will be aware of the latest Sony BMG adventure into the brave new world of Intellectual Property protection - that bizarre rootkit which Mark Russinovitch and F-Secure picked up on a few days ago, which has since been shown to provide a safe haven for opportunistic bots, precipitating class action lawsuits even in Italy.

Sony of course didn't do anything so crass as develop such a thing by themselves. You'll be aware contracted the business out to First4Internet, who generated the driver filter which patched the XP kernel service table.

So far so already dodgy - for a laugh see Illiad's take on that here: < http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20051112  >. The reason for such indirect methods, legally speaking, is to provide Sony with plausible deniability in the event of being found out.

The latest twist is that the rootkit itself pirates someone else's code. If the report proves correct, the Sony cronies used code from the LAME project and foisted it on Sony as their own work. But under theories of vicarious liability and contributory negligence which a variety of IP cases have inserted into the law, despite the intermediary contractor Sony themselves are now vulnerable to a copyright infringement lawsuit.

That is noteworthy all by itself, but the real puzzler - who has standing? - is yet to come. Before discussing that, however a Caution on the source: I personally do not have (and would not buy) such a so-called CD-Rom, so cannot check personally the rootkit's code. And the person reporting it is not mentioned. Those interested can see the English-language report of findings at < http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=38700  >. The original is in Dutch at < http://www.webwereld.nl/articles/38285  >. Note that the English translation is a bit strange. What is reported as "A computerexpert, whose name is known by the redaction" is in the original "Een computerexpert, van wie de naam bekend is bij de redactie..." - which sounds like Babelfish at work. Belike the real English equivalent would be "A computer expert, whose name has been witheld..." .

I'm not sure why that code was used in the DRM; my understanding is that the CD tracks were encoded using Microsoft's WMV/WMA codecs. But I could be wrong. In any event it's quite likely that the MP3 code is used as an intermediate step during audio translation.

In any event, observe the English (and Dutch) description of LAME as "an open-source MP3 encoder". A belly-laugh right here comes from the knowledge that LAME stands for "LAME Ain't an Mp3 Encoder", in the fine GNU tradition of recursive titles. Those interested should look at < http://lame.sourceforge.net/about.html  >: "LAME is the source code for a fully LGPL'd MP3 encoder". Note that it is not, itself, a Fraunhofer-Institute-patent-violating MP3 encoder. Nor is it source code for such an encoder. It is merely a patch to the ISO-issued source code which is intended to avoid patent issues. But any citizen pirate can create such an encoder, simply by compiling the resulting source.

Prima facie then, it seems that First4Internet, and by vicarious extension Sony BMG, have violated the IP rights of at least two organizations: the copyright holders of LAME (and in particular Mike Cheng), who distributed the code under the provisions of the LGPL, and the Fraunhofer Institute who hold the MP3 patent and licences RCA to police it for them.

But here's where it becomes interesting. Sony will be counting on, first, that no-one will notice (sorry guys); second, that First4Internet will take the heat alone, to the extent allowed by contract law (the recent Grokster decisions and negligence laws make this a faint hope); third, that no-one will bother enforcing the LGPL (a bit of a lottery here - the LAME Sourceforge page lists at least two instances where LAME has been ripped off commercially and with impunity); fourth, and perhaps most interesting, that Thomson and Fraunhofer won't complain, since the MP3 patents can be challenged as invalid - see the current action by Sisvel, for example, at < http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/News/Details.aspx?NewsId=15293  >. Besides being able to count on the professional courtesy accorded by IP rights enforcers to one another, Sony knows that RCA/Thomson and Fraunhofer won't want a heavyweight to join such a patent challenge. It does reflect a split within Sony, who only recently began making provision for MP3 usage in its own hardware (for years Sony took the view that MP3s were useful only to pirates).

So who will win this one? I'm not sure it matters. Not even attempts (like VEIL) to fill the "analogue hole" of piracy will prevent ordinary people from copying what they want, when they want. Such legal defences remind me forcibly of the US prohibition laws - destructive of lives and livelihoods, and failing miserably in their original aims. We have a classic irresistible force/immovable object thing going on here; the rock of gargantuan multimedia empires being slowly worn away by the abrasion of a million small innovations.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics


Thoughts on pirates

Dr. Pournelle,

I have been reading about these Somali Pirates and their mysterious "Mother Ship" with interest. Having grown up on stories of swashbuckling pirates, their real incarnation is no doubt fascinating to many of us. What I wonder about the whole thing is why we cannot deal decisively with them once and for all. I have no knowledge of naval tactics, but it seems to me that one destroyer from a western navy should be able to sail in there with impunity and simply destroy this vessel and all of it's partners. I wonder why no one has done so. Is freedom of navigation on the high seas not vital to U.S. National Interests (epecially those particular seas)? Would not any American Destroyer Skipper be simply chomping at the bit to be given the chance? If they are anything like your average American Infantry Battalion Commander (with which type I am much more familiar) I would guess that they would be. I understand that your son is a Naval Officer. Perhaps he can shed some light on the subject? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Matt Kirchner Baghdad, Iraq

Arrr! Under international law all civilized nations are authorizes to take and destroy pirates on the high seas without regard to nationality, but they have to be told to do it. Phillip once told me the best solution to pirates in the Malay Straits would be detachments of Marines on commercial vessels; one big surprise party. I would think that cruise ships being tracked by something like Phillip's USNS Swift would be more than adequate: the Navy ship stays away from the target ship, the pirates come in to identify themselves, and the Navy can outrun and outgun them. Sink them on the spot. But I imagine there are all kinds of problems. Suppose the pirates fly navy flags of local governments and pose as coast guardmen?

My guess is that this hasn't loomed large in the Navy's task priorities, and it may be moved up a bit. I suspect every skipper would lover to take a pirate ship.







The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

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

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