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Mail 451 January 29 - Februry 4, 2007
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January 29, 2007
The Sunday UK News:
Conservative comment on Labour's patriotism. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6307217.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/politics/story/0,,2000512,00.html>
The cash for honours scandal. Blair's involvement? <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6307073.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/28/nhons28.xml>
Prison overcrowding crisis. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6306161.stm>
Students now required to declare parent's degrees
so they can be discriminated against.
EU pork barrel politics. Not particularly surprising,
given the UN track record.
Muslims urged to reject un-Islamic vaccinations. <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2193012.ece>
British Library to start charging. <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2192972.ece>
Fudge, hope and charity. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2569864,00.html>
During the week, I discussed alienation and anomie with a liberal English colleague of my age. He told me that things had been much worse before Thatcher came in and swept the place out. While he doesn't like Thatcher, he does grant her that. The mechanisms of alienation don't appear to be as clear-cut as the simple influence of modern capitalism--it is more people's loss of control over their own life. Capitalism can have that effect, but so can a class system that becomes frozen and so can the misuse of power to exploit people who cannot defend themselves.
Targets: The UK has a very low auto accident rate, but sky-high pedestrian and bicycle fatality rates. The underlying problem is that the fatality rate for pedestrian accidents goes from 20% when the car is doing 30 mph to 50% at 33 mph, 70% at 35 mph, and 90% at 40 mph, and although the standard urban speed limit is 30 mph, UK drivers customarily do 35-38 when the road is clear. That is then aggravated by the fact that most UK drivers do not respect the pedestrian's or bicyclist's legal priority once in the road at an intersection. As usual, the Government has set a *target*--for cutting the pedestrian fatal accident rate in half over the next three years. There isn't enough time for redesign of the road system, so the police have been tasked with *enforcing* the urban speed limit. To avoid ticketing everyone all the time, the police have been approaching this very gingerly, and are now being pushed by the Government to raise the pressure.
I usually commute by bicycle, but I also appreciate the driver's side of the problem. The mobile speed cameras used for enforcement are usually sited where they have good visibility on urban roads on segments designed for a maximum speed of 40 mph, and not at the locations with the most serious problems. (I can attest to this from experience.) The long-term solution would be redesign of the roads so that 35-40 is no longer a comfortable speed, and the raising of the crosswalks and bicycle paths at intersections to force the cars to give way, but that will require money the Government is unwilling to spend.
-- 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>
[Emphasis added by JEP] Ye gods. Ye flipping gods.
Dear Dr Pournelle
I think that a better joke, is one that was popular amongst the advisors when I served there. I've also told it to people who fought against me. They also found it appropriate.
"America is loosing the War because they are trying to drag Viet Nam kicking and screaming into the Twentieth Century. The Communist are winning because they are content to merely drag Viet Nam into the Nineteenth Century."
Now my perspective on Viet Nam is different from most for several reasons.
1) I served in Viet Nam USN (PO-2) attached to TF-116
What I find most interesting about the Viet Nam War these days is how thoroughly we seem to be winning the peace.
"The state which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools," Thucydides.
Indeed. The Viet Nam War was not a mistake; it was a campaign of attrition made necessary by the ultimately successful strategy of Containment. We had no interests in Viet Nam per se other than denying the South as expansion territory; had the North Viet Namese not been Stalinist (and later Soviet) clients, it wouldn't have mattered too much to us who controlled the old provinces of Tonkin, Anam, and Cochin China; and once communism ceased to be a world threat (ceased so thoroughly that there is a generation and more who never understood that it WAS a world threat, and many of those who now seem so bold cringed at thought and blubbered that it was better to be Red and Dead, and better to live on our knees than die on our feet).
America can be a good friend. Had we merely toppled Saddam and got out, who knows what might have hapened in Iraq? But we will never know now. We are good at winning peace. So much better that it's amazing how many seem to prefer war when it is not in our interest.
I can't pass along who this came from, but I can vouch for it's authenticity with 100% certainty. It was written by a field grade officer serving in Afghanistan as an open letter to his peers.
Please do not use my name as that could compromise the source. My apologies if it's not in an easily quotable format if you choose to publish it.
