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Mail 443 December 4 - 10, 2006







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Monday  December 4, 2006

Joanne Dow Diatribes now have their own page.

Subject: Letter from England

Litvinenko stories: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,1962759,00.html> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6203222.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2484059,00.html> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article2035184.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article2035168.ece> Telegraph reports 30+ Russian spies active in the UK.

Leaked Rumsfeld memo: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/world/story/0,,1962944,00.html>

Death squads operating in Baghdad hospitals <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2483899,00.html>

UK climate research being cut: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,1962763,00.html>

Strategy to empty UK jails backfires: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1962768,00.html>

Old women becoming terrorist bombers in Israel: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/world/story/0,,1962704,00.html>

Martin Rees (president of the Royal Society) recommending scientists become more active in public debate: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6159371.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1960780,00.html>

Language crisis in UK schools: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1962780,00.html>

Saving on the cost of health care by not immunising staff against the flu: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6156913.stm>

National road tolls 'in ten years' (or, the war on poverty is over-- the poor lost...) <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6203530.stm>

Privacy in Europe: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/12/03/pnr_omen/>


I know you're thinking about a MacBook Pro. I bought a 15-inch about a month ago, transferred over from a PowerBook, and haven't looked back. I've decided against Parallels Desktop, mostly because I use Windows mostly for games, and that means dual booting for the speed. I had used VPC on the PowerBook, but that was because my PhD research had used Windows, and I didn't want to lose access to it. Moving that over was trivial. The main downer was the extra cost, but Macs last longer than Windows machines and cost less to maintain, so it's basically pay me now or pay me later--it'll cost more later. And they're more secure and look cool.

Things I've done: 1. Got 2GB of RAM and 160 GB of disk space. Used Bootcamp to install Windows XP Pro on a 32GB partition. 2. Bought an extra battery and power adaptor for travel and work away from home. 3. Bought an Apple modem for dial-up. 4. Installed Norton Antivirus (NAV), Stuffit, Yojimbo, BBEdit (for web page editing), GraphicConverter (graphics editing), Interarchy (ftp), MacSoup (a news reader), Firefox (in addition to Opera and Safari), NetNewsWire (RSS), R (to do statistics), eclipse (Java and C+ + IDE), MS Office, fink (a package manager for UNIX software), FinkCommander (to run fink), X11 (from the install disk--you have to search for it), the development packages (also on the install disk), and PGP 6.5. 5. Paid for three years of AppleCare. 6. Configured it so that root commands were executed using sudo--no root account. Used the ipfw firewall that Apple enables by default and locked the machine down for the most part. 7. Programs I run at log on include Terminal, Activity Monitor, Yojimbo (hidden), Console so I can monitor the log for anomalies, and X11, plus the ones installed by NAV, Stuffit, PGP, and other programs.

Running Windows XP Pro, I've learned I need to make sure my USB keyboard is powered--otherwise it drops out temporarily from time to time. This is not a problem with Mac OS X, so I suspect this is a driver issue that will be fixed with the next release of Bootcamp. When you're using the Apple Modem, *disable* the Airport and Blackberry devices. Also, make sure your configuration is locked down and protected if you're exposed to the Internet.

Do a full backup of both sides and update it from time to time. I use Retrospect.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Subj: Happy Feast of Saint Barbara (patron saint of Artillery)


=... The feast of Saint Barbara falls on December 4th and is traditionally recognized by a formal Dining-In or military dinner, often involving the presentation of the Order of Saint Barbara. ...=

As those who have read Robert Heinlein's _Space Cadet_ know, Saint Barbara is also the patron saint of Rocketeers.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


How the West Was Lost.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Troops to Teachers


"Since its inception in 1994, the Troops to Teachers program has been an unqualified success. Over the past 12 years, at least 10,000 former military members have transitioned to second careers as educators at the elementary and secondary levels. Schools involved in the program have been almost universal in their praise of Troops-to-Teachers participants. More than 80% are male (providing an important role model for students); many teach science and math (high demand subjects) and virtually all of these teachers bring a badly-needed sense of discipline to the classroom.

Unfortunately, according to Air Force Times <http://www.airforcetimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-2384270.php>  , the Troops to Teachers program has hit a snag. A new interpretation of the 2001 "No Child Left Behind" act has placed limits on which schools can participate in Troops to Teachers, greatly reducing employment opportunities for prospective educators. Wisconsin Republican Congressman Tom Petri says the "new" interpretation limits the program to schools with more than 10,000 students, or those where more than 20% of the student body live below the poverty line. Previously, Troops to Teachers was open to "high need" schools, without any specific numerical requirements."

A serving officer


Subject: "Safe Computing" for Jihadists 

Dr. Pournelle:

I see that even the jihadist is worried about "Safe Computing"; see here for an analysis of the first issue of the "Technical Mujahid, a New Periodic Magazine Related to Technology and Internet Security Published by al-Fajr Information Center" -- http://siteinstitute.org/bin/articles.cgi?ID=publications229606&Category=publications&Subcategory=0 

The link is an analysis, haven't seen a translation yet. An Infoworld story about this new magazine is here: http://www.infoworld.com/article/06/12/01/HNjihadmag_1.html?source=NLC-SEC2006-12-04  .

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: The War on Terror claims doughnuts


It seems that cream-filled doughnuts are not allowed on airliners:


We might blow up, eh?



Subj: Troops Test Robotic Stryker

Another step towards Keith Laumer's Bolos:


=...There were two surprises. First, the troops were not overloaded by all the sensor input and computer acticvity. The soldiers, who spent more time playing video games than their parents approved of, were used to lots of things happening on computer screens. ...=

=...The bad news was that the troops did not like the robotic driver of the vehicle. ... They didn't mind completely unmanned Strykers (which were also tested), but when they were inside one of these automated vehicles, they wanted more control over the driving. ...=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com



This week:


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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Subject: wolf-dog rescue 

Dr. Pournelle, you've probably seen this already, but in case you hadn't...


Robbie Walker Wilmington, NC


Subject: Biomass conversion


One of the more interesting ideas I've seen of late is fermentation of synthesis gas (from biomass gasification) to produce ethanol: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/synthesis_gas_fermentation.html

"Biomass can be converted to synthesis gas (consisting primarily of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen) via a high temperature gasification process. Anaerobic bacteria are then used to convert the synthesis gas into ethanol. Bioresource Engineering Inc. has developed synthesis gas fermentation technology that can be used to produce ethanol from cellulosic wastes with high yields and rates."

"After gasification, anaerobic bacteria such as Clostridium ljungdahlii are used to convert the CO, CO2, and H2 into ethanol1. Higher rates are obtained because the process is limited by the transfer of gas into the liquid phase instead of the rate of substrate uptake by the bacteria."

"BRI has developed bioreactor systems for fermentation that results in retention times of only a few minutes at atmospheric pressure and less than a minute at elevated pressure. These retention times result in very economical equipment costs1,2. The biocatalyst is automatically regenerated by slow growth of the bacteria in the reactor."

CP, Connecticut

There's a lot of biomass out there and it costs to get rid of it; it is certainly worth while looking at ways to make the process an energy source rather than a sink. How significant a source seems to be a matter of details and efficiencies, and I have not been following those developments.


In hoc signo vinces...

Subject: Insignia of Emperor Maxentius unearthed 

Now this is interesting:

Insignia of Emperor Maxentius unearthed

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061203/ap_on_re_eu/italy_emperor_insignia <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061203/ap_on_re_eu/italy_emperor_insignia

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the only existing imperial insignia belonging to Emperor Maxentius — precious objects that were buried to preserve them and keep them from enemies when he was defeated by his rival Constantine.

An imperial scepter with a carved flower and a globe, and a number of glass spheres, believed to be a symbolic representation of the earth, also were discovered.

The items, inside wooden boxes and wrapped in linen and silk, were found buried at a sanctuary last year and have since been restored and analyzed. The depth of the burial allows experts to date them to the early 4th century A.D., ministry officials said.

"These artifacts clearly belonged to the emperor, especially the scepter, which is very elaborated, it's not an item you would let someone else have," Clementina Panella, the archaeologist who made the discovery, said Friday.

Panella said the insignia were likely hidden by Maxentius' people in an attempt to preserve the emperor's memory after he was defeated by Constantine I in the 321 A.D. battle of the Milvian Bridge — a turning point for the history of the Roman empire which saw Constantine become the unchallenged ruler of the West.

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as the house of Rome's first emperor, Augustus. Experts said that much has yet to be uncovered, hidden in underground passageways.



Subject: UN salaries, 


The particular item offering Un jobs may have been a scam, but the salaries seemed a little low to me. Why? Back when I worked in DC 20+ years ago I had a patient who took a job with the UN for $300K, for doing precious little.

I'm sure you don't care to do any spadework on this trash, but I have seen no evidence that working at the UN entails any sort of financial hardship.



Subject: And you thought the TSA was bad

Anecdotal evidence that lunacy in airport security policies is spreading rapidly:


Are Oreo cookies next?




 Subject: Hole Through the Earth

Dr. Pournelle:

I was interested to read "Jim's" response (in your Sunday mail) to my question of the water level in a pipe drilled through the center of the earth from my backyard to the Indian Ocean. His answer (that the water level would end up at the mean sea level) sounds reasonable.

But then I got thinking: if the force of gravity is what makes water fall down a pipe, and the amount of gravity is a function of the mass of an object (Jupiter having more gravity at it's surface than the Earth due to Jupiter's mass): what is the amount of gravity at the exact center of the Earth? Is the gravitational force zero? And if so (assuming no other external forces such as the forward motion of the water as it's falling down the pipe to the center of the earth) : if gravity makes the water fall down to the center of the earth, what makes the water fall 'up' to the mean sea level in my backyard? Wouldn't the water stop at the center of the earth?

I leave that question to the much smarter brains of your readers.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

I used to get involved in these discussions but I leave them to physicists now. If you want to do a thought experiment, try to imagine what materials could bound a hollow space in the center of the Earth.  I want some of that...


From another discussion:

The question is whether "Permanently Advantaged" and "Permanently Disadvantaged" groups will live together in a "First World" country or a "Third World" country. At 13% permanently disadvantaged minorities, America is pretty much a "First World" place. At the ratio that obtains in Zimbabwe, one gets "Third World" conditions. The demographic explosion among recent illegal immigrants is going to force "First World" America to either do some very ugly things to keep on the right side of the "Tipping Point" demographically, or to accept some very ugly things (initially becoming like Brazil) by not acting.

Either way, it will be the children of our Permanently Disadvantaged Families (PDFs) that will be the innocent victims caught in the crossfire when First World America either does (or even does not) act, because they will be the vanguard of the group dropping into Third World conditions.



From another discussion:

> Singapore is nice (though boring), but it is about the least
> demographically-self-sustaining polity in the First World.

It is true that their fertility rate is low, but their population is still rising, perhaps due to carefully controlled immigration. I can't find any immigration figures, but I'm pretty sure the maid who cleaned my hotel room was an immigrant from China. She spoke no English at all (not even numbers), but could write Chinese characters, through which we (barely) communicated.

If they are maintaining population thru that source I would have no worries for the future. ---

As a sign of the changing times we live in, on Sunday I sat next to three Chinese girls (about 20?) on the train from Narita to Tokyo. They were dressed in *very* expensive-looking, fashionable clothes and were taking pictures of themselves the whole time. They were probably in Tokyo to go shopping, and it looked like it wasn't the first time, because they paid no attention to train announcements. They knew where they were going.

Until recently there were no Chinese tourists in expensive Japan and certainly none dressed in clothes that could not be bought in a K-Mart blue light special.

I pointed out to my son that 30 years ago their parents were probably eating rats.





This week:


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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Mail tonight. There's a new diatribe by Joanne Dow on her page. For the record, I don't agree with her generalizations, but it's useful to collect these events to show what's happening in many places. And to my Turkish friends, I understand that Turkey is a secular state and sharia does not apply there, and the Army enforces that part of the Constitution. I have said before, I have great sentimental attachment to Turkey and the Turkish Army since the Korean War.

Dr. Pournelle,

for Mr. Hellewell:

1) Gravitational forces at the center of the earth are (approximately) zero, because the source mass (the bulk of the earth) is symmetrically distributed in all directions.

2) The inflow is buoyed back up to surface level on the other side of the hole by the momentum of the inflow. The flow will of course cease (subject to damping, which may be considerable) when the weight of the water on the inflow side equals the weight of water on the outflow side.

3) For a rough (and hopefully correct) first approximation physical model: Assuming linear decrease of gravity with distance from the center (I haven't seen the computation since college and don't want to complicate the first approximation), so that the mean acceleration is g/2, the time of inflow to the center of the earth is about

t=sqrt(2R/(g/2))=sqrt(4R/g)=sqrt(4*6300000 m/10 (m/s/s))=1587 s

and the velocity of the head is about

v=(g/2)*t= 7937 m/s ~ 8 km/s, or nearly orbital velocity (as would be expected).

4) Sodium cooled tungsten/tungsten carbide ceramet (the sodium circulation system and the resulting mass and heat transfers while maintaining structural integrity is of course left as the next exercise for the interested reader, as is the possibility of using the superheated sodium vapor to power a turbine. Just make sure to engineer the system so that the water doesn't break through and contact the sodium....)



Dr Pournelle,

Thanks for bringing up the hole through the earth bit. You might ask Niven if scrith would work as a wall material, but I doubt it. Perhaps a tube of diamond? Oh, walls 10 feet thick ought to do. Yes, that would be one LONG molecule. (Yes, carbon is plentiful, but I wonder if there's enough carbon in the earth to satisfy this project.

I am so glad I looked this up. I remembered reading Martin Gardner's _The Annotated Alice_ when I was a kid and this "hole through the earth" topic came up. Gardner explained that, Lewis Carrol had included an interesting mode of travel involving a hole through the earth, falling all the way through with a transit time of 84 minutes. The neat thing was, the time was the same, no matter where the ends of the hole were. London to New York in 84 minutes, powered by gravity alone. Pretty neat trick.

Here's the note I read from Annotated Alice:

4) In Carroll's day there was considerable popular speculation about what would happen if one fell through a hole that went straight through the center of the earth. Plutarch had asked the question and many famous thinkers, including Francis Bacon and Voltaire, had argued about it. Galileo (Dialogo dei Massimi Sistemi, Giornata Seconda, Florence edition of 1842, Vol. 1, pages 251–52), gave the correct answer: the object would fall with increasing speed but decreasing acceleration until it reached the center of the earth, at which spot its acceleration would be zero. Thereafter it would slow down in speed, with increasing deceleration, until it reached the opening at the other end. Then it would fall back again. By ignoring air resistance and the coriolis force resulting from the earth's rotation (unless the hole ran from pole to pole), the object would oscillate back and forth forever. Air resistance of course would eventually bring it to rest at the earth's center. The interested reader should consult "A Hole through the Earth," by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, in The Strand Magazine, Vol. 38 (1909), page 348, if only to look at the lurid illustrations.

Carroll's interest in the matter is indicated by the fact that in Chapter 7 of his Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, there is described (in addition to a Mobius strip, a projective plane, and other whimsical scientific and mathematical devices) a remarkable method of running trains with gravity as the sole power source. The track runs through a perfectly straight tunnel from one town to another. Since the middle of the tunnel is necessarily nearer the earth's center than its ends, the train runs downhill to the center, acquiring enough momentum to carry it up the other half of the tunnel. Curiously, such a train would make the trip (ignoring air resistance and friction of the wheels) in exactly the same time that it would take an object to fall through the center of the earth — a little more than forty-two minutes. This time is constant regardless of the tunnel's length.

The fall into the earth as a device for entering a wonderland has been used by many other writers of children's fantasy, notably by L. Frank Baum in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and Ruth Plumly Thompson in The Royal Book of Oz. Baum also used the tube through the earth as an effective plot gimmick in Tik-Tok of Oz


Gardner wrote about the hole through the earth in his Scientific American columns, Evidently, this topic is addressed on page 12 of The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.

Here's an interesting page here by Donald Simanek with various physics problems.


There's a related problem. In Chapter 7 of Lewis Carroll's 1893 book Sylvie and Bruno. The fictional German professor, Mein Herr, proposes a way to run trains by gravity alone. Dig a straight tunnel between any two points on Earth (it need not go through the Earth's center), and run a rail track through it. With frictionless tracks the energy gained by the train in the first half of the journey is equal to that required in the second half. And also, in the absence of air resistance and friction, the time of the journey is about 42 minutes (84 for a round trip) for any such tunnel, no matter what the tunnel's length.


here's the bit from _Silvie and Bruno_: http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Carroll/Sylvie/  (I'd forgotten how much I loved reading Carrol)

The Earl was listening with a slightly incredulous smile. “Why cannot you explain the process?” he enquired.

Mein Herr was ready with a quite unanswerable reason. “Because you have no words, in your language, to convey the ideas which are needed. I could explain it in--in-- but you would not understand it!”

“No indeed!” said Lady Muriel, graciously dispensing with the name of the unknown language. “I never learnt it--at least, not to speak it fluently, you know. Please tell us some more wonderful things!”

“They run their railway-trains without any engines--nothing is needed but machinery to stop them with. Is that wonderful enough, Miladi?”

“But where does the force come from?” I ventured to ask.

Mein Herr turned quickly round, to look at the new speaker. Then he took off his spectacles, and polished, them, and looked at me again, in evident bewilderment. I could see he was thinking--as indeed I was also--that we must have met before.

“They use the force of gravity,” he said. “It is a force known also in your country, I believe?”

“But that would need a railway going down-hill,” the Earl remarked. “You ca’n’t have all your railways going down-hill?”

“They all do”, said Mein Herr.

“Not from both ends?”

“From both ends.”

“Then I give it up!” said the Earl.

“Can you explain the process?” said Lady Muriel. “Without using that language, that I ca’n’t speak fluently?”

“Easily,” said Mein Herr. “Each railway is in a long tunnel, perfectly straight: so of course the middle of it is nearer the centre of the globe than the two ends: so every train runs half-way down-hill, and that gives it force enough to run the other half up-hill.”

“Thank you. I understand that perfectly,” said Lady Muriel. “But the velocity, in the middle of the tunnel, must be something fearful!”

Mein Herr was evidently much gratified at the intelligent interest Lady Muriel took in his remarks. At every moment the old man seemed to grow more chatty and more fluent. “You would like to know our methods of driving?” he smilingly enquired. “To us, a run-away horse is of no import at all!”

Lady Muriel slightly shuddered. “To us it is a very real danger,” she said.

“That is because your carriage is wholly behind your horse. Your horse runs. Your carriage follows. Perhaps your horse has the bit in his teeth. Who shall stop him? You fly, ever faster and faster! Finally comes the inevitable upset!”

“But suppose your horse manages to get the bit in his teeth?”

“No matter! We would not concern ourselves. Our horse is harnessed in the very centre of our carriage. Two wheels are in front of him, and two behind. To the roof is attached one end of a broad belt. This goes under the horse’s body, and the other end is attached to a leetle--what you call a ‘windlass’, I think. The horse takes the bit in his teeth. He runs away. We are flying at ten miles an hour! We turn our little windlass, five turns, six turns, seven turns, and--poof! Our horse is off the ground! Now let him gallop in the air as much as he pleases: our carriage stands still. We sit round him, and watch him till he is tired. Then we let him down. Our horse is glad, very much glad, when his feet once more touch the ground!”

“Capital!” said the Earl, who had been listening attentively. “Are there any other peculiarities in your carriages?”

“In the wheels, sometimes, my Lord. For your health, you go to sea: to be pitched, to be rolled, occasionally to be drowned. We do all that on land: we are pitched, as you; we are rolled, as you; but drowned, no! There is no water!”

“What are the wheels like, then?”

“They are oval, my Lord. Therefore the carriages rise and fall.”

“Yes, and pitch the carriage backwards and forwards: but how do they make it roll?”

“They do not match, my Lord. The end of one wheel answers to the side of the opposite wheel. So first one side of the carriage rises, then the other. And it pitches all the while. Ah, you must be a good sailor, to drive in our boat-carriages!”

“I can easily believe it,” said the Earl.

Mein Herr rose to his feet. “I must leave you now, Miladi,” he said, consulting his watch. “I have another engagement.”

“I only wish we had stored up some extra time!” Lady Muriel said, as she shook hands with him. “Then we could have kept you a little longer!”

“In that case I would gladly stay,” replied Mein Herr. “As it is--I fear I must say goodbye!”

“Where did you first meet him?” I asked Lady Muriel, when Mein Herr had left us. “And where does he live? And what is his real name?”

“We first--met--him--” she musingly replied, “really, I ca’n’t remember where! And I’ve no idea where he lives! And I never heard any other name! It’s very curious. It never occurred to me before to consider what a mystery he is!”

“I hope we shall meet again,” I said: “he interests me very much.”

I hope you found all that interesting.

Mark Hartwell


Subject: Surprise: Oil Woes In Iran





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Free liquid water on Mars?!


- Roland Dobbins


Forwarded by Colonel Couvillon. Reprinted with permission

Exclusive: Correctly Remembering BOTH Vietnam Wars Jim Guirard Author: Jim Guirard Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc. Date: December 6, 2006


The idea that there would be no "domino effect" to a defeat of American and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is as deceitful as the constantly repeated lie that there was no such triggering effect to the April 1975 collapse of South Vietnam. There were 20 post-Vietnam dominoes which fell in a period of only five short years as a result of our leaving Vietnam, and as FSM Contributing Editor Jim Guirard observes, if we let the very same thing happen with Iraq, we will live to regret it…deeply. Read this to learn the truth.

Correctly Remembering BOTH Vietnam Wars
 Jim Guirard

Now that the recent elections have put them in narrow control of Congress, many partisan Senate Democrats -- led by Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Durkin, Schumer, Clinton, Biden and others -- will again be trying to equate the current, highly difficult peacekeeping and democratization missions in Iraq with the “quagmire” in Vietnam almost four decades ago.

In the House, a similar gaggle of cut-and-run and “ACE” (Aid and Comfort to the Enemy) agitators are led by Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, Defense Appropriations Chairman-to-be John Murtha and future Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Wrangle – who are followed in lockstep by scores of their fellow Blame America First “progressives.”

It becomes vital, therefore, that the history of Vietnam and its Cold War consequences be clearly understood – so that none of today’s partisan politicians, media commentators and left-wing interest groups can scam the American public with a variety of false “lessons” of that long-ago conflict and its aftermath.

Unfortunately, we live in an age when far too little attention is paid to history -- real history. What actually happened back then is often re-written to satisfy political or ideological appetites of "Scamalot" revisionists -- who may be journalists, or academics, or self-interested governments, or religious zealots, or even self-serving aspirants to higher office.

Naturally, the more controversial the events were and are, the more likely that the record of their outcome will be manipulated, revised or even expunged from the historical record, to satisfy the ulterior motives of the new “historians.”

A prime example of such deceit will almost surely be America’s failure late next month to memorialize the relatively calm late-January, 1973 end of the Vietnam War -- or, more correctly, the end “Vietnam One.” That was the 12-year war which was fought largely by US combat forces and officially ended with the Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973.

Sadly, in January of this year (typical of other recent years) not a single historically correct article about the end of Vietnam One appeared on that anniversary date in any major US newspaper. And nor was there any detailed mention of the historical truth -- of a defeated North Korea's [sic: he means North Viet Nam] exodus from the South -- by any network “talking head” or commentator.

Four months later, however, the infamous anniversary date which did occur and will soon again be loudly and universally recognized instead is the tragic end of “Vietnam Two” – which (a) began in January 1975, (b) involved no US combat forces at all, and (c) came to a tragic end on April 30, 1975.

That was when South Vietnam's capitol city of Saigon fell to rampaging Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese armies -- and when televised pictures of helicopters rescuing American diplomatic personnel, Marine guards and friendly South Vietnamese from the US Embassy roof were first burned into our memories.

The deceitful tactic: propagandize the first-ever "Defeat of America" when, in fact, America had departed the scene more than two years earlier.


The many differences between these “Two Vietnam Wars” – and their “lessons learned,” if any, for the ongoing battle for peace, stability and democracy in Iraq – should be searched for in the following historical sub-texts. While an entire book could be written about each of these under- and falsely-reported items, a brief paragraph about each might help to avoid their being completely ignored or wrongly described in context of today’s Vietnam/Iraq comparisons.

First, beginning in 1961, all significant increases in US combat forces in South Vietnam occurred during the administrations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (to a peak of 543,400 in late 1968) -- while all significant reductions (down to only 20,000 in late 1972 and virtually zero by mid-1973) occurred in the administration of Richard Nixon.

These reductions were made possible both by the steady weakening of North Vietnamese and by significant strengthening of South Vietnamese forces, especially during and following the much misinterpreted Tet Offensive of 1968.

Second, during their dozen years in South Vietnam, US combat forces did not lose a single major battle, despite the marginally insane (i.e., politically correct) rules of engagement to which they were subjected by Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and their “best and brightest” entourage -- and then by a similar, but less intrusive, micro-management by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

Clearly, US combat forces did not “lose” the military war, as contrasted to the political and psychological losses they suffered in the McGovernite Congress, in the left-leaning media, among the radicalized academia and foreign policy elite, and in American public opinion.

Third, the biggest and longest battle of the entire Vietnam War -- the Tet Offensive of early 1968 -- was the biggest victory for US and South Vietnamese forces and the most devastating defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

But a combination of media misrepresentation and of negative “spin” by anti-war activists managed to persuade the American public that it was our biggest failure, instead.

Fourth, that part of the conflict in which US combat forces participated ended with the Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973, when American troop count was down to about 20,000 and headed for zero by mid-year -- and with formal treaty assurances from North Vietnam that it would go home and cease its cross-border aggression against South Vietnam.

At that point, American and South Vietnamese forces had thwarted the Soviet-supported North. They had both militarily and diplomatically achieved the same status quo ante as the one which ended the Korean War twenty years earlier -- not a clear-cut victory, but surely not the ignominious defeat which today’s revisionists contend.


Fifth, as stated above, it was not until January 1975 that the Soviet-backed North began “The Second Vietnam War,” or Vietnam Two, against a largely abandoned South. This was a war made possible and winnable for the communists by three principal factors:

(a) the post-Watergate, August 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon;

(b) the dominance of the anti-war Congressional Democrats (pressured by Blame America First radicals of the Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, George McGovern, Jane Fonda, Angela Davis varieties) who in 1973-74 slashed aid to South Vietnam by more than half; and

c) the Moscow-Hanoi certainty that an unelected and politically insecure President Gerald Ford would not dare to intervene if the North were to invade the South.

Sixth, the final Blitzkrieg-style victory of the Soviet-supported North Vietnamese came on April 30, 1975 -- not over US combat forces which had departed more than two years earlier but over a South Vietnam whose military assistance and political support had been decimated by a Democrat-dominated, weak-on-liberty US Congress.

Seventh, the predicted “communist blood bath” in South Vietnam did, indeed, occur -- with tens of thousands of summary executions, millions of innocents herded into brutal “re-education” camps and hundreds of thousands of “boat people” fleeing the single-party, police-state communist dictatorship -- which is still in power 30 years later.

Eighth, the long-anticipated “domino effect” also occurred over the next five years (1975-80), during which a “no-more-Vietnams” retreat by the United States and its allies allowed some twenty nations to fall to Soviet imperialism, colonialism and subversion. Divided into two slightly overlapping groups, these post-Vietnam colonies for communism were:

o Ten plainly Marxist-Leninist states: South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Suriname, Grenada and Nicaragua.

o Ten more socialist, single-party “client states,” which were close enough to communist tyranny as no longer to require so-called “liberation”: Libya, Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao-Tome/Principe, and Congo.

Ninth, it was not until Ronald Reagan became President in January 1981 that this veritable avalanche of “dominoes” into the Evil Empire ceased -- and was then reversed by the pre-emptive “roll-back” liberation of Grenada from Soviet/Cuban colonial status in 1983.

Although only a tiny part of the Soviet Empire, Grenada’s great geo-political significance was its first clear-cut reversal of the Brechnev Doctrine -- that much-propagandized rule that said "once communist, always communist."

Tenth, whether or not Vietnam I was either strategically wise or militarily winnable (which this writer strongly believes it was), it was most certainly a “moral” and “just” cause. As with the case of World War II, such a determination can be based only on an objective analysis of the character and motivations of the enemy against whom the war was fought.

In total context, was this enemy the “good guy” who deserved to win, or the “bad guy” who should have lost? In this case, that Soviet-sponsored enemy -- Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnam -- proved quite clearly in the post-war period to be far more imperialist than “nationalist,” far more repressive than “liberationist” and far more fascist-Left than “people’s democratic.”

This is why so many Americans have always believed that by any objective standard, “the wrong side won.” And this is why we must remind everyone, in the name of truth-in-history, that this “wrong side” victory came against a cut-and-run US Congress -- and not against American combat forces in Vietnam I, which ended imperfectly but honorably in early 1973.

Of course, that historic truth is regretted to this day by many of the anti-liberation Left, who would have much preferred that “arrogant America” and “imperialist America” be defeated outright -- just as they would prefer in Iraq today.

It was only later that such defeat was visited not on US forces but on the under-supplied and essentially abandoned South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam II -- which began in January and ended tragically with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, without the involvement of any US combat forces whatever.

Clearly, if we are not to repeat the mistakes of either of these Vietnam Wars, we must assertively proclaim what actually did happen back then, rather than what today’s AWOL (Always Weak On Liberty) Democrats so falsely say happened.

Most importantly, we should neither “cut and run” nor prematurely leave the infant Iraqi democracy to the not-so-tender mercies of the partial-birth abortionists of The Al Qaeda Apostasy and its hate-Bush, blame-America apologists all across the globe.

These are the same Blame America Firsters who hated Richard Nixon far more than they did Ho Chi Minh -- and whose modern-day lambastings of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have been far more harsh and hateful than any labels they have applied to such genocidal butchers as Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda’s and Hizballah's suicide mass murderers.

A final note: The idea that there would be no "domino effect" to a defeat of American and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is as deceitful as the constantly repeated lie that there was no such triggering effect to the April 1975 collapse of South Vietnam.

Review item # 8 above for a truth-in-history reminder of the 20 post-Vietnam dominoes which fell in a period of only five short years --.four of them the pathetic Carter-Mondale years -- followed then by the 1980s decade of the "roll-back of communism," which was applauded by many (and demeaned by many others) as The Reagan Revolution.

FamilySecurityMatters.org <http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/> Contributing Editor Jim Guirard was longtime Chief of Staff to former US Senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long. His new TrueSpeak Institute is devoted to truth-in-language and truth-in-history in public discourse.


This otherwise accurate account leaves out details of the key event: the overwhelming defeat in 1972 of a massive invasion from the north. You can find that account on this web site.

The potential domino effect in Iraq should concern us all. With Saddam in power in Iraq there was a balance of forces in the region. It may or may not have been unstable, but it was far less unstable than the present situation, where US withdrawal from the area might well trigger a race for the oil, with civil war in Iraq aided by outside forces. The most likely nation to profit from that would be Iran, followed by Syria. Turkey might well take advantage of the power vacuum to make gains in its war against Greater Kurdistan.

I did not want us in Iraq in the first place. I didn't want us there in the First Gulf War; I predicted then that the result would be far more than ousting one gang of thugs from Kuwait in order to restore another gang of thugs who were hiding in London casinos while we bailed them out. The First Gulf War wasn't finished, Iraq wasn't partitioned, the oil wasn't seized; the people of the South Delta were encouraged to rise up, then not aided, and were duly slaughtered to the accompaniment of the destruction of the marches, one of the greater planetary ecological disasters that the Friends of Man and the Earth seem to have forgotten.

The Second Iraq invasion was supposed to remedy those defects. It was possible still to use the Iraqi Army and the oil revenue to buy some stability in that unhappy land; I was hardly the only one to give detailed advice on what might be accomplished. None of that was done. Whether due to incompetence or venality (pump lots of oil and oil prices will fall) the execution was done about as badly as it was possible to do it. The oil fields were not secured. The Iraqi Army was not hired to keep order. A million young men were turned out without jobs but with weapons; no salaries, no prospects, no hopes, but lots of firepower. Predictably-- both predictably and predicted -- the looting began in their former barracks and went from there to government offices, then to any available target.

Nixon managed to implement his "secret plan" to stabilize Viet Nam: that was to build an Army of the Republic of Viet Nam that was capable, with US help, of resisting the worst that the People's Republic of Viet Nam could throw at it. ARVN could have resisted North Viet Nam forever at rather small cost to the United States. US casualties in 1972 were quite small, and those who helped ARVN resist invasion in 1972 were and are justifiably proud of their actions. Of course the victory was thrown away as Congress smelled Watergate blood and voted to cut off assistance to ARVN (except for a token 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man). The Republic of Viet Nam accordingly fell, the dominoes collapsed, and the stage was set for the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the various purges in Laos; the reeducation camps, the boat people, floods of refugees.

You may recall the hopefulness that came with the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. Israel killed the Cedar Revolution and left Lebanon in the hands of Hezbollah. They did this by expanding the war far beyond the local incidents that triggered it, humiliating the Lebanese national army, and throwing the Christians, formerly Israeli allies, into the arms of Hezbollah. They started a war they had not the stomach to finish. They took on obligations they threw over when the going got tough.

The United States invaded Iraq and so far has achieved chaos. If there is any national cooperation in Iraq it is directed towards getting the Americans out. Shiite and Sunni Militia hate each other, but they agree on one thing: Americans are fair game. And anyone foolish enough to cooperate with America becomes a collaborator, fair game for either side: because, after all, the Americans are going to cut and run and abandon the their allies, just as those left on the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon in 1975 were abandoned. We can always push the helicopters overboard to make room for more. We can afford it.

Is the Iraqi disaster retrievable? Yes, but only by American national commitment. We have to expand the war. Send in more troops, and begin to build a constabulary, a Foreign Auxiliary Force that will stay behind when we pull the Legions back to Kuwait and then back to CONUS.  Make a serious effort to arm and train the domestic Iraqi forces. Recognize regional conflict and use money, lots of money, to settle conflicting claims and resettle families, not as helpless refugees but as citizens.

Will we do that with a Democratic Congress? Historically the Iraqi government can expect 20 cartridges and two hand grenades per soldier. Nothing more. The likelihood that America will decide on WARRE to restore our national honor and that of our Legions is no higher than the likelihood that the Senate of Rome would deal honorably with Caesar before he crossed the Rubicon.

If we will neither "stay the course" (a bad strategy; when you are in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging it deeper ) nor make the kind of commitment it would take to restore order (recruit Auxiliaries who will function as constabulary in Iraq and allow us to begin withdrawing the Legions; make it clear that we are there to stay forever; and do whatever it takes to get the oil flowing again so that Iraq can pay for its recovery) then what shall we do?

That is a matter for considerable thought; because once again, it involves a prior question. Who are we? What is our foreign policy? And what can be our foreign policy in a world in which we have made it clear that we accept no obligations no matter how we took them on? The world Post Iraq will be a different place. We need to think on that, and deeply.

More another time. See below for [invited] commentary by Joel Rosenberg. See also "Remembering Both Viet Nam Wars"


Despair is a sin

Subject: fertility rates

It was said of Singapore that

It is true that their fertility rate is low, but their population is still rising, perhaps due to carefully controlled immigration.


If they are maintaining population thru that source I would have no worries for the future.

The US population is still rising, even though births are hovering at the replacement rate. It takes about 20-30 years for the negative effects of inadequate birth rates to become obvious. Initially, it will appear beneficial, because the effort and cost of raising children can be put into other activity. Eventually, it cannot help but sap the vitality of a society.

As far as a general solution of trying to maintain a stable population through immigration, it can only work if the immigrants are assimilated. This rarely seems to happen, and we daily witness unrest among the helots.

Steve Chu

 Indeed. We sow the wind.


On a cheerier note

Subject: Fun stuff

Not dialup friendly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cVOOXQo22o  Julia Ecklar Wish I had access to more of her work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWp4W-PBLkw  Aragorn Elessar Pity our politicians can't understand this.

6066702790947271422&q=lightsaber&pl=true  Best lightsaber fight I've seen...



Julia Ecklar is wonderful. And thanks!


Joel Rosenberg on Israel and the Cedar Revolution

I invited Joel's comments on my notes on the Cedar Revolution and dominoes in the Middle East

As you know, I agree with you about Israel's action in Lebanon being a mistake; as I wrote when we were discussing it, it seemed necessary to me that they had to -- at a minimum drive -- Hezbollah north of the Litani, and destroy the extensive -- and expensive -- Hezbollah infrastructure in the south of Lebanon.

They didn't do that. I think that was a horrible mistake. It's going to be necessary for Israel to take on Hezbollah, and that means not trying to use the minimum force necessary in an effort to "do something," but enough force to both cripple Hezbollah militarily and make it clear to the rest of the Lebanese that allowing Hezbollah to go unchecked is suicidal.

Right now, the consensus in Lebanon is that allowing Hezbollah to go unchecked is less risky than restarting the Civil War; and, absent Israel making it more risky, they're right.

The Hezbollards in the south were allowed not only to escape, but under the watchful eye of the French, have been busy rearming themselves, using the French as mobile body armor as a check -- an eventually unsuccessful one, I think -- against the IDF coming back in and finishing the job. (There's plusses and minuses to that, of course. The war this last summer exposed the need for better training and equipping of the IDF reserves, as well as smarter political leadership; failing to have pierced the shell of the Hezbollah line in the south was a huge mistake, that will not be repeated even under the feckless Ohlmert administration.)

That said, I disagree with your analysis. For once, I don't think that the basis of that our ongoing disagreement about the importance of Israel as a US ally, and what policy considerations flow from that.

I think the heart of that disagreement is threefold:

Fold one: in my view, with the exception of getting rid of the Syrian occupation, the Cedar Revolution was a hoax, perpetrated by the Lebanese, on themselves. (Sort of Munich on the Levant.) Getting rid of the Syrian occupation was, of course, only supposed to be part of it; establishing a decent, civil, free society was the goal. (And, of course, the Syrian occupation is now over; it's been replaced by a Hezbollah-dominated local government. Lotsa luck, Lebanese...)

And the first step was to . . . bring Hezbollah into the government. Makes about as much sense as having the first step in, say, baking a cake being pouring in ammonia. The theory is that by bringing Hezbollah into the government, the Hezbollards would learn responsibilty, compromise, and accomodation.

Instead, what the Lebanese had was a simulation of a decent, civil free society -- with the Hezbollards allowed to do exactly what Arafat did in what was "Fatahland".

The theory, I guess, is that external forces (read: the US) would restrain Israel from removing Hezbollaland; the Christians and Druze could say, "Hey, do what you want to the Jews; just leave us alone." And, eventually, Hezbollah would be civilized. (I think some magic would be required for that next step.)

It didn't just fail to work -- although it did -- it was an invalid theory, which could never work. (Just as, somewhat more to the South, the notion that giving Arafat dominion over Judea, Samaria, and Gaza would civilize him, or that doing the same for Hamas would civilize them. It was the basis for what James Baker, the Donald Trump of international politics, has passed off as a diplomatic victory -- the Madrid Conference -- the notion that appeasement is the first step toward civilizing the uncivilizeable.)

Second fold: Israel hasn't had allies in Lebanon -- or anywhere else in the Arab world. There have been -- and are -- states, groups, and individuals where Israel shares a common interest, but the last of Israel's allies in Lebanon left Lebanon (many for Israel) when Israel withdrew from south Lebanon under Barak. The closest thing that Israel has had to an ally in the Arab world is (Trans)Jordan -- and that detente was achieved largely because Hussein (and now his son) are aware that their minority rule rests on both their domination of their "Palestinian" majority and on keeping Syria out -- and it was the threat of a counterattack by Israel that did keep Syria out during the whole Black September mess.

Third fold, related to the second: I think we disagree on responsibilities that Israel has undertaken to non-allies. I don't think there are many. Responsibility and authority must balance; unless Israel has -- and maintains -- authority over Lebanon, or (Trans)Jordan or the PA, such regions aren't Israel's responsibility. (Just was well; look at Gaza; it's doing even worse under Hamas than it did under Arafat's kleptocracy, and the trend is downward.)

Israel's best strategy, as I've been maintaining for years, is to build walls and buffer zones, respond disproportionately to attacks, but otherwise not try to manage the (largely miserable) lives of its neighbors, not because they wouldn't be better under Israeli rule -- one can make arguments either way -- but because Israel simply is not in a position to occupy and rule Lebanon or (Trans)Jordan . . . or Gaza, etc.

As to the Christians in Judea and Samaria, I think it's worth noting how the voting is going -- the voting with the feet, that is. There've been, as I understand it, quite a few Christian Arabs who have relocated to the Jerusalem suburbs, as close in as they can get, under the hope that when the final wall gets put in, they'll be on the side with the Jews, rather than their Muslim brethren . . .

Other than that, we're in complete agreement. :)


Actually we are not all that far apart. I recognize that much of the western response -- including my own -- to the Cedar Revolution may have been wishful thinking. The theory was that the Lebanese national government might be strong enough to weaken the militias and their hold on various regions, and begin nation building. There has been Lebanese nationalism in the past. What has been done can be aspired to.

That may have been wishful thinking but I do not think it was an impossible outcome. Alas, we will never know. The unfinished Israeli incursion with its strikes to the far north and the deliberate humiliation of the Lebanese Army and demonstration of its inability to protect the nation finished that off for good; what they killed may not have been viable in the first place. But it may have been. I can find knowledgeable people to argue on either side of it. More on your side than that of wishful thinking, I will concede.

Israel had a chance to develop strong alliances with the Christians in both Palestine and Lebanon. For good or ill they deliberately chose not to do that, with domestic policies that discriminate against Christians (see what happens when you want to donate equipment to a Christian university in Israel; and what happens to missionaries there). I think this was a major blunder. The Christian Arabs had no reason to love the Muslims after seven hundred years of Muslim rule. But that is water over the bridge. What is done is done.

I do believe that Israel has the responsibility to leave its non-Palestinian neighbors in a more stable configuration than they were before Israel sends in the IDF. As to what to do about Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, as I told President Ezer Weizmann while he was in office, I do not know how to solve the problem. I don't think Israel knows how to do it either. Since my visit with him was as part of an overtly Christian group, it should be evident that he wanted closer relationships with Christian Israelis. His frustrations at some of the actions of the government were expressed with considerable color. One difficulty is that the devil is in details that are inextricably entangled in politics: such matters as the petroleum monopoly are one example.

Nor are we in much disagreement about the right policies for Israel, but we may disagree on just how disproportionate a response ought to be. I agree entirely that you do not allow the other guy to set all the rules. On the other hand, you do not ordinarily use howitzers to combat a single sniper holed up in an apartment building; or bomb Beirut because border crossers kidnapped two soldiers. There is disproportion and disproportion. 

As always I value your views.










CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday, December 8, 2006

From another discussion. I had argued against Free Trade and our free trade policies. Peter Schaeffer responded:

Attacking "free trade" might have some merit if "free trade" was the problem. However, the global system of relatively free trade died some number of years ago. Now we have a system of "exchange-rate protectionism". These are not my words (although I strongly agree with them). They are from a rather interesting paper written by Martin Wolf ("Will Asian Mercantilism Meet its Waterloo?" http://www.pc.gov.au/lectures/snape/wolf/wolf.pdf).

[Peter Schaeffer adds here for this publication:

"Martin Wolf is almost certainly the foremost economic journalist in the world. I am not saying that he is always right (as I see it) or that I always agree with him. However, he is the only journalist I know of who could produce the presentation (three parts) linked to here http://www.rgemonitor.com/blog/setser/122822" ]

The reality is that many of our trading partners (and not just China) have found a new form of tariffs/protectionism that they can get away with. The new trick is to simply maintain a strongly undervalued exchange rate. For example, the Yuan is around 7.81 per dollar. On a PPP basis, the rate would be roughly 1.9 per dollar. This implies that the Yuan is 75% undervalued. This is an exaggeration because poor countries generally have market exchange rates lower than PPP parity.

Typically a country at China's level of development might value the Yuan 50% below PPP parity. This means that that Yuan should be 3.8 per dollar or more than 100% above the current exchange rate. Effectively China is imposing a 100% tariff on American imports and paying a 100% subsidy to China's exporters. Nice trick if you can get away with it.

So far the US has done nothing to repel this attack on the viability of our economy. The reasons are many fold including the widespread prevalence of radical free trade ideology. Of course, economic interests play a role as well. China has shrewdly bribed much of the elite economic class (investment bankers) to maintain the status quo (see Brad Setser's comments on this subject). More broadly, China has sold corporate America on a general strategy of "move your factories here, we will provide cheap labor, and then provide debt to consumers to buy the stuff they can no longer afford".

A fascinating point is that Japan never tried either approach. American financial institutions were kept at arms length (to say the least) as Japan boomed in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. American corporations never seriously thought they could move their production operations to Japan and profit from the switch (Nike was an exception). As a consequence, American corporations regarded Japan, Inc. as a threat, not an opportunity for profit. China has been far more intelligent about this.

Of course, there are counterarguments. Without China's (and the other neo-mercantilists) lavish purchases of US debt, US interest rates would be considerably higher. The housing bubble would never have happened. Imports would be more expensive and some domestic products would sell for higher prices because of greater foreign demand.

Still, the US would be globally solvent and economically stable. The same can not be said for the status quo.

Thank you

Peter Schaeffer

I replied:

I would like to publish that letter. May I?

Let me point out that the Housing Bubble, which artificially inflates property taxes, hasn't been all that helpful to most people. Young couples can't get houses, older people can't find a place to live once they are forced out of the old family house. I do not think real estate bubbles are good for a real economy, although some speculators benefit greatly from them.

Otherwise I more or less agree. But NAFTA hasn't been all that useful either. There WAS a giant sucking sound. And one in the other direction too, of course. We have people who don't think they ought to have to mow lawns for a living, but their jobs making, say, store display furniture, have long gone away. The result could be imagined if it weren't all too plain.


Subject: Correctly remembering BOTH Vietnam wars

Dr Pournelle

This article brought back memories for me.

Some years ago I had a client who told me that -- as a young soldier -- he entered Vietnam in January 1975. I immediately remarked to him that we left Vietnam in April 1975. He said he knew that; he was on board the penultimate chopper out. He said I was the only person he had spoken to in twenty years who recalled the April "get the hell out of Saigon" date.

He told me he won his CIB in Vietnam before going on to other actions. I asked what those actions were. He would not provide any details about the actions except that they were all in the western hemisphere. When asked what he did he invariably answered, "I killed people and blew things up."

Some years ago I also had a colleague and friend named Quang Nguyen, who is without doubt the bravest individual I have ever known. He was a lieutenant in the Navy of the Republic of Vietnam. When the south fell, he was sent to a re-education camp. He escaped but was captured. After his capture, his education consisted of being confined to a 4x4x4 foot hole without toilet facilities and a rice ball and a liter of water a day for six months. This ruined his eyes. (When I met Quang, his vision was 20/120.) Nevetheless, he escaped again and walked to Thailand where he asked for asylum.

Quang Nguyen never expressed any anger about the US betrayal of South Vietnam nor about his treatment at the hands of his NVA captors. Once relations thawed, he entered into contact with the son of General Giap to buy garbage collection trucks from the US.

My other contacts with the lessons of the Vietnam War were direct and personal.

In the second week of UPT in 1981, my class was herded into the "Big Blue Bedroom" (the base theater) for a lecture. The lecture took 2 minutes from start to finish. The gist of it was you are training to be hired assassins; politicians are our masters; they will use us badly and never thank us; but we will do our goddammed best to accomplish any mission they set us and we will die trying; if you don't like those terms, you can resign now and the Air Force will release you from your contract obligations; but if you stay every man in blue will be your brother and he will die for you if the need arises. No one left.

During my Air Force career, I was indoctrinated (never officially) against McNamara-ism. In truth, I was taught to hate Robert MacNamara. The line went something like this: We are the United States Air Force; we are not GM; we don't make cars; we defend a country; no one asks an auto assembly worker to give his life as part of his job; we do; GM needs managers; we need leaders.

I had many military friends from the other services including the Coast Guard. I learned from every one of them that the military never forgets the lessons of history (I had a spirited discussion with a friend who -- as a Coast Guard commander -- had sat on the board that recommended court martial for Commander Eustis of the USCG Vigilant vis-a-vis the Simas Kudirka incident. He was opposed to the summary cashiering meted out by President Ford. I pointed out that the precedent came from 1799 when President John Adams cashiered Captain Philips for permitting the Royal Navy to impress men from his command. My Coast Guard friend was very familiar with the reference and pointed out salient differences. We argued this point for hours in the Vandenberg AFB O club.) I also learned that the memories of our masters extended back no further than the last election.

Legionnaires say "The Legion is my country." My experience was that this is no less true for those who serve in the American armed forces. I read J Glenn Gray's The Warriors in college; my military career confirmed Dr Gray's observations. At least for me.

Soldiers will not get to make the decision to stay in or to leave Iraq. But soldiers will remember either way.

Gratefully h lynn keith


Subject: Nasa question and empire

Dear Sir,

I read in Wired magazine a small article (I'm not quite sure how it passed editorial standards) decrying NASA's current priorities of manned space flight while cutting earth science (i.e., polar satellites for global warming studies) and unmanned exploration.


You follow space news more closely than I do ... do you know anything about what he's talking about? I ask, because I suspect that -- to the extent these are real developments -- your viewpoint on them may be substantially different than is.

Also, I am following your Republic Vs. Empire discussion, and I agree with you, that we have to be one or the other but not both.

And I would choose Empire.

Well, not really choose because I like the idea of no entangling alliances and limited government et al. But I simply don't see how such a thing is possible or even feasible today. For two reasons:

1) Nature abhors a vacuum. Thanks to technology, it is possible for one nation or combination of nations (a la the codo) to dominate the world. Given the drive and fanaticism of ambitious men in whatever Worthy Cause they aspire to, it is certain that this will be attempted. One faction will be defeated only to have another take it's place. And another and another and another.

If we choose Republic, it will require a certain amount of disengagement and isolation from the world -- we will lose our ability to influence events in the rest of the world. By default, those events will be influenced by other powers in the world. Eventually one power, or combination of powers, will arise.

I am certain that this power will be hostile to the United States. For the very reason you outlined in "Mote in God's Eye" -- we possess the capability to harm them, if not the intention. I have no doubt that those ruthless enough to take power will similarly not be concerned with any scruples about attacking without a good cause.

The United States can no longer afford the isolation it's Fathers intended for it, because our oceans no longer provide security against nuclear missiles or terrorists with fancy weapons. We are now, IMO, in the position of a continental power such as France was on Europe, if you think of "Europe" as being the entire planet.

There is simply no way such a monstrosity -- which will ALWAYS possess overseas interest, cutting off all our trade links overseas so that we have no interests overseas to fight for -- can coexist peacefully with other great powers. Even if we are absolutely still, our very existence will disturb and threaten theirs.

We must dominate, or be dominated.

We must step up to the plate and establish Empire, or go back into ourselves and take our position in someone else's Empire. There simply are no other alternatives that I can see.

I have seen the Iranians and the Russians and the Chinese and all the other contenders. If Empire is coming -- and I believe it is, in a few generations -- then better us then them.

That means, of course, that the Republic we both know and love will vanish, like Athenian Democracy or the Roman Republic. A terrible day. But the alternative will ALSO end the Republic, as I am certain other nations will not simply leave us alone.

"All we want is to be left alone" was the slogan of only one political figure in American history I remember, and his example is not one I would wish to follow.

2) Believe it or not, the educated classes of America ARE patriotic, but if they are anything like me -- and I was born in 1971, educated entirely in public schools -- their patriotism is to World Empire, not to the United States.

I wasn't ever told this directly, of course. But the thrust of movies and of games and of the sci-fi I watched was that loyalty to the United Nations superseded loyalty to the US the way loyalty to the US supersedes loyalty to Virginia. *I* believed this quite firmly until I left college.

So, we have a whole generation raised on "Star Trek" and similar stories, implanted firmly with the idea of Man as being a single political entity. Factor in to that continuous news stories from Darfur and Rwanda, encouraging the Great And The Good to go out and save the unwashed masses from themselves.

Note also that no one has raised a peep about our actions in Kosovo or Afghanistan. That's because, in a mind the way *I* was brought up, action by Humanity is moral and good, while action taken in the interest of the United States is lesser, common. The way I was brought up, I would view it much as we might today view Virginia invading Venezuela ... maybe a good idea or maybe not, but not something to do alone.

The reason is simple: In the educated class ... at least the part I was brought up in ... global government is the new Manifest Destiny. It is the idea that drives and energizes, as the United States does not.

The bottom line is that two generations of education have prepared the way for the US to be a global empire, and prepared the educated classes to do that very thing. And if we don't, we're sure to be dominated by someone else being driven by the same pressures.

We can't afford the luxury of Republic any longer.

The choice is: Rule, or Die.

The only way I can see to preserve a Republic is exactly the one outlined in your book -- for freedom loving individuals to take ship and set out to found a new society on the frontier. And the sooner, the better, I'd say. So get busy and invent the Alderson drive! As far as I can see, we're a few decades behind your schedule on that :)


Brian P.

There has always been an anti-manned space movement. My one time physics professor James Van Allen was quite vocal in opposition to wasting money on manned space. He wanted more planetary probes.

The two are mutually exclusive only because we have sunk a trillion dollars in an overseas war that we did not need to fight.

Which may be relevant to your second point. Rule or Die is not the lesson I take from history. The Venetian Republic sought neither and lasted a long time. Byzantium gave up the notion of world domination and managed to survie a very long time, indeed being brought down more by Western blind greed than by Muslim ability. Of course both Venice and Byzantium had strong military forces. The Venetian Arsenal was famed for being able to turn out a warship in a day.

I have certainly objected to our action in Kosovo. I have compared it to France bombing Washington because the United States refuses to turn over San Diego to Mexico. If you protest there is an Albanian majority in Kosovo I can point out that it got there by illegal immigration; Serbia did not invite Albanians (whom they consider collaborators with the Turks) into their most sacred province.

Global Government is I think a chimera. It is not possible, and those who seek it will waste their substance and break their hearts. I say this as a one time officer of several world government organizations which I fondly supported in my younger days.

If we are destined to become a global empire we had better learn a lot more about how to behave as an empire. I guarantee you that naive Jacobinism -- whether sincere or as my friend Cochran believes, feigned -- is not going to make for good imperial government.

Real empire is realistic. Real empire uses puppet kings and foreign troops, constabulary and occupation forces, keeping control of the puppets through Legions, and controlling the Legions through Praetorians. How the Praetorians are to be controlled is another matter. Quis custodiet and all that.

It may be that we cannot have a Republic, but it is no luxury. Republics are cheap, with self government, and wealthy citizens who do not work for government and do not seek rent and pensions. We may no longer have enough inhabitants well enough educated to be citizens of a Republic; in which case we will have empire. We will get it good and hard.

As to star drives, I would settle for the moment for a drive that will make asteroid settlements possible. After Inferno and Mamelukes that is probably my next story.


Subject: .....the notorious Al-gebra movement

Hi, Dr. P:

This chap's page came up while I was doing a search on Thunderbird email problems. Given what we hear of the TSA, we could easily believe this!

> http://www.askbobrankin.com/teacher_terror.html 

> NEWS FLASH: Teacher Arrested at Airport -- A public school teacher was > arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he > attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a > protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator... > > Posted by Bob Rankin on September 14, 2006 02:59 PM




Subject: Three slashdot stories of interest

Internet consolidation: <http://slashdot.org/article.pl? sid=06/12/08/1533240

Earthlink losing a lot of e-mail: <http://slashdot.org/article.pl? sid=06/12/08/1350238

Firefly MMORPG: <http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl? sid=06/12/08/0358216

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>

The Earthlink story has disturbed me and several of my associates and we are looking into it. We think some subscription orders through Robert's web site may have been lost. Alas.

A Firefly MMORPG might be very interesting. I need to look into that. Of course lately I have no time for games at all. I am happily busy writing...


Subject: Comcast/Adelphia/RoadRunner e-mail


If I recall correctly, your home was on Adelphia cable and should now be TimeWarner/RoadRunner. I do not know if you receive any mail on those systems or if all is sent via your domain host. If you get some to a ca.rr.com address, you might want to glance at the headers.

This week, I have noticed a major delay in e-mail from someone in Colorado on a Comcast system that stayed Comcast to one of my RoadRunner addresses that used to be a Comcast address. Looking at old headers, the delays have began on Nov. 28 but were only an hour at that time.

On Thursday we did some tests--one to a mac.com account took 19 seconds and one to this old compuserve.com address took 14 seconds. He tried sending to a Yahoo account of his with no delay.

The Comcast to RR messages are getting delayed between 1 and 12 HOURS at the gateway between those systems. There are different Comcast and RR servers involved in these exchanges but over 3 days and over 40 messages, the quickest was about 1 hour. Most were at high end of delay range. I have sent some headers to RoadRunner and my friend is going to send some to Comcast.

FWIW--all of my mail actually ends up a group of servers named edge7.adelphia.net, edge8 and edge9--all of which stamp time as EST so are likely on east coast. I am in Costa Mesa, California and my mail software is pointed at "pop-server.ca.rr.com".

My guess is that all the forwarding of mail including spam sent to previous addresses of customers who have switched domains may be part of the problem.

I am NOT seeing any delays from systems other than Comcast to my RR address.


Thanks. Just now we're down at the beach house and we are not seeing any problems at all here. We are on Time Warner cable here.


Subject: New Atrocities Uncovered in Iraq WARNING Very Graphic, 


Well, it seems that photographers caught American soldiers doing typically American things with Iraqis:




Subject: Muslim Swim Time, 

The Brits are really getting soacked . . .


'Muslim only' pool outrage

By BEN ASHFORD December 08, 2006

A COUNCIL has sparked fury by virtually shutting a swimming pool on Sunday afternoons for "Muslim-only" sessions.

All women are banned - and non-Muslim men may swim IF they follow the strict Islamic dress code of swim shorts that hide the navel and extend below the knee.

Croydon Council in South London runs the sessions at Thornton Heath leisure centre between 4.45pm and 6.45pm.

Similar slots are laid on for Muslim women outside opening hours, where bathers must be covered from the neck down to the ankle.

Locals who flock to the area's only major leisure centre each week are furious.

Member Daniel Foley, 44, said: "I turned up and saw a sign saying it was closing early for Muslim afternoon - I couldn't believe it."

Nearby Croydon Mosque defended the move. It said: "Muslims are not allowed to show off intimate parts of their body. This is non-negotiable. Muslims have as much right to go swimming as anyone else."

Croydon Council said: "We are keen to ensure sports facilities are there for everyone."



And returning to our beloved hole through the earth:

Subject: There's a Hole

Jerry P:

I need to pick a small error on the pipe through the center of the earth posting by Jim.

Item 2. There is no need for a comment on momentum as it is not forcing anything if you don't know the size of the pipe etc. There is a net force at bottom hole, the center of the earth, and that needs balancing by a similar column of water on the other side. This requires no momentum consideration, it is an energy balance.

Item 3. If we are talking about free fall in a vacuum, that is one thing, but lets consider a real pipe and the issue is somewhat different and calculating time and velocity is meaningless. Remember for instance you have to pump the air out of the other end, and it is a closed system so there are mass, viscosity, and wall friction considerations. Engineers have to think about such things, maybe physicists don't. Then again, we wouldn't want to ignore the tangential velocity component and how the energy is converted into pressure etc.

4. Heat transfer etc. is kind of cute but imagine the hoop stress on the pipe. Please don't mention stuff like this as it leads people to believe that practical engineering considerations have been considered and are soluble.

Charles Simkins

And Dr. Jim responds:

 Item 2: I was considering the context of an open hole which was drilled from an unspecified point within CONUS to the antipodes in the Indian Ocean, presumably initially unfilled, and with (following Mr. Hellewell's original presumptions) many of the engineering considerations ignored. I agree that final equilibrium is defined by the energy balance (that was in fact the basis my first response) but the initial dynamic situation of water flowing into the pipe does require consideration of fluid momentum for a detailed answer. I will note that my "first order" answer did not consider any fluid dynamic considerations but was a point approximation for the fluid surface, and implicltiy assumed more or less laminar flow, also a poor approximation to the stated problem.

Item 3: I concur, and acknowledge that those considerations were ignored by my first order answer.

Item 4: I'll admit that I didn't give much consideration to hoop stress until after I penned the initial answer, but that if someone were to realistically consider the problem there are a number of additional factors as well -- hoop stresses, thermal stresses (temperature gradients sufficient to allow significant differential rates of thermal expansion), compression by the overlying magma (and you're certainly moving beyond my knowledge of geophysics -- and elasticity of non-newtonian materials) to consider how closely the inner core can be approximated by a hydrostatic sphere at an equilibrium pressure which varies with radius, much less the effects of the outer core and the mantle. The material suggestion was, frankly, intended to be a "cute" idea rather than a serious solution for this application; that said, there aren't many other material candidates that would stand a better chance of working. The engineering magnitude is on the scale of conventional "beanstocks" -- 13,000 km long -- and the engineering problems are of evern greater mangitude because of the thermomechanical environment (even assuming, of course, that the tunnel boring machine can survive past the mid-mantle). Therefore the actual thickness of a pipe built from even the strongest conventional materials would be of the order of 10 km.



Subject: hole through the earth's centre


The obvious solution to the "hole through the centre of the earth" problem is to line it with unobtanium. This has infinite strength and given that the correct grade is selected, infinite thermal resistance. So, the pipe would fill and the level in the two ends would only fluctuate slightly due to the relative variation in atmospheric pressure at those ends. To critics who say that this solution is fantastical, I reply that as soon as they have drilled the hole I will provide the lining at no cost.

Back to building my ftl drive, John Edwards





This week:


read book now


Saturday, December 9, 2006

Subject: Ut-Oh 


Ut Oh....(nods: Drudge)


Study: More Internet Journalists Jailed

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- When Iranian journalist Mojtaba Saminejad was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the country's Supreme Leader, it was not for an article that appeared in a newspaper. His offending story was posted on his personal Web blog.

Nearly one-third of journalists now serving time in prisons around the world published their work on the Internet, the second-largest category behind print journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in an analysis released Thursday.

<snip> <http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/J/JAILED_JOURNALISTS?SITE=


Subject: Crazy years?

>A man has been sentenced to community service for false driver's license application. That's an actual perjury on a sworn statement. Martha Stewart told an investigator, not under oath, that she hadn't done something that would not have been a crime if she did it. She got prison.


As this grows more weird with every passing day I remember Robert Heinlein and his Crazy Years period where people under high population pressure acted in self destructive ways like Lemmings. Now was he really a visionary and prophet or was his insight accidental. I feel that most good SF writers, yourself included are very good observers of the world around them and able to extrapolate from what they see happening around them what will come if things do not change. Now will we have a theocracy of the right as Mr. Heinlein predicted or one of the left (1984 style) as many others have predicted.

I await what will happen prepared for the worst by the writers with long views that I have read for the last 50 some years while hoping for better. I do not expect to see better because it seems as time passes that good SF writers are also very good predictive prophets of what is to come if people do not mend their ways. Even the NIT(Negative Income Tax) that Mack Reynolds predicted has come to pass and people laughed at him for using it in his writings! -- JWE Long Beach, CA

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss. Robert A. Heinlein

Anarcho Tyranny





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, December 10, 2006     

Subject: sexual harassment

Words fail me.


Steve Chu


Subject: Shrinkage 



<snip> Militant Islam has got to be loving the indecision, division and erosion of the West’s will to war. They understand the ancient maxim that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We’re increasingly becoming so divided and defeated that if we don’t watch it, as one comedian said, we could be approaching a long drawn out debate regarding which shade of white to use as our surrender flag.

I believe we can be united and that we will eventually wake up and deal with radical Islam; however, I also believe (and fear) that the cohesion, readiness and resolve we need now to truly hammer these death dealers will only come about after we get hammered once again. I’m talking 911-style or worse. And I’m thinking this will probably occur in the next one to three years. And I hope I’m wrong. <snip>

IMHO, unless either Ahmadinejad or Kim become impatient for some reason, I think they'll stay low-key for two years, and hope for Ms. Rodham's election, or the election of someone to her "left." Which is why I've commented about saving for an anti-radiation suit to visit Jerusalem in late January 2009.

If it comes to that, I think I would have to hope for Ms. Rodham -- the Clinton's have always been practical politicians, and I think that she, at least, would realize (maybe even more so than her husband) that an existential threat to the US must be confronted and cannot be talked through.


The essay is well worth reading. I am not at all sure that we will wake up and deal with Radical Islam.

You will find more of Joanne Dow's "Daily Diatribes" at her page. Some have said they see no reason for me to publish those. I do it because it seems to be true: the only thing now to debate is the color of the surrender flag. Joanne is an intelligent feminist and one of the few whose views I respect. Note I said respect; which is not necessarily agreement. It is worth documenting the matter that is before us. No, not all Muslims are monsters, and "Islamo-Fascism" is both and ugly and inaccurate -- actually rather ludicrous -- term.

But if 10% of a billion people believe and behave in this way, then they are a danger to our existence; and 10% is no bad estimate of the number of Muslims who hate us enough to wish us ill and cooperate with the 1% who actively seek to harm us and the .1% who will make sacrifices to do so. And .1% of a billion is still  a million. Suppose that latter number is actually only .01%?

It makes sense to track what the crazies are doing if they really want to kill us. In any event, there are three more diatribes.


And returning to our favorite subject this month

Deep Hole Coda

This problem just grows and grows...my final answer should be amended to note that the size estimate (which was a swag based on the comparative numbers for steel beanstalks) assumes an integral cooling system with enough heat flow capacity to prevent melting of the pipe surface and enough structural integrity to avoid being collapsed by the pressures at the center of the earth.

I've double checked some numbers on the Earth's core at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_core <http://www.wikipedia.org> (something I probably should have done before sticking my neck out on this). I was apparently remembering core temperatures in Celsius as being in Fahrenheit; the core is about 3000 degrees F hotter than I recalled (9000 degrees F), and is kept solid due to hydrostatic pressures on the order of 3 million atmospheres. 6000 degrees F is close enough to the melting point of TC (5198 F) that cooling could plausibly work to maintain it; the metal could be cooled against 9000 F gas flows, but I doubt it could be cooled against immersion in a liquid (any liquid!) at those temperatures, and the pressures would certainly collapse any cooling pores. (I wonder if there is any value in trying to engineer a cooling system where the pressurized superheated coolant can balance the compressive hoop stresses, killing both birds with one stone).

So cite my faulty memory, which has probably let this be carried on too long. Or at least the discussion of materials for the pipe, plausible and otherwise.

I'll write again when I figure out how to manufacture arenak.


And Geologist Russell Seitz adds:

Dear Jerry:

Before heading straight down 4,000 miles for R&R, please leaf through some back issues of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The fashionable neighborhoods end about 3000 miles underfoot, at the heliopause . Heliopause ? What's a heliopause doing underground ? Well, it now seems likely that the core is somewaht hotter than 5,800 Kelvin m so on the way there, the countryside's incandescence will surpass that of the apparent surface of the sun.

A good pair of Okleys is therefore advised, but as to the question of what to wear that won't get crushed by the three megabars and change at the core , a diamond tank top won't do- diamond gets woozy at a megabar and a half , and will fold into Lonsdaleite- the hexagonal close packed allomorph of carbon at around two- at room temperature . At 6000 Kelvins or thereabouts , it's all going to be squishy, albeit very stiff- the viscosity of stuff at several megabars runs to ten to the twentysomething Poise . One of these centuries they will push the periodic table on out to the next row down, where eka-tantalum carbide or eka-thoria may afford melting points closer to ambient core temperature- but don't count on it.

Have a nice time , but be sure to drink plenty of plasma lest you develop hyperbalrogemia or vergilosis

Russell Seitz


Jerry, I have been a reader of your columns since the earliest Byte Magazine days!

Have you discovered Google's "Notebook" facility for quickly keeping a collection of interesting web content available wherever you access the web using FireFox or IE?

It's free at http://www.google.com/notebook 

I've been using it for several months now, and I really like it.

- Larry Weiss

It looks interesting, sort of a OneNote on line. I'll have to look into it. Thanks!


Subj: Admit it! The real reason you've been hosting the hole-to-the-center-of-the-Earth discussion is...

...that it's connected to your work on _Inferno_, which Dante, following then-current cosmology, placed underground, with Lucifer and his ... snacks? ... at the center of the Earth.


Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com



Scott Adams: The Jimmy Carter Book.


- Roland Dobbins

Boy is Adams in for it now. From both sides..


Subject: A very interesting collection of ideas, 


A very interesting collection of ideas:




Subject: One-man blimp, 

The story:


The website:


With videos, of course.


I want one!


The latest private rocketry effort.


-- Roland Dobbins



I don't know if you've seen this, but I found it quite interesting. While I can say that I agree with him entirely (especially his priorities), I think that his basic premise is not that far off.













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