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Mail 402 February 20 - 26, 2006






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Monday  February 20, 2006

Subject: Letter from England

Quiet weekend for news, as will be clear from the topics.

'Baby gap' http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,1713132,00.html

Cartoon riots and a comment by the Times on how Britain sees America http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1713134,00.html

Comment: civil liberties in the UK

Getting ready for the bird flu. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4729368.stm

Sharia Law in the UK? http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=259552006

Outcome of shoot-to-kill investigation

UK lecturers and professors have had enough. Strike planned. (When I started teaching in the UK, I had no history of labour union membership. I joined NATFHE within a month. See the following topic for the reason.)

UK Government Finance http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2048931,00.html

Rumour is that university funding in the UK is running into the same Treasury pressure that the NHS has hit (and has resulted in non- emergency operations being deferred in many cases to the new fiscal year in April). This is showing up in several ways:

1. No pay deal despite the increase in university fees and long-term decline (factoring in inflation) of academic salaries. Most of the increase from fees has been clawed back by reductions in Treasury funding. The remainder has gone for overhead. ("It's not so much the overhead as it's the under-foot.") This is the background for the industrial action mentioned above. Note that the number of students is down marginally with the 200% increase in fees this year, and bursaries are necessarily up, so it's not clear that the universities have seen any good from the fees.

2. Elimination of funding for PhD studentships in programmes below 4 in the last RAE and restriction of funding for programmes below 5. This converts almost all post-1992 universities and many old universities into the equivalent of California state colleges. As a general rule, UK research funding (that not linked to specific grants) is now restricted to the top 10% of UK universities. Grant proposal funding has the same pattern.

3. The last research council review of research grant proposals in my area supposedly overspent its budget, which may be why only a few PIs have been hearing anything or seeing any money. This was driven by an expensive proposal that was high-rated and left little money for anything else. Apparently some good proposals are being deferred until March for reassessment. Also, they're changing the process to require that the council get early warning of expensive proposals so they can be handled separately.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


We haven't heard from Joanne Dow for a while:

Subject: From the interesting typo department

The ACM newsletter included a headline from a WSJ article about the Chinese internet censorship using the words "Chinese Sensors" in the title, at least of the ACM version.

Now, I know what a "Chinese Censor" might be in an Internet sense. But the concept of a "Chinese Sensor" has be quite intrigued. Indeed a "Sensor" might be a rather interesting concept.

Is a Sensor one who senses the pulse of the Internet, a Google as it were? Or is a "Sensor" one who works to make sense of the if the Internet. I like the latter because it allows a fertile imagination to take it and run in several Science Fictional directions.

Let's hear it for "Internet Sensorship!"


She invented those ASCII emoticons a long time ago: Joanne's "Bixies" from the old BIX, BYTE Internet Exchange well before the web. If only McGraw Hill had stayed with it, BIX could have bought McGraw Hill ...


Subject: Bernard Goetz

He's battling vampires. see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0438431/ 

and just ran for the NYC Public Advocate http://www.berniegoetz.net/ 

Jay K

"All products are information. The molecules are secondary." ...........my website: http://www.sophont.com ........................


Subject: Algebra - a story from the front line.

Here is a touching story with relevance to the discussion on algebra:


--- Johnny's Lessons How A Tough Kid Found Key To Mystery Of Math: Multiplication

Johnny Patrello was a greaser. I was a dork. And yet, despite our rigidly stratified school culture, we came together in the spring of 1968 at Walt Whitman Junior High School, where I tutored Johnny in algebra.... ----

It turns out that Johnny's problem with algebra was that he hadn't learned his multiplication tables well enough to move on to more difficult subjects.

CP Hartford, CT


I know no more about the following than this:

Subject: Certain Google Videos not viewable in the USA

According to Google, these links are not viewable in your country (the USA) - Very odd


Detonation of Improvised Explosive Device used against Coalition forces. We found this one before they could use it against us. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2053731645001034711 

Night Explosion - This is a weapons cache found in Iraq, we detonated it with a few satchels of C4. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4258374615945369026 

World War I Documentary - The WWI Movie made for Socials 11 project. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4733475773762050424 

The Bealfast Breaking News from GNN News Group - "The Strikeball News Infromation Game Status" http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9111921414589316707


And see below


The Click That Broke a Government's Grip.


--- Roland Dobbins



Dr. Pournelle,

I thought you might find this interesting as well. I have been using Skype for over a year now and find it invaluable.




Subject: Homeland Security becomes "Porn Police"?

This article just made me sit back and go huh? The full article can be viewed here:


And is from Washington Post staff writer Cameron W. Barr. It describes two uniformed Homeland Defense officers entering a public library in Bethesda and challenging a patron's choice of viewing material.

I fail to see (and apparently local authorities agreed) how this topic has anything to do with homeland defense. But it illustrates the point you and others have made about the abilities of any government agency to attempt to extend it's jurisdiction in unforeseen ways and areas.

Sigh, hopefully this was a fluke.

Bob Porter


Subject: Check out Telegraph | News | Space race triggered by tourist flight plan

Click here: Telegraph | News | Space race triggered by tourist flight plan <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/

Space Adventures are going to Singapore. No longer an outpost of Empire, or at least not of ours.

Neil Craig


Subject: Re: Top Ten No Sympathy Lines

Hi Jerry.

Along with all students, perhaps http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/nosymp.htm (Top Ten No Sympathy Lines) should also be shown to all university administrators. Fire those who don't agree.

Cheers, Mike Casey



On Lifters:

Subject: Lifters

Yes, working models have been built, and no, those models do not work in a vacuum.

The best explanation I've read of electrohydrodynamic thrust is here:


--- Roy Stogner



Take the "Ionic Breeze" air cleaner from Sharper Image, but make it very light from aluminized mylar and thin wires and some balsa wood. Make the (substantial and heavy) high voltage power supply external. Turn it on and the air current will "lift" it into the air. That's a "lifter". We also call this Newton's third law.

It doesn't work in vacuum. The experiment has been done. Nothing to see here, move along.

Chuck Bouldin

That was my impression.

I'm afraid that Newton's third law and the rocket equation remain the bedrock truths in access to space.

The only possible major improvment I see that uses known physical principles is the beanstalk. There is a lot of research going on in carbon nanotubes, and making bundles of these things as electrical transmission cables. As a side effect, we are getting lots of work subsidized on the superstrong cables we'll need for beanstalks to work.

Once you can get substantial tonnage up a beanstalk, you can use Orion ships with no concern about explosions in the atmosphere, and there's the solar system.

We'll never get anywhere beyond the moon with Apollo technology. Of course, at the moment, we haven't even got the Apollo technology of 40 years ago...



Subject:  re American Defense policy

There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal suggesting that SecDef Rumsfeld isn't part of the "Jacobin" crowd.

'"We are not going to invade and occupy our way to victory in the long war against Islamic extremism," said Michael Vickers, who served as a senior adviser on the secretary's recently released review of Pentagon spending and strategy.'

Perhaps things aren't as bad as they seem.

Tiomoid M. of Angle


Perhaps. We can hope.


From Col. Couvillon

Subject: Fw: Subject: The Marines at Fallujah

I can't help blowing the horn!



Thought I'd pass this along to those who may not have seen it. This is an e-mail from a civilian contractor in Iraq.

+ + + + + + + + +

Hello all! I am now a resident of Fallujah. As I have found, this is a very different place from Camp Victory, and a very different world.

The Marines run Fallujah. Marines are different. Their way of life is different. More disciplined. More regimented. More austere. Harder.

I'm surrounded by dozens of them when I go to chow or to the Morale Center (the MWR). Especially at the MWR, it's mostly the youngest of the Marines in what must be the closest thing to a purely social gathering they'll experience here. Few NCOs and fewer officers, just them and their buds.

They're young men, mostly Privates, Lance Corporals and Corporals, between the ages of 18 and 22. They're slim and lean of build, yet muscular. Broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip, as Jimmy Dean would say. There are no chubby Marines here.

Almost to a man, they wear their hair high and tight: buzzed on the sides with just a close-cropped shock on top to give their Kevlar helmet a lightly padded resting place. A few shave their heads altogether but most wear the sidewalls.

Many have a white stripe on either side of their face, running between the eye and the ear, where their skin was shielded from the harsh Arabian sun by their sunglasses or dust goggles. All are clean shaven, though some don't look like they need it regularly. Some still haven't outgrown acne.

They're good, honest faces. When they look at you or speak to you, you sense that there is no nonsense about them; no guile in their manner. It's as if their life is too busy and their spare time too precious to fritter it away on anything but straightforwardness and candor. Their life here revolves around linear thinking and linear action, going straight from Point A to Point B. And their demeanor shows it.

Their behavior is more reserved than I've come to expect from a gathering of the same age group from any other service. No braggadocio and no trash talking. It's not that they're deathly grim, they're just not as boisterous as a typical group of American 20-year-olds. They're aware that their next appointment with fate is only a few hours and a few hundred yards away. And the only thing that keeps them alive tomorrow could well be that pimple-faced Marine sitting next to them.

In this setting you truly can sense the depth of their camaraderie; the respect among those who've shared a common, life-changing experience. They behave as if they were family, a brotherhood of baby-faced warriors.

The job of the Marines is different, which makes them different. They don't rely on all manner of 21st Century techno-wizardry, like the Army or Air Force. Sure, they have tanks and helicopters and night vision goggles and the like, but those do not form the core of the Marine's order of battle. To them, the perfect weapon is a gutsy Marine with a keen eye, a steady hand, and a rifle that shoots straight. These are serious people doing a deadly serious job. It's a difference they wear on their faces.

The Marines make this place different. Frivolous living takes away the edge; hard living makes hard men. They pay scant attention to creature comforts and don't "waste" precious assets on it. Why buy a billiard table for the Unit's rec room when you could spend the same dollars on another 20,000 rounds of 5.56 ammunition? Besides, anything necessary for living already was issued to them but the Corps. Officer and enlisted, their entire world packs away into just two duffle bags and a ruck sack.

Marines talk differently, too. It's a hatch, not a door, a deck not the floor and a head, not a toilet. Equipment or personal items aren't lost, they're adrift. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Most everything they do for recreation involves athletic competition (it enhances both fitness and Esprit de Corps). And the equipment list rarely is longer than a football and an open field or a volleyball and a net. It makes no difference that it's only a friendly game; they still play like their lives depended on it.

Here they fly the US flag. It always has been understood that Camp Victory was an Iraqi base, albeit with a large number of Americans residing on it. It would have been disrespectful to the "landlords" to fly an American flag there, so none were. The US flag was never flown on the installation where I lived in Honduras many moons ago, and for the same reason. There is no such concern for the host's sensibilities here. This was never a palatial compound. It was us -- the US -- who dislodged the terrorist vermin from this place and it is we who man this post. And here they fly Old Glory proudly.

Basically the entire camp is as safe as a typical police station. Camp Victory butts up against some outlying Baghdad neighborhoods so certain areas of the camp have locals living right outside the wall. And they sometimes toss "surprises" over that wall and into the compound.

Here at Camp Fallujah, on the other hand, the Marines have cleared back any semblance of vegetation or habitation for what seems like several hundred yards from the camp's outer wall. That cinderblock wall is pretty tall (I'm guessing 11 or 12 feet) and this place is so flat that there are very few spots where you can stand on the ground and see anything beyond it. Where you "can" see past the wall, the most apropos image I can think of to describe it is Hiroshima after the bomb. The ground is barren and strewn with destroyed vehicles, both civilian and military. There is nothing there but desert and rusted hulks, a barren and desolate monochrome brown as far as you can see.

Marines man the numerous guard towers and scan the surrounding wasteland for anything approaching the camp. Anything that appears in that no man's land and looks to be headed toward the wall automatically is presumed to be hostile and reduced to just another piece of the lifeless landscape. It's a very stark image but it also is reassuring to know that none of the bad guys can get anywhere close to here without incurring the wrath of the bulldogs of the USMC. They guard their homes fiercely.

The PX here is the smallest I've seen in Iraq. And come payday, the Marines descend on it like so many locusts. With that double-whammy, the shortages I've seen elsewhere are even more widespread here. When we first got here, they were out of practically all the items I needed to set up housekeeping in my new swingin' bachelor pad (aka "bunker").

I wanted a reading lamp to replace the one I'd abandoned when I left Camp Victory. The PX had the lamps but only 115 VAc light bulbs. The current here is 220VAc.

They were out of fly swatters. And brooms. And buckets. And mops, er swabs. And extension cords/power strips. But they did have an impressive selection of decorative Christmas lights.

When I moved in, my bunker... I mean my room... was filthy. There was dust a full quarter inch deep on the window sills. Not house dust but the brown stuff that passes for desert sand here. The walls and part of the ceiling were streaked with the same stuff. The room stank with the same earthen odor as a dust storm. Since this used to be a bath house, the obvious solution was just hose it down and swab it out. But the PX had no buckets. Or mops, er swabs. Or detergent (except liquid Dial hand soap).

It took us three days to find a mop and bucket that we could borrow from the Marines. Then it took my roommate and me a solid eight sweat-soaked hours to scrub the grime out of the room. We worked from top down, naturally, and by the time the floor had dried, there was dust settled on the window sills again.

Our site lead spends a lot of time trying to convince us it could be worse. If he's hoping to convince me, he's got quite a lot of ground yet to cover.

P.S., If you think the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the greater international war on terror, you need to come here and look around. This place was West Point for the Islamo-Fascist terrorist crowd. Saddam hosted training for all the major flavors of Muslim terrorism in this place, including Al Qa'aida, the Taliban and the PLO. The dormitories and some of the military-style training facilities (obstacle courses, etc.) still are there. Some of the things I have seen here send chills down my spine because they are undeniable proof of the unholy terror that was grown here to be exported to the rest of the world. I think I understand the revulsion that the Allied liberators of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of WWII must have felt.

Eventually I will post pictures that I think are conclusive enough to sway all but the Kool-Aid drinking anti-war crowd that Saddam was growing an infectious disease here to be loosed on the Western world in general and the US in particular. One photo in particular shows a dormitory wall painted with an Iraqi flag and a Palestinian flag waving over an American eagle, beside which is written in Arabic, "Death to America." That one shot pretty much says it all. If Chuckie Schumer or Cindy Sheehan or Teddy (hic!) Kennedy or any other of the anti-war moon bats were to come here, open their eyes and see what I've seen, they'd know better (thought I expect they'd never admit it).


Regarding those web sites:


I could see them from a Canadian site.

Robert Patton

Again I know no more than this






This week:


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Subject: Mac OS/X Vuln, MS Patches, Great "botnet" article 

Dr. Pournelle:

Three important issues:

1) Mac OS/X users are warned about a problem with Safara (default web browser on that OS), and it's handling of ZIP files. By default, ZIP files are automatically opened when downloaded. If the ZIP file contains an evil executable, then damage will occur. Internet Storm Center article here http://isc.sans.org//diary.php?storyid=1138 has pointers to the full text of the discovery by a German researcher.

2) Microsoft patches released last week; evildoers have released nasty code to exploit those vulns. Updating is important. There was an initial problem with automatic updates on one of the patches; since fixed. Users with automatic updates enabled are OK.

3) Brian Krebs of the Washington Post has an execellent article on 'botnets' (a network of remotely controlled infected computers). Great financial incentives for controlling a botnet, allowing the hacker to send out spam, grab financial information, or all of your on-line banking transaction information. Mr. Krebs profiles one 19-year-old hacker that makes an average of US$ 6800/month from online marketing companies that use his botnet. Great article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/14/AR2006021401342.html . BTW, his "Security Fix" blog is one of my daily web stops for computer security info.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation buffy willow - Civil War in a major oil producing state? Shades of Biafra redux?


Reaction of the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, The Most Revd Peter Akinola on recent events in Nigeria

Having watched with sadness and dismay the recent development in some States in the Northern part of this Country where many Christian Churches and other property have been wantonly destroyed by some Islamic fundamentalists, the Christian Association of Nigeria is compelled to issue the following statements:

From all indications, it is very clear now that the sacrifices of the Christians in this country for peaceful co-existence with people of other faiths has been sadly misunderstood to be weakness

We have for a long time now watched helplessly the killing, maiming and destruction of Christians and their property by Muslim fanatics and fundamentalists at the slightest or no provocation at all. We are not unaware of the fact that these religious extremists have the full backup and support of some influential Muslims who are yet to appreciate the value of peaceful co-existence.

That an incident in far away Denmark which does not claim to be representing Christianity could elicit such an unfortunate reaction here in Nigeria, leading to the destruction of Christian Churches, is not only embarrassing, but also disturbing and unfortunate.

It is no longer a hidden fact that a long standing agenda to make this Nigeria an Islamic nation is being surreptitiously pursued. The willingness of Muslim Youth to descend with violence on the innocent Christians from time to time is from all intents and purposes a design to actualize their dream.

It is sad to note that all acts of hostility meted against Christians by Muslims in the past have remained unaddressed with nobody paying compensations or the culprits brought to justice.

We do appreciate the fact that at this stage of our national development, peace is absolutely necessary for realizing our dreams and aspirations. It is in view of this that Christians in Nigeria agreed to participate in the forthcoming National Census as sacrifice for the peace and progress of this nation, in spite of our protest over the non-inclusion of Religion and Ethnicity as necessary demographic data.

May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation. Nigeria belongs to all of us – Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths. No amount of intimidation can Change this time-honoured arrangement in this nation. C.A.N. may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue.

We now demand that further destruction of Christian Churches and property in this nation be permanently put to an end.

All levels of Government in this country should take adequate steps to protect the lives and property of Christians everywhere in this land as no further destructions will be tolerated or ignored.

The Federal Government and those States where Christian Churches have been destroyed are hereby urged to take urgent steps at rebuilding those structures and paying adequate compensation while assuring Christians of adequate protection in this country. These governments should now show in practical terms that Nigeria belongs to all of us by going beyond mere promises of rebuilding destroyed Churches and property as in the past to actual reconstruction, which will help the victims to quickly put this unfortunate incident behind them. A stitch in time saves nine.


Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola (CON, DD.)

President, Christian Association of Nigeria

This REFUSAL of the press to mount a HUGE OUTCRY is GETTING US KILLED. . . . If they'd all come out in unison and HOWLED THEIR DISGUST, it might have quelled the riots and shamed the Muslims into ceasing this obscene behaviour. As it is, Muslims see nothing is going to happen to them for howling and they are going to up the ante. The REAL STORY IS THE PRESS REFUSAL TO COVER THIS. WHY?


ABC News"

Anti-Muslim Riot in Nigeria Turns Deadly

At Least Six Reported Killed in Anti-Muslim Riot in Nigeria, Seen As Reaction to Cartoon Riot


The Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria - Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city Tuesday, burning mosques and killing several people in an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence that followed deadly protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad over the weekend.

Well, you don't understand the media, and who they see as the enemies of civilization.


Subject: homeland security in the library chasing porn users

Bob Porter's report on the "Homeland Defense" officers chasing porn users in a library:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/16/AR2006021602066.html>  /article/2006/02/16/AR2006021602066.html <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/16/AR2006021602066.html

seems to have missed the crucial point that the officers in question were NOT from the Federal government.

The article states:

They were officers of the security division of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, an unarmed force that patrols about 300 county buildings

Now why Montgomery County needs a special Homeland Security Department is a question I would love to see addressed. I sense another example of Pournelle's Iron Law Of Bureaucracy is slowly setting in at lower and lower levels of government, as the concept of "security" is such a "growth area" in government.

I can just see bureaucrats at all levels rubbing their hands in glee the past few years at the prospect of an entire new arena within which to build empires of clerks and staffers and rulebooks full of beautiful regulation's piled chockablock upon rules and procedures, all subject to "interpretation" by glorious hordes of "authorized persons".

Ah, sweet idiocy!

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

Well, that's a relief. It's also Montgombery County's problem...


Warning: long post

Subject: Ian Campbell and those bad American energy wasters who take all the credit

Your correspondent Ian Campbell, on February 18, 2006 in a post on:

Subject: Command economies in a global crisis

Made a few comments that raised my hackles, and which just cried out for a little clarification, or correction and/or questioning.

First example: It is little-known that during World War II the economy of the UK, nominally a democracy, was much more of a command economy than was that of Nazi Germany. Apparently, until about mid-1943 German factories were only operating one shift, and consumer goods were in free supply, while the UK bust a gut to produce everything they possibly could for the war effort.

I cannot say how "little-known" to the average intelligent reader of this site that fact is, but it's something I was well aware of. Anyone who has read Albert Speer's memoirs, or virtually anything James F. Dunnigan (sui generis) has written on the Second World War would have imbibed this basic fact-set early on.

Campbell continues:

(It might be mentioned that we were doing it alone, or nearly so; it took the US two years to get into the war, and all the Lend-Lease goods were well and truly paid for, in money or in overseas bases or…)

Well I would like to point out that the destroyers for overseas bases deal was in 1940, and Lend-lease was not passed until 1941. Minor detail.

Yes, England was doing it alone, with only the men and resources of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe today), India, Pakistan, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Persia (effectively under British control through the Shah), Iraq (after they tossed out a pro-German regime in a pre-emptive and aggressive war, horrors!), British Honduras, Fiji, Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak, (fingers getting tired) Nigeria, Kenya, Italian East Africa (conquered form the Italians), Northern Ireland, The Dutch East Indies (Indonesia, and since the Dutch were allies, effectively on the British side economically), the Belgian Congo (Belgium also an ally of the British), and then there was Portugal (the old "Ancient Ally" of the British, their longest strategic relationship) with Mozambique and Angola.

Only about a quarter of the worlds resources, including population. Working around the clock, as Campbell points out. Meanwhile the Germans, all eighty million of them, are working one shift AND BEATING THE PANTS OFF THE BRITISH! Okay, the Germans did have most of the European economies working with them or for them. Still, the British couldn't do "alone". They needed to buy stuff from the USA.

And they were running out of money.

So House Bill 1776 (!) in early 1941 was passed, the so-called "Lend-Lease Act", where, in President Roosevelt's famous phrase, we got rid of "that silly old dollar sign" in our accounts with the British Empire/Commonwealth. We wouldn't charge for the war materiel the British needed, we'd just open the gates and tally what was taken by the British, and have a gentleman's agreement they would return it in kind at some unspecified future time. No "silly old dollar signs"!

A sum of $50 billion was appropriated by Congress for Lend-Lease. The money went to 38 different countries with Great Britain receiving over $31 billion (62 per cent). Over the next few years the British government repaid $650 million of this sum.

At the end of the war a loan was negotiated to cover some of the debt incurred through Lend-Lease. Technology transfers (atomic weapons development work, microwave radar, similar high tech British research results) were also given to the USA in partial payment.

Campbell continued:

The reason why it worked? There was a job to be done, only the British to do it, and everyone (or mostly everyone) knew what needed to be done.

This is laughable. Only the British to do it? Along with the quarter of the world that was listed above, and then from June of 1941 onwards, the Soviet Union, another 240 million people and the second or third largest industrial economy of the time.

But the Germans were STILL cleaning the barroom floor, and working just one shift. You could still by brand new washing machines and Mercedes sedans along the Kurfuerstendamm in Berlin. The Reeperbahn in Hamburg was going full-tilt while former British "working girls" were working three shifts making shells.

So finally, when the Germans made the undeclared war official by declaring war on the USA, we stepped in and did the heavy lifting.

Yes, the Red Army of the USSR did most of the fighting. Let's see: eighty per cent of the trucks that carried Red Army men and supplies were American built. 50% of the explosives in the bombs, bullets and shells were American made. 75% of the cloth that was used to make Red Army uniforms was from American mills. Half of the leather for boots and gear came from American cattle. 25% of the food for the Red Army was from American farms.

Similar numbers held for the British forces. All done while the USA was also fielding a 16 million strong military, fully equipped and armed from American sources, and deployed world wide.

Imagine British and Soviet Armies with half the firepower, a fifth of the transport, wearing rags and boots with holes in the soles, and hungry due to the three-quarters rations. Would they have won the war single-handed? So I think one can say the American economy was more than important. It was essential.

Oxford students were vowing, "I will not fight for king or country." The British Labor Party at its annual convention in 1933 — with Hitler already in power — voted overwhelmingly for total abolition of the Royal Air Force. Fortunately, the Labor Party was then in opposition as it continued to be in 1938 when it voted against conscription while Hitler was taking over the Sudetenland.

The British and their French allies allowed the Germans to scrap the treaty limitations put in place after the victory secured by a quarter million American dead soldiers in 1918, they allowed Germany to rearm and pursue a revanchist policy, and then when it was too late to stop them short of a full scale world war, then, THEN the British went to war, unprepared and barely half-heartedly until the French and British armies folded in May, 1940 like a cheap suit in a spring shower.

SO the British got everything in a cockup, then screamed bloody murder for help, we did everything we could, and our thanks is some sixty years on to have a Brit cock his snoot verbally at us for believing economic freedom works, and that we were "two years getting into the war" the last time they got their panties in a wad over there on the far side of the Atlantic.

Sorry about that, mate!

Now the real point that grates in this irritating little screed. when Campbell asked:

As for the central point, that the cost of the needed measures would be greater than the benefit, what precisely is good about wasting energy?

May I be so politically incorrect as to ask, "What's so good about conserving energy?"

I ask honestly. Look at the universe. Nature spends energy prodigiously. The universe is awash in floods of energy. The only thing lacking in abundance is the human ingenuity to harness that energy. There is, never was and never will be an energy shortage. There is only a shortage of the will, determination and ingenuity to USE the energy that is there.

The point, as you have often pointed out Doctor Pournelle, is that if we accept the "goodness" of conserving energy as a basic "moral" position, those like Ian Campbell accomplish two things: They set themselves up as existing on a higher moral plane than those profligate, wastrel energy "spenders", AND they can also use the purported need for "limiting our energy use" to control the behavior of others.

It's a trait of some human's to take an abiding interest and great joy in controlling the behavior of others. Most of us have it to some degree, some more than others. To a certain type of person it just warms their heart and burnishes their self-esteem to be able to wag their fingers at those they label as "bad" and say to them things such as Ian Campbell's::

Never mind, maybe Americans will come around to the point of view of the rest of the West when the category 6 hurricanes have scoured off the topsoil of Florida, and the Southwest is an uninhabitable desert. Maybe then Americans will stop using a 2-ton SUV, capable of hauling a ton up a 45-degree slope, to haul a couple of bags of groceries back from the supermarket.

Maybe. Maybe not. Then again, maybe the British will wake up, tell little minds like Ian Campbell to "sod off" (if that is a term still used in England), and use some of that British grit and pluck he appropriates for himself to help build a world where we can have a decent environment AND feed everyone AND have enough resources to let everyone live the way the British and Americans and other First Worlders live.

We'll never do it by limiting ourselves. Dream big, build big, and solve big problems. The experiment on controlled economies was run. The Soviet one needed massive USA support to beat the Nazi's. The British one, with a quarter of the earths resources, needed massive American economic aid just to avoid defeat, and only won with the additional aid of the American Army and Air Forces.

Admittedly the USA economy of the period was partially controlled. But the economy was able to expand and handle the load because of the uncontrolled resources it had been allowed to develop in blessed freedom from the "planners" and "limiters" such as Ian Campbell.

Petronius The Arbiter of Taste


Subject: Girls' approach to the study of math


You may publish this with my name attached if you wish to do so.


You wrote:

> Those who can do abstract reasoning can do so with symbols and can learn the rules of symbol manipulation. Which still doesn't explain why girls do so much better than boys in verbal skills and so much worse in mathematics.<

It's very simple, really. There are 10 kinds of people who understand women: Those who do and those who do not. We learn very early in life that most of us will never have the muscular strength of the average man, and the only way we can influence him to play nicely is to let him think he is superior to us. Mathematics is one of those harmless fields where it is easy enough for us to pretend indifference without being politically incorrect while doing so.

That said, however, woe unto the woman who actually does well in math and wants to pursue it seriously. She is frequently discouraged by many of her teachers and guidance counselors who try to point out to her that she will encounter serious discrimination if she persists in her efforts. Unfortunately, they are all too often very correct in their predictions.

Elizabeth A. Strohm bstrohm@juno.com

I went through the PhD program in psychology and I never met anyone who understood women. (Well, perhaps the women did, but they sure couldn't explain it to me.)

I do know a few women mathematicians. On the other hand, one of the best known women in computing famously ended up advertising for someone to date (and she's quite pretty, too).

On the gripping hand, a PhD in science and a position on the Harvard faculty apparently doesn't stop women scientists from getting the vapors when the President of the University suggests something she doesn't agree with. Shallow breathing, had to flee the room...




--- Roland Dobbins

There may be more to this story than meets the eye.

Do note that Ed Teller always believed that secrecy was worse than openness and was in favor of classification only of operational documents and ship schedules and the like. He claimed that secrecy impedes progress, and certainly case can be made for that.

Then there's Sandy Berger who stuffs the documents in his pants.


From an American resident in Japan:

From the mysterious east:

1. Japan has won *no* medals so far in the Olympics. Local commentators has speculated on the cause of the medal drought, but a recent morning show zeroed in on the probable reason. Even though they were told otherwise, the athlete's village, unbelievably, does not serve Japanese food! On morning show expert said, "I've been abroad and I know how it feels to be faced with *bread* at every meal." The other guests nodded solemnly. Fortunately an emergency group of volunteers made up of Japanese living in Italy has tried to rescue the Olympic team by making Japanese lunch boxes, but it lacks money and manpower and sadly cannot meet the demand fully.

The more likely reason is that in Japan, athletes are supported by (actually employed by) companies. Companies have hockey, basketball, football, rugby, marathon, etc. teams. The athlete's do little real work and just train mostly. The downturn in the Japanese economy during the 1990's caused many companies to cut back on these teams and thus the Olympic athletes lacked support and facilities to prepare properly.

BTW, every Japanese athlete, it seems, has a beloved mother or father who died of cancer, and their sole motivation for being in the Olympics was to perform an act of *filial piety* that they somehow were not able to perform while the parent was alive. Now that dream has been dashed, but perhaps that parent is looking down, smiling, watching the child's truly brave effort in magnificently coming in 17th under such difficult conditions. Now is the time for everyone in the TV studio to break down crying...

2. As far as I can see, the Cheney shooting incident was not reported on Japanese TV *even once*. No doubt it got some minor mention in the newspapers, but why it didn't get on TV is a mystery to me. Granted most Japanese have no idea who the American VP is or what he does, but this one is a real puzzler...

I thought they'd have a field day with this story. The Japanese call America a "gun society" and are constantly shocked when some some Japanese tourist gets shot in the USA--even when it turns out to be an insurance scam by the victim's husband.



90 years ago today.


-- Roland Dobbins

Do we still encounter this in school?


Carl Sandburg

PILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
 Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.

Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.




Microsoft is developing handhelds and music downloading services aimed at challenging Apple's iPod hegemony. What do you think? Forget it. Apple's commanding lead of the digital music download market is impregnable 55.4 %

Microsoft, RealNetworks, Napster and others can cut down Apple's lead over time 40.3 %

Not sure 4.3 %

Total votes: 926

-- Richard F. Doherty, Research Director, The Envisioneering Group


Subject: Comparables

You said...

"I will confess that I am a bit astonished that I have received so little comment on my short piece about Ortega y Gasset and aristocracy. Is it that you all agree? Astounding."

Ortega had said...

"It is illusory to imagine that the mass-man of to-day will be able to control, by himself, the process of civilization. I say process, and not progress. The simple process of preserving our present civilization is supremely complex, and demands incalculably subtle powers. Ill-fitted to direct it is this average man who has learned to use much of the machinery of civilization, but who is characterized by root-ignorance of the very principles of that civilization."

Heinlein said...

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded--here and there, now and then--are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck."

Now exactly why are you astonished that your readership, by and large, is familiar with and agrees with the concept?

Charles Brumbelow

Senior moment? OK, Ok...


Subject: It's more than just Safari

It's a bigger problem with LaunchSevices; Mail is vulnerable, too:


Fix from Unsanity:


-- Roland Dobbins


Further details on OS/X vuln.


Nobody learns from anyone else's prior mistakes. Apparently, Apple are dead-set on making all the stupid application design mistakes that Microsoft have made over the years.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "Potomac fever" Infects Republicans

Interesting observations from a long-time watcher of the Beltway scene, Dr. Pournelle.


"M. Stanton Evans has watched conservatives come and go for 50 years, and has long lamented their tendency to catch "Potomac fever" as soon as they come to power. "When our people get to the point where they can do us some good, they stop being our people," he said in enunciating what he calls "Evans' Law of Politics."<snip>

Charles Brumbelow

In one of his Cold War books Evans managed to call me a Communist and identify as a Communist plot a study I did at North American for US Air Force on the consequences of "full and compete disarmament" which the Department of State was advocating in the early 60's. I has written a scenario in which it might make sense for US to disarm to pre-World War II levels. As I recall, I had Mao commit suicide after disbanding the Communist Party. I forget how we got the USSR with the Red Army poised to get to the Rhine in two weeks to get out of the picture. It was a sarcastic scenario intended to demonstrate the absurdity of a great power disarming down to constabulary and scrapping the Air Force. The report was stolen off my desk by an engineer who was a devotee of the Reverend Bob Wells of Orange County. The Reverend Bob was selling copies of my draft report for $25 as "The most frightening document I have ever read." The Reverend Billy James Hargis then got into the act and went national with tghis story of how North American Aviation was in a conspiracy with the Air Force to undermine national security, and I was their agent.

The engineer involved was met at the plant gates and told his employment was terminated and we'd send him anything in his desk we thought was his. I went through a couple of bad weeks there; even though it wasn't my fault, I had brought the company to unfavorable attention. It worked out well: the Air Force was quite happy with what we'd done, and gave us another study contract with me as Principal, and later gave Pepperdine Research an important study on strategic stability, again with me as Principal after I had left North American to go to Pepperdine.

Several years later Evans put this story into one of his books as if it were all real, and North American and the US Air Force had been part of some conspiracy to disarm the United States and turn us over to the USSR. He didn't bother to talk to me, or to Russell Kirk; North American had actually asked Kirk to talk to Hargis and assure him that we weren't really part of a conspiracy. Did no good, of course. Hargis had his own agenda. But it wouldn't have been difficult for Evans to check the story. He'd actually met me several times before he put that in his book and named me in it.

I don't now where Evans got the story, but he reported it in his book as if it were all real. I met him later at some Republican fundraiser. He explained that he had some research assistant write that chapter and he hadn't had time to pay much attention to it. He apologized, and while I accepted his apology, I have since paid about as much attention to Evans as he did to this story he put his name on.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Subject: The Oath By Hippocrates

Thanks for posting The Oath By Hippocrates, Dr. Pournelle... It is one of those things about which I had heard many times but somehow never read.

The events which led to your posting when compared with The Oath make an interesting contrast. While the doctors who refused to participate in an execution may have been consistent throughout their careers in obeying The Oath, there are obviously a lot of medical doctors who obey it only as it pleases them. The Oath forswears participation in abortion and assisted suicide. All states have abortion clinics. Thus finding doctors who do not subscribe to The Oath should be as easy as looking in the yellow pages in any large community...

A doctor who performs abortions but isn't willing, on the basis of prohibitions in The Oath, to assist in executions would remind me of the old joke whose punch line is "...we've already established that. We are just negotiating price now."

My comments and not those of my employer.

Charles Brumbelow

Note that the original Oath pledged not to teach the healing arts to anyone who didn't take the Oath. On the other hand, a lot of physicians never took it, and some started medical schools. 


Subject: Re: ports,UAE

Dr. Pournelle,

Here's something from a discussion site which strikes me as very sensible.


/Look... this is first and foremost business. The UAE is one of the dominant countries in the sea borne shipping world. Over a quarter of the world's ship registrations are out of the UAE and we see their ships in our ports every day. They are movers and shakers when it comes to ocean business. It only makes sense that they would be interested in expanding operations. They (the UAE) are also one of the most liberal (and secular) arab countries in the world. Rich muslim wants to get drunk? He goes to the UAE. Money is the unofficial state religion there. Why do you think Michael Jackson is living there now?

/Different countries are good at different things after all. Why not get the experts? Note also that many of the other ports in the US are run by foreign companies.

As far as Jimmy Carter goes, even a stopped clock... and note that Bill,y and Hilly are against the idea.


My initial reaction to the sale was dismay, but on reflection, I find I have mixed emotions. I do think that now that it's announced, and now that there has been no objection to having the came company do the operations when it was the Brits who owned it, this has become a stickier wicket than at first imagined. We do not want the UAE to conclude that the West wants nothing to do with any Arab including those who have modernized.

In Saudi Arabia most wealthy houses have walk-in vaults. They don't keep money in there. The vaults are well furnished and contain alcoholic drinks and places to enjoy them...

The West's cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction are doing their work, but it will take a couple generations. When an Arab land begins to Westernize (Finlandize toward the West?) it behooves us to accept their gestures.

== But there is this to think on:

RE: Beorhtnoth son of Beorhthelm

J.R.R. Tolkien relates the (true) story of Beorhtnoth, duke of Essex, “powerful, fearless, proud” who commanded the English against the Northmen in August 991. The viking host had ravaged Ipswich and had now come opposite Beorhtnoth’s army, separated by a river, which could only be crossed by a causeway, a difficult crossing in the face of determined resistance. Yet it seems the vikings understood their enemy. They asked for leave to cross the causeway and engage in a fair fight. This Beorhtnoth granted. Unfortunately, his pride and misplaced chilvary proved fatal. The English were routed and Beorhtnoth slain.

Many events in the news, including this most recent seaport operations question, have recalled Tolkien’s recitation of this bit of Anglo-Saxon history back to mind.

Mike Cheek


But see below


Subject: Command economies in a global crisis


While I agree with some of the sentiment in Petronius's riposte to Ian Campbell, I feel some clarification may be required. The UK (and Empire) were not just fighting Germany but also Japan until Pearl Harbour brought the USA in fully. That is, the Empire was engaged in a World war at least two years before the USA threw all of its weight behind the struggle. It is true that cowardly politicians in the UK effectively gave Germany a two year head start, however once the Brits had switched to a war economy the UK alone hugely outproduced Germany. It seems to me that switching to a command economy for the purposes of waging war is a damn good thing to do unless said economy is much larger than the enemies economy.

S Matthews

Command economies work for a while, but the long term consequences are usually bad. Read Tom Sowell's books on economics for details.


Derbyshire: The Lotus Eaters.


-- Roland Dobbins

Derb and I correspond sometimes in another conference, and we seem to share many views. Put me down as a "not" also.


Subj: Another conservative critical of capitalism

I don't think Dr. Pournelle can claim to be quite alone, if this sort of thing makes the Wall Street Journal:

 OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts - The New Counterculture

=Rod Dreher ... dislikes industrial agriculture, shopping malls, television, McMansions and mass consumerism. Efficiency--the guiding principle of free markets--is an "idol," he says, that must be "smashed." Too often, he claims, Republicans act like "the Party of Greed." ... Above all, he extols Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind" and a tireless defender of the Permanent Things.=

Not *precisely* a Pournellian, but arguably not far from Pournellian in his critique of the worship of economic efficiency.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

Well, perhaps we drank from the same wells. Russell Kirk was a very old mentor, and colleague, and his books were important in US intellectual history.


Hi Jerry,

I am a long time reader of your column. In your recent column you mentioned that the Griffin Smartshare was "just right for dancing." Being a part-time dance instructor this immediately grabbed my attention. I work in a very busy studio and it's always a problem to have the music you need when you need it when there are so many (9-12) instructors are sharing a single music system.

I immediately googled the Griffin product but noted that it was a hard wired solution. As such I don't understand how this product could be "just right" for dancing because being tethered to a partner with headphone wires would (for me) be a recipie for disaster. Am I missing something???



I answered:

>> Reckon it depends on what kind of dancing you do. You have to remember I am a bit older than you....   For waltzes and foxtrots? We thought dipping was daring and certainly  wouldn't be allowed to jitterbug...

Hi again!

I guess the dances have evolved somewhat in that time.

Here is what waltz and foxtrot look like these days:



Sometimes I feel old.


Subject: Video iPod

Hi Jerry,

I just read your column on byte, and saw that you've purchased a video iPod. I find that an essential accessory is PQDVD ( www.pqdvd.com ).

I've been copying DVD home movies to the iPod and found that most (if not all) PC programs have serious problems keeping the video and the audio in sync. This one does the trick - and at 2X normal playback speed.

Apparently the program uses the existing DVD codec on the machine to capture video streams. There's all sorts of useful implications to that, but I'll leave it to your (Digital Millenium Copyright Act compliant of course) explorations to discover what they are.



On the Port Issue:

Subject: UAE Port Operators

There isn't any mischief accomplishable by a port operator that can't also be done by the other denizens of the port: the shippers, the longshoremen, the ships (and their crews).

That is, we won't increase safety by stopping this 'deal.' Port security is a huge headache, much bigger than who the operator is.

This issue, in other words, had more to do with politicians and presscritters spending time in the public eye than it does with security. Real, comprehensive Port Security (capital P, capital S) will be extraordinarily expensive.

Yours Aye, RGMcF

I might add, or by those who control the ports from which all the containers are shipped, if you want to accomplish mischief -- which is to say, the UAE company, which already owns those.

You can make a case that port operations ought to be run by an American owned company; you can't make a very good case that it was all right for the Brits to do this, but it's not OK for the UAE to do it.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Subject: Correction of  historical error

S Matthews comented on Febraury 22, 2006:

While I agree with some of the sentiment in Petronius's riposte to Ian Campbell, I feel some clarification may be required. The UK (and Empire) were not just fighting Germany but also Japan until Pearl Harbour brought the USA in fully.

Who was it that wrote , "There's nothing new except the history you don't know."

Japan was not at war with the British Commonwealth until the attacks of December 8, 1941 (December 7, 1941 the other side of the international dateline here in the USA) upon British Far East territories such as Malaysia and Hong Kong. There is some historical argument over whether the "true world war" began in September of 1939, or December of 1941 when it greatly expaned. At least one hisatorian wrote a book titled "The Last European War" arguing that that was what happened between September, 1939 and either june or December of 1941.

Just a minor detail.



The Cormorant.


-- Roland Dobbins

Impressive! Up the Navy!



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, February 24, 2006

Yellow Fever

If you're wondering...

The Chinese characters on the T-shirt worn by "Phil" in that delightful Yellow Fever movie read "bai ren kan-bu-dong"---"White people can't understand (this)." Word for word: "White person read-not-comprehend."

-- John


Do you worry when the Egregious Frum says things are going well in Iraq?

http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.23913,filter.all/pub_detail.asp  "I won't pretend that a three-day visit qualifies me as any kind of expert on this emerging force. But here are some observations and reports from bases and training camps in the north and centre of the country, gleaned from conversations with U.S. and Iraqi officers"

It worries me excessively. And see below


Re: Scientific American and greenhouse

 From: David Elder, biologist, Australia

Scientific American, Science and Nature are all run these days by greenhouse zealots. Some of the results are comical. Frog deaths supposedly due to greenhouse heat - turning up their webby little toes - 'the gin, quickly' . . . the frog deaths are really due to an introduced fungus.

Most of the 20th century temperature trend follows solar output not CO2 levels. One does see a temp/CO2 correlation however from about 1980. If we provisionally accept that correlation implies causation here: the rate of enhanced greenhouse warming measured here would be about 1.7 deg C per century. This is in the same ball park as natural variations over the last millennium. It is unlikely to cause the polar icecaps to come melting down around our ears any time soon. Hysteria about collapsing Arctic and Antarctic icecaps is just that. The Antarctic is losing ice in some places but this is offset by ice gain elsewhere in the sheet. Much of Greenland is gaining ice; and the region was hotter in the 1940s than today. Much of the variation there can be attributed to natural climate cycles like the Arctic Oscillation.

In any case, Kyoto is failing dismally. China's farcical exemption from any cuts aside, the EU countries are not meeting their targets, and won't unless they are ready to stomach mass unemployment. The US under Bush is doing a better CO2 reduction job than them! The recent US/Australian/Pacific initiative is a vast improvement, based not on unworkable cuts with current technology, but on new CO2 reduction technology.

David Elder.

When people talk science, I try to listen, but when they in the same piece extol the virtues of Kyoto I stop listening: why should I believe one word they say when it is clear to anyone who has looked at the case that Kyoto is a ridiculous mummery put together by a bunch of political hacks pretending to be scientists, and put out in the name of a bunch of scientists either to venal or too stupid to read what was said in their names and repudiate it.

Kyoto is the best argument for paying no attention to any of the global warming mess because it is a cure that is worse than the disease. There may be a disease. There may be a good case for doing something about it. But anyone who has done any diligence at all knows that Kyoto is not the answer, and when someone endorses that idiocy I stop listening. I realize that is not entirely logical: an egregiously wrong source (see the Egregious Frum above) can be right sometimes, maybe, perhaps. But life isn't long enough to winnow out the truth from the Kyoto supporters.

Having said that, I'll invite anyone with a rational scientific/economic argument for Kyoto to defend it. I am not inviting rants about the evil oil companies.


Subject: Tribalist anarchy

Dear Jerry,

Lee Harris has written another interesting essay at TechCentralStation ( http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=022406A  ) on what is likely to happen in Iraq since the destruction of the Shi'ite shrine. "Civil war" is an inappropriate term; le mot juste is "tribalist anarchy":

"Those who are predicting that Iraq is on the brink of civil war may well prove to be guilty of wishful thinking. What is unfolding in Iraq may turn to be something far more horrifying -- not the relatively civil Civil War fought by Americans a century and a half ago, but the kind of tribalist anarchy that swept over Rwanda within our own lifetimes, and that has been the baseline of most human existence from time immemorial.

"In short, the beguiling dream of the End of History is on the verge of turning into the nightmare in which the tribal Law of the Jungle makes its triumphant return. We may well all be living out the last days before the commencement of a new and yet very old Age of Kali."


Steve Erbach

And the gods of the copybook headings, with terror and slaughter return...





This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 25, 2005

A selection of comments on the Egregious Frum

Subject: Egregious Frum

David Frum apparently had an opportunity to fire an AK-47 during his recent visit to Iraq. " The kick of an AK-47 causes an untrained marksman to pull back on the gun and shoot over the head of his target. (I know: I tried.) " Ummm, a couple of comments about his observation. First, an AK-47 has a relatively nominal kick, no pain involved. Frum should try a Garand or an FN-FAL to see something that has a moderate kick. Second, it's not the "kick" of the rifle that is making Frum shoot high -- it's his fear of the kick. Instead of squeezing the trigger, Frum is either yanking on the trigger or flinching in anticipation of the fearsome kick of the AK-47. Third, I find it somewhat troubling that so many Americans no longer have any experience with firearms. After WWII, Congress created the civilian marksmanship program, which encouraged civilians to receive training. A driving purpose for the creation of the CMP was that we found during WWII that draftees who already had shooting experience required less training and were better shots after basic training than draftees without any prior experience with firearms. Accordingly, the idea was, the U.S. would be better prepared for future conflicts of its civilian population had some firearms training. It seems like a good idea, but it has been ignored by a population that largely has forgotten that citizenship comes with responsibilities.


Rene Daley


Subject: Frum, Egregious and obvious

The Egregious Frum (good use of adjective there, I can tell who has read and understood Strunk and White!) has probably never fired a rifle in his life:

The kick of an AK-47 causes an untrained marksman to pull back on the gun and shoot over the head of his target. (I know: I tried.) On an automatic setting, an untrained marksman will end up spraying his bullets 20 to 30 feet into the air.

Well duh. EVERY rifle (and carbines too) does that. As for firing on full-auto...sheesh. Why does Frum think machine guns are so heavy and always have either bipod or tripod for stabilization?

The key word is "untrained marksman" and I would point out anyone untrained in the use of firearms is, by definition, NOT a marksman). Five minutes with someone who knows what Newton's Third Law causes a rifle to do will cure 90% of the firearms neophytes of this "kick and shoot high" problem. The other 10% will serve as a bad example for the 90%. who get it.

I also know, having fired AK-47s extensively while in the Army, that it's a good short range weapon, but performance falls off rapidly over a couple of hundred yards. I suspect the lack of accuracy in Iraqi insurgent small arms fire is more due to this, since they tend from all reports to avoid close in action, and prefer firing from prepared positions hundreds of yards away (when not madly running either towards or away, firing form the hip while running (which is never a good idea if you want to do more than make a lot of noise and maybe provide a dust cloud as cover for yourself).

The Iraqi forces on our side may, I sincerely hope, become competent and defeat/contain the various insurgent forces. I'm just not going to consider anything Frum writes on any subject as coming from anything other than a flawed source. This report further confirms my opinion, he is a hack, who torts out the common "wisdom" of the herd he runs with, and believes he is thus confirmed as a wise man. "Wise Guy" is more like it.

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste


Subject: The Egregious Frum

Dr. Pournelle,

The Egregious Frum states:

You hear a lot about the insurgents' use of ambush and improvised explosive devices. These are terrifying and deadly weapons. But they are also weapons devised to compensate for the inability of the insurgents to survive in the open against even Iraqi forces, let alone American ones.

He is strangely comforted by the fact that the enemy is not fighting battles he will lose. All you need to do to win in battle is to capitalize on your strengths and compensate for your inabilities. He also states that the enemy is composed of poor marksmen. He offers his own ineptitude as evidence. I assure him that they will get better with practice. He states that the torture photos don’t mean anything, because we are usually nicer. That the pictures motivate men to deploy those terrifying and deadly weapons he described earlier seems to be of little consequence to him. He repeats that unfounded assertion that if we do everything wonderfully it will deliver a crushing blow to extremists everywhere. If this is true, then they will die sooner than cease their struggle and we will have to eliminate them to the man. More likely, these motivated and flexible enemies will change strategy when defeat approaches. The characteristics he describes are the same ones commonly attributed to the side that wins.

Do they even hear what they say?

William Albenzi

"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Remember this, as it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him quickly and without hate." – Heinlein


Subject: My favorite quote from the Frum piece

> I talked to one officer who had fought in the first Gulf War against
> the United States--in fact, he had led the only successful Iraqi
> operation of the whole war. Asked how he liked working alongside his
> former enemies, he grinned: "Much better now."

 -- Steve R. Hastings

Which ought to be quite enough for the moment.


Subject: Fred this week


http://www.fredoneverything.net/BushBabies.shtml .

A rather virluent and disjointed anti-administration rant that could have been published on Daily Kos. Has Fred been kidnapped -- or at least hacked?


Despair is a sin. And one ought not write for publication when drinking. Although Cochran will pretty well agree with Fred on this and wonder what took him so long.

Some of us were never very high on democracy, having read Ortega and Tocqueville as undergraduates, and having encountered The Federalist Papers at about the same time. A Federal Republic can exist; governments with limited powers can exist; and when the power is limited and the rewards of office are not so high, then good people will get to public office.

When the rewards in nearly infinite, the sort of people who seek public office changes. This is inevitable, and was always known.

We have sown the wind.

But lest you think the solution is to turn things over to the intellectuals:

Subject: Box office blues stem from blue-state bigotry

Interesting article on how Hollywood's liberalism is killing it at the box office:


I can attest to the truth of the attitudes revealed here. I have sat biting my tongue nigh unto bloodshed while in meetings with film executives, listening to what are little more than young punks in Gucci loafers rant and rave about Bush being a fascist, then ask me with furrowed brow and great sincerity why their movies don't play to the mass audience they so desire to have.

Someday i will throw my career in the dumper and tell them, "Because the cowboys in Montana don't screw each other, or their sheep, and when you make movies telling them they do (or ought to, or at least should try it, who knows you might like it...), that mass audience (and their wives, uncles, moms, dads and cousins) all say "well, then Screw You!" and stay home to surf the internet or watch satellite TV reality shows!

But they would probably just shrug and say, "Who cares what flyovers think!?"

Cognitive dissoance anyone?

Petronius The Arbiter Of taste

Box office blues stem from blue-state bigotry

Hollywood's box office has hit the skids, and the entertainment media are in overdrive trying to explain why. The most obvious explanation for box office malaise is consistently overlooked: Hollywood's ruling liberal elites keep going out of their way to offend half their audience.

Constant gibes about Republicans, Christians, conservatives and the military litter today's movies and award show presentations like so many pieces of trash on theater floors.


Changing subjects,

Subject: Amazing, Astounding

Jerry, the cover story to the March issue of Discover magazine is available online now, and it's surely one of the most astounding things I've read in the popular science press:


Unreal. Amazing.

 Jonathan Abbey




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Subject: Some Educator-ese on the Math Problem

Educators simply can't accept the idea that memorizing the multiplication tables might simply life a great deal!!!

Julie Woodman

Commentary Math Warriors, Lay Down Your Weapons By Philip Daro —Peter Lui

A recent analysis of mathematics performance yields some disturbing findings about U.S. student achievement. Although previous studies had suggested that American elementary students performed relatively well in mathematics, with older students doing less well, the new findings from the American Institutes for Research suggest that our 4th graders, too, are in the middle of the international pack. ("Study Indicates Changes in Global Standing for U.S.," Nov. 30, 2005.) Yet, even though our economic competitors outperform us, today’s U.S. students do better than earlier generations of students. There has been a steady—but not steep—increase over the last two decades in mathematics performance, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But we need to aim higher still. And we must look not to our own past for better results, but to our top competitors to understand how they have been able to outperform us.

Concern over previous international comparisons has prompted many educators and policymakers to launch ambitious efforts to strengthen mathematics instruction in high school. But some of the most popular solutions, such as instituting a requirement that all students take algebra in the 8th grade (and changing nothing else), may not solve the problem, and might make it worse. The countries that do well in international comparisons do not choose between skills or problem-solving; they teach concepts and skills and problem-solving.

The real math problem begins in elementary school, where too few students develop the foundations they will need to succeed in higher-level mathematics. It’s clear from the new analyses of testing data that 4th graders have problems, and what they learn does not stick.

That’s because of the way mathematics is taught in the early grades.<snip>

Professors of education call it "drill and kill" and claim that requiring kids to learn the addition and multiplication tables is horrible and will kill their desire to learn. I only know that by end of third grade in St. Anne's in Memphis, Tennessee, two grades to a room, one nun as teacher, everyone in the school knew both plus and times tables to 12 x 12. Indeed I learned them all in first grade from listening to the instruction given the second grade, and so did at least some of my classmates. And we didn't feel stifled a bit.


the education soviet?

Jerry, your comments on maleducation came directly to mind when I first read this missive, from an official who apparently was there to observe when the education soviet first moved from gestation to early onset. The province of good intentions and all that...



"Q: What led you to this project? You were with the Department of Education in the '80s -- why the book?

A: I actually started collecting research in the early '70s. I was on a local school board after living outside the country for 18 years for the United States Department of State. When I came back, I was very upset with the changes I had seen in our school district -- which had happened to be a pilot-school district for change. The kids were rolling around on the floor -- they didn't have to learn grammar or anything -- and I was shocked. I started asking questions and, as the only parent who ever complained, I would go to school board meetings and ask very legitimate questions like, why don't they teach grammar?

Q: How dare you ask such a silly question..." <snip>


Subject: The civilisations of the modern world are more likely to collapse than collide


One aspect that this article doesn't mention is that the West also seems also bent on economic suicide with the continuing offshoring of American industrial capacity and of highly skilled engineering jobs. When America offshores a manufacturing plant to China, or IT development to India, we become weaker and they become stronger. Each time an American CEO offshores state of the art technology all we are doing is training our foreign competition. An American economy based primarily on service jobs without a strong manufacturing base and a robust R&D component, is neither sustainable or defensible. How long will it be before the American economy, with it's ever ballooning trade deficit, will no longer be able to support the American military? With the collapse of the Soviet economy the once powerful Soviet military is now rusting metal. Will the American military suffer the same fate? The 20th century may have been an American century but thanks to the short term thinking and greed of American leaders, both business and political, the 21st century will be an Asian one.

James Marino Mesa, Arizona


The civilisations of the modern world are more likely to collapse than collide By Niall Ferguson (Filed: 26/02/2006)

It is nearly 13 years since my colleague and near neighbour, Samuel Huntington, published his seminal essay "The Clash of Civilisations?" in Foreign Affairs. As works of academic prophecy go, this has been a real winner - up there with George Kennan's epoch-making 1947 essay, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct", on the containment of the Soviet Union.

"In this new world," wrote Huntington, "the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations… The fault lines between civilisations will be the battle lines of the future."

The other great think-piece of the post-Cold War period, Francis Fukuyama's The End of History - published in the summer of 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall - went from seeming prescient to seeming over-optimistic within just a few years. In particular, Bosnia's bloody civil war showed how history might actually resume with a vengeance in some post-Communist societies.<snip>

The end of history...

"Avoid entangling alliances. Do not become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe."  "Avoid a land war in Asia." Don't sow the wind...


Subject: "I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle

You said "I do recall saying I doubted there was any answerable question I couldn't get an answer to on BIX within a week, a month tops.. ".

My experience was that I could ask a question on BIX and I would have an answer, from an expert, in 24 hours. I think there might have been one or two instances, over a period of several years, where it took a little longer.

--John R. Strohm


Health care is expensive, but bad health care is *really* expensive, at least when what I refer to as Serious Medicine is involved. And Serious Medicine is the one type of good/service where being a customer is not chosen, but rather thrust upon one. Your typical consumer will not buy a personal computer if using such a device is beyond him (and certainly won't buy a *second* PC), but high-tech, patient-compliance-critical medical care is consumed by people in every position in the "IQ+Caffeine+Adrenaline" "cube".

This is starting to translate into entrepreneurial opportunity, as noted in the BUSINESS WEEK article below.




FEBRUARY 27, 2006


Steering Patients Through The System Quantum Health points people to the best care -- and saves employers big bucks

For Kara J. Trott, becoming an entrepreneur meant leaving her corporate law career. It meant resigning from a nonprofit board she no longer has time for and giving up her vacations. And in the early days it meant taking out a home-equity loan and moving to a smaller house.

But the new Kara Trott -- the superbusy one in the more modest home -- has never been happier. The company she started in 1999, Quantum Health in Columbus, Ohio, helps patients navigate the complexities of the health-care system. "When someone is diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, it is the most difficult time in their lives," says Trott, 44. "It gives me the greatest satisfaction that I help people make the right decisions during those critical moments."

In her prior life many of Trott's legal clients had been hospitals or doctors. She witnessed the insurance industry's attempts to shift health-care costs by cutting reimbursements to physicians and hospitals and by increasing employees' deductibles and co-payments. Trott also had worked as a consumer products consultant, and she thought some of the techniques used in that industry, such as providing incentives to get people to buy, could be applied to health care to encourage patients to reduce spending. That would help everyone in the system, from patients on up. "I wanted to create something and make a change in people's lives," says Trott. "Of course, everybody was skeptical."

Undeterred, she tracked health-care decisions from 2,800 patients, 260 physicians, and 140 employers, using data supplied largely by her law firm's clients. She found that half of patients left their physicians' offices not knowing what to do. Only 15% got answers to their questions, and 61% of the time patients chose the wrong type of specialist. That misstep generated an average of $3,500 in extra costs. And Trott found that most patients wanted more guidance in choosing health care.<snip>


And from another conference:


I do recall that I Heard It Here First!




February 25, 2006

Virus Link to Rare Form of Prostate Cancer Revives Suspicions of Medical Detectives


A team of scientists in Cleveland and San Francisco said yesterday that they had discovered a new virus in patients who had a rare form of prostate cancer. The patients all had a particular genetic mutation.

But the researchers, who reported their finding at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in San Francisco, do not know whether the virus causes prostate cancer, infection or any other ailment in humans. The virus, called XMRV, could prove to be harmless.

Still, finding a virus in a rare form of prostate cancer intrigues scientists because of growing suspicions that prostate cancer might result from chronic inflammation caused by bacteria or a virus.

Other viruses cause certain cancers of the liver and the cervix.

If researchers someday prove that a virus causes at least some prostate cancers, the finding would raise the possibility of developing new drug therapies and a vaccine, Dr. Eric A. Klein of the Cleveland Clinic said in a telephone news conference. Dr. Klein is a co-author of the report with scientists from the University of California, San Francisco.

The XMRV virus is closely related to a group of retroviruses found in mice and known as xenotropic murine leukemia virus. (Xenotropic means the virus crossed species.) Though such viruses can cause disease in animals other than mice, there has been no documented human infection until the new report.

And here, very shortly after, from Greg Cochran








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