I felt the need to express some thoughts in honor of all our troops who just learned they'll be serving another 4 months here. I feel the same for the troops in Iraq, but since I know Afghanistan best, I'm focusing on our troops here.
3,300 US troops will be extended in Afghanistan for another 4 months after having already served a one-year tour.
Strategically speaking, these US troops continue to set the example for the rest of the world. The 36 other nations who have had some role in Afghanistan should see this commitment by US troops and choose to share the burden. If they do not, then they should not be listed among our closest allies.
The Taliban, who have proven to be persistent against all odds, should continue to feel the force of NATO breathing down their necks with an eerie omniscience uncommon to earthly mortals. We have proven that we can defend ourselves while still providing aid and comfort to the government and citizens of Afghanistan. We do this while allowing full autonomy and freedom of governance to the Afghan leadership and people. Has such a monumental task ever been accomplished by so few in such a short amount of time?
Iran, who continues to attempt to influence and control the region, will now be rooted out and revealed for the troublemakers they have been. Contrary to their claims, the Iranian government has been stirring up trouble by funding the terrorists, supplying them with arms and intelligence, and coordinating their movements. This behavior only works against them and their future is very bleak indeed.
Pakistan has finally gotten the message that they must do everything in their power to gain control of their side of the border. The lawlessness and unrest that exists within the western Pakistani provinces has fueled the insurgency into Afghanistan. Only recently has Pakistan begun to take serious steps to gain control of the area, but even their efforts have been "one step forward, two steps backward." Most of our troops will be based along the Afghan border with Pakistan, and the greater number of troops can only bolster Pakistan's resolve to continue to secure their own side (with or without NATO intervention).
Personally speaking, of course, the extra time away from family and friends will be very tough on our troops. All the strategic victories in the world do not erase the absence of a father during the birth of his child or the absence of a mother during an important event in her child's life. These troops risk everything just by showing up for work and doing their duty. The quote I've heard most often around Camp Eggers is, "Let's finish this now so my son or daughter doesn't have to come back here in 5 or 10 years and perform this same mission!" Among the pain of prolonged separation, there's a sense that we're nearing the point where the momentum of our efforts will carry this nation out of the dark ages and into a time of prolonged prosperity.
Most troops fully support and take great pride in the mission we've been given and respect the leaders who gave it to us. Many are confused by the media reports that overlook our success and instead focus on body counts and the fog and friction common to any armed struggle. The media fails to capture the context that never before have 37 nations come to the aid of a struggling nation and achieved so much in such a short time to give this nation new hope. We cannot be omniscient and solve all the world's problems, but in this remote corner of the world, the generous nature of humanity shines bold and true in the generous sacrifice of the men and women of NATO, led primarily by the United States military.
“I say we just let them go and we do this ourselves.”
- Roland Dobbins
Here's Fred On Everything , column 346, telling other nations how to lose wars:
All right, the cop is not necessarily an expert on military history. But this does prove that you're walking against the wind here.
Noam Chomsky agrees with you. According to him, the Vietnam war bankrupted the Vietnamese, so they had to play by World Bank rules, and this successfully ended 'the threat of a good example'. So to him, the USA won the Vietnam war.
So who's right? Fred and most of the world, or you and Noam?
I take it that you have not read Strategy of Technology.
Nor am I sure of your point here. If you are insisting that the US suffered a terrible military defeat in Viet Nam you are of course and indeed walking with the wind. That mayor may not make you correct, but proof by repeated assertion and appeal to the general public is fine for politics, but not so good for analysis.
Fred makes some valid points, but being Fred, insists on throwing in every possible argument when writing his polemics. The facts of the case are easily seen. In 1972 South Viet Nam, with the aid of the US (but with few US casualties; the aid was materiel and air support of a level similar to what we applied in the Balkans under Clinton) utterly destroyed an invasion from the North of armored corps level strength employing World War II numbers of tanks and trucks and artillery. It takes a very strong bias to call that a defeat for the US. To any rational person destroying a 150,000 man invading force and capturing or destroying an armored corps looks like victory.
In 1975 a resupplied North Viet Nam sent a similar sized force south. The US did not participate: no air support, and materiel aid of, and I am not making this up, 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per ARVN soldier. Viet Nam accordingly and predictably fell. No rational person would have predicted a similar outcome. Since the United States did not participate in resisting this flat out invasion from the North, how is this a defeat for the United States armed forces? WE DID NOT FIGHT. That was a political decision. Had we fought and lost you could call that a military defeat, but it takes twisted thinking to say that the Army was defeated when it was not fighting.
As to Chomsky's remarks, I pay little attention to him so this is the first I have heard. I have no objection if he gets things right once in a while, but I fail to see how his views about the World Bank are relevant here other. Surely you are not seriously suggesting the opposite?
I realize that most people do not want to take responsibility for betraying an ally with the result that the dominoes fell, the Killing Fields of Cambodia became a shadowy horror no one wants to recall, and we were faced with the nightmares of reeducation camps and the courage of the boat people. It is easier to blame the army for failing in Viet Nam than it is to accept the fact that the American people and their Congress betrayed an ally and thereby condemned millions to death and torture.
As to Fred's tirade, I do not understand what the Jews had to do with any of this, and I don't know too many people who suggest that we ought to use the lessons of Viet Nam as justification for controlling the press or suppressing the Democrats. I would have thought that rational people trying to learn from history would first be careful to get their history straight.
You can prove anything if you make up your data. You can draw any lessons you like from history if you ignore all the inconvenient historical facts. You may learn from good history but you learn little from bad history.
And it is not good history to say that the US armed forces lost a war they were no longer fighting when their last engagement in that theater was an unalloyed victory. We had much to learn from Viet Nam; one lesson was that conscript armies are not good at long campaigns of attrition (and Containment was necessarily a war of attrition). The result was the new model all volunteer military, which showed its abilities in the First Gulf War and did so splendid a job that it was assumed that it could do anything it liked in Mesopotamia. But that is another story for another time.
Fred's polemics are always entertaining. Sometimes they are on target.
And by coincidence this was in today's mail:
I went through ROTC 1962 - 66, going on active duty in 1969 and serving in South Vietnam in '70 and '71.
I believe my ROTC training was excellent, with good emphasis on guerrilla operations and insurgencies. There was frequent reference to Mao's book on how an insurgency should be conducted. That book was not directly part of the curriculum, but I did read it and Che's, too, and our curriculum covered the book material - which, after all, was more about philosophy than tactics, anyway. We were taught that there were advantages and disadvantages to each side. Among the advantages on the guerrilla side were that they generally chose when and where to fight, blending back into the local population when things got too hot. Primarily for this reason, insurgencies take years to put down. If conditions are not favorable, the guerrillas don't come out to fight. But if they don't come out to fight from time to time, they lose the popular support (or control over the local population) they have to have to succeed, and eventually cease to matter. So successful counter-insurgencies require times on the order of a decade or more to succeed. I was taught that no insurgency ever triumphed by guerrilla tactics alone. That is, winning eventually required conventional battle. (I saw Lawrence of Arabia during this period, and enjoyed it enough to read Lawrence's book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I realized when I read of his illness prior to the attack on Aqaba that his description of how the Arabs should fight the Turks was very nearly a description of Mao's tactics, just not set out as five principles. I've since seen that Mao read Lawrence's book prior to writing his own book, and was influenced by it.)
This I was taught in something on the order of 100 hours of classroom instruction, which covered considerably more than guerrilla warfare.
I was therefore surprised, then puzzled, then dismayed, and finally disgusted to listen to press questions of the generals, and press reports. After some battle in which the VC or North Vietnamese were defeated, the press would ask General Westmoreland (or some other military figure) if this result meant we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The general would hedge, while allowing that the victory was important. The reporter would ask again if the battle victory meant the war would be over shortly. More hedging, because the general knew full well that putting down an insurgency, especially one actively supported by a hostile force likely to retain a base free from invasion, would require many years. More pestering. Finally the reporter would get the general to allow as how improvement was significant and therefore the magnitude of the hostilities was likely to be greatly reduced in another few years.
Then the reporter would emphasize that the military was optimistic about the conflict being essentially over, and a victorious US being able to pull out, within another couple of years. I decided that the media reporters were either stupid and ignorant, in which case they should not be allowed to have all that much to say to the public, or they were intentionally attempting to distort what they were reporting. I suppose that many of them were the former, but surely those at the tops of their profession were neither stupid nor ignorant.
If I could learn and be taught in such a short time the keys to winning an insurgency, from either side, why couldn't the reporters learn the same? Why couldn't they then use some of that knowledge to help the public understand? Instead they all seemed intent on coercing admissions and controversial statements from the authorities, at least some of whom must have been honorable people not trying to put anything over on anyone. Now we read about how the US military did not understand guerrilla tactics, and therefore fought the wrong war. I wouldn't say the US military made no mistakes in Vietnam, far from it, but any mistakes made were certainly not for lack of understanding guerrilla tactics. Heck, we had a lot to do with formulating those tactics.
Just read British reports from the times of the US Revolution! Our military in Vietnam was severely restricted in cutting the supply of arms and troops to the enemy, possibly at least in part for good political reasons. Efforts to isolate the population from guerrilla forces by relocation were reported in the press as deportation of peasants from ancestral lands of many generations. In spite of these and similar US handicaps, and in part because of the losses of the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong had largely been eliminated as a threat by the time I arrived there. Our "incursion" into Cambodia had so weakened the North Vietnamese forces that we were able to return nearly all the combat troops to the US, leaving behind mostly supply and liaison forces. As you have pointed out, the first assault by the North Vietnamese was handily defeated, with the second succeeding because we removed all support.
Now many folks take it for granted that our military mistakes caused us to lose in Vietnam. Many pundits and politicians talk knowingly about "another Vietnam" without bothering to characterize the way in which they see a similarity. Politicians especially like emotionally-loaded but imprecise phrases.
It's all very discouraging....
Michael D. Biggs
Mao lays out the strategy in great detail. We have a good bit of history of irregular warfare, from the Spanish resistance to Napoleon to the South American wars of liberation, the British campaigns in North America, our own experience in the Philippines, Lawrence and Mao, etc., but it does not seem to form part of the curriculum in military history. As Mr. Biggs says, he could learn all this in a few months.
Francis Hamit tells us that MI didn't learn these lessons, probably because it was so compartmented and obsessed with security and rejecting infiltration that no parts of MI ever talked to each other. This has always been a disastrous policy. The reason Intelligence organizations must be concerned with secrecy is the protection of sources. Protection of data is insane.
I recall in 1964 Goldwater suggested we bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Lyndon Johnson immediately responded that this was trigger happy and a terrible idea. As I listened to Johnson in my office in San Bernardino I was looking at strike photos of our air strikes against targets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. They were of course need to know Top Secret. I kept wondering from whom this was a secret? Surely the NVA knew we were bombing them? Surely they knew better than we did how effective our strikes were? I could only conclude that the actual target of secrecy was the American people.
In the latter stages we developed aircraft with 105 howitzers that could place the first shot -- first -- with a 20 foot CEP at a slant range of 10,000 yards. The enemy never knew what hit him, or where the bombardments came from. The effect was devastating. These were used in the 1972 battles. Of course we were not going to give such weapons the the South Vietnamese, which is the effective answer to the question "didn't they have their own air force?" Such questions are seldom thought through.
Subject: RE: Rehashing the end in Vietnam
The point to be made here is not whether we won or lost in Viet Nam. The point is that We (the People) let ourselves be manipulated by the press into accepting at face value something that may or may not have been fact and in doing so, allowed ourselves to desert an ally who we had promised to defend; And we are getting ready to do it again.
(Wasn't there a saying at one time something along the lines of, "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it")?
One of the results of Viet Nam, among others, was an Army that was composed of losers, who smoked pot and did drugs and could not have defended Western Europe let alone beat the next largest army in the world, at even odds, while attacking them in a fortified position (Desert Storm). I know, I joined that army when it began rebuilding and it took a fortune and 10 years of work. We do not need that again. It is bad enough when the army has incompetent generals. The only thing worse is to have a competent army with incompetent civilian direction that sets them up for failure and then, to save their worthless political careers, tells the People and the army that the army is what failed. ** Beware the wrath of the legions...
Patrick A. Hoage
Links to a mild alteration by Russell Seitz
Subject: Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth
It's 15 minutes long. For those interested in the education of their kids, it is well worth the time to have a look. There is nothing in the video that would surprise you, I think, but it left my jaw hanging.
What is interesting is how she points out math tutorial books that she can purchase from Singapore that actually do teach proper math. Why Singapore? Do the Asian's know something that the American's have forgotten? (It's a rhetorical question).
In case anyone missed it in View. This one is important.
Forty years ago.
- Roland Dobbins
On Viet Nam:
No... After looking at some history sites, and studying your replies, I understand your point and concede the merit of it.
I will confess to misunderstanding the nature of that civil war. I had been thinking of the "civil' part of the war as the conflict between the north and the south, as opposed to an insurgency in the south that was encouraged and supported by the north. I gather that the latter is the more appropriate characterization, given the history of the region. I don't know if that is a common misunderstanding, or just the unique product of my foggy memory. I was in high school for much of the war, graduating in 1970, so I am sure that I didn't pay nearly as much attention to the policy debates and details as you or some of your other readers did. What I retain are mainly overall impressions of the conflict based on the media coverage of the day. Your reality checks on this subject have therefore been very educational for me.
I think it would be a surprise to most people who lived through that era to learn that the Tet offensive ended the insurgency portion of the conflict You say that the intelligence community was aware of this. But was there much effort to sell this point of view to the American public, to persuade them that this conflict was now more like Korea, and therefore "winnable" in the sense that Korea was a win? I just do not remember much of that. Perhaps distrust of the Government's official optimism about the war had grown to the point that no reversal of opinion would have been possible.
As I'm sure you know, giving and honoring of commitments is a tricky thing for democracies
You are not alone. Few seem to understand what really happened in Viet Nam. We had won in the same sense that we had won in Korea; stabilizing against infiltration and having built the South to capability of resisting invasion provided we gave support. The press never seemed to understand that, and Jane Fonda sympathizers didn't want to understand. We abandoned our allies to the tender mercies of Tonkinese invaders with communist ideology. Then the dominoes fell, as predicted, and Pol Pot took charge in Cambodia. By then Fonda was concerned with slaughter in Africa or somewhere.
Subject: Teacher salaries
Discussion on Charles Murray's "Aztecs and Greeks" article prompted me to go looking for figures on the educational budget for my state, which I found at http://www.schools.utah.gov/default/FngrFacts.pdf. A bit of number-crunching led to some interesting observations.
Utah's education budget is $2.5 billion annually, with 22,285 teachers paid at an average salary of $40K. 36% of the total budget goes toward paying teacher salaries. The nation as a whole spends 65% more per child on education, but the effect on teacher salaries is small ($45K is the national average) since the money goes toward hiring more teachers. (Student-teacher ratio drops from 22.4:1 to 15.9:1.) I'm not sure exactly what happens to the other 64% of the budget, but it's obvious that if teacher compensation were made a priority my state could afford to pay teachers competitively with software engineers, presumably attracting better teachers (and letting you fire the incompetent ones). The national figure is the same--36% of the budget goes toward teacher salaries. Again, I don't know where the rest of the money goes, but I hope it's worth the opportunity cost.
"He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense."
I will let you guess where the majority of the budget goes.
My first 8 grades were in schools with two grades per room, 30 students per grade, and one two-year Associate of Arts "Normal School" graduate teacher: a nun in grades 1-3, and farm wives in Capleville grades 4-8. We all learned to read and do long division and take square roots, we read Sir Walter Scott and Longfellow and Macaulay and Ruskin and such, and got what would now be considered a splendid education. Note that none of these were schools for bright people. St. Anne's was a lower middle class parish school that admitted non-Catholics (my parents were Unitarian) and Capleville was a consolidated rural school for farm children about half an hour by school bus from where I lived. None of those teachers was overpaid.
I did go to a school for college bound after 9th Grade; but not before.
Subject: Populating the next star system -- Alpha Centauri
The duration from launch to arrival in the AC star system will be just over 400 years. At turnover, the ship's velocity is 0.02 C.
I think it likely that the majority of the ship's population would choose to remain shipside rather than drop down onto new planets. This means that if the ship could be refueled at AC, it could continue to another star system after an interlude of refueling -- say another few hundred years. During that time, the ark -- for that is what it truly is -- could nuture the development of planetside colonies.
The point is that one ark will populate more than one star system. It may not be necessary for each system to launch two arks.
Of course, the politics and history of the ark before, during, and after the interstellar voyage are unpredictable, being in the realm of sociology rather than physics. But they would seem to provide very rich ground for speculation; that is, science fiction stories.
Sincerely h lynn keith
As good a scenario as any.
A few entertaining photos of Niagara Falls back when winter meant something.
http://flickr.com/photos/peter_schaeffer/369944906/in/set-798006/ http://flickr.com/photos/peter_schaeffer/369944901/in/set-798006/ http://flickr.com/photos/peter_schaeffer/369944897/in/set-798006/ http://flickr.com/photos/peter_schaeffer/369944890/in/set-798006/
January 30, 2007
Why is it that we hear not a word about the Rules of Engagement we've imposed on our troops from the Media or Congress? They are now debating all else, it seems. The enemy is well aware of our ROEs, it's a part of their training and tactics. And, yes, it does remind me too much of Vietnam. This is nuts. Whatever the troop levels, such rules unnecessarily put our young men and women at deadly risk.
A friend says: "My son was there for a year and drilled heavily on the ROE. He will go back for another year this August. Spc Winningstad’s opinion is that (the rules of engagement) SUCK. Example: you see a man holding a weapon when he proceeds to lock and load then starts aiming at you…you can not shoot him because he hasn't shot you yet. Example: he shoots a few rounds, drops the weapon and starts running…you can not shoot him. Example: your position is taking mortar rounds and you see someone talking on a cell phone three blocks away, intently observing the situation. The more he talks, the more accurate the fire gets. You can not shoot him...."
January 31, 2007
Today I had a look at Chaos Manor for the first time in...well, months, and immediately watched the "YouTube" video referenced in this week's View, and although it makes me feel like I'm nitpicking, I have to take exception to the description under "Highlights this week": "Defective Math Texts".
To my way of thinking, "defective" indicates something which has come out of production with unintentional flaws. The CD player which doesn't work when I plug it in is defective, for example.
But when something is intentionally produced to a certain specification, it's not really "defective"; the CD player which is meant only to play audio CDs and not MP3 disks is not "defective", but merely cheap or low on features.
By that standard, IMHO, these math texts are not "defective". They are deliberately written so as to avoid the "classic algorithms" which--horror of horrors!--were not invented by people with the right kind of Ph.D.'s. This might make them infernal (in the sense which a machine designed to kill is an "infernal machine"), stupid, or utterly bloody useless for anything but making sure low achieving teachers aren't found out--but not "defective" per se.
I concede the point. Thanks.
Subject: - Umbrage with "January 29, 2007 Mailbag" Importance: High
Sean is obviously not aware of how HP (Compaq) does business and it comment is not fair. IBM’s (now Lenovo) T41p is a “commercial” not a consumer notebook. All of the service manuals (Maintenance and Service Guides - MSG) for HP/Compaq commercial notebooks are on HP’s website. Additionally, many consumer MSGs are also available via our website or can be found via a quick Google search. The second hit for “removal replacement procedures zd8000” (helps to know our nomenclature) will bring up the MSG for the zd8000 notebook.
I’ve vented now. Hope you are feeling better.
Peter Braestrup's The Big Story is a solid, detailed look at how and why Tet caused such a pendulum-swing in US public opinion. It gets the military point -- that Tet was a disaster for the VC, and that from then on the NVA carried the load. But it also gets the political point: that Tet happened against a 1966-1967 background of happy horseshit from MACV and the White House about turning the corner and light at the end of the tunnel.
I had a double angle of vision at the time: my older brother arrived in RVN as a USMC 2Lt a few weeks after Tet, while I watched from home with my parents -- both of them USMC correspondents in WWII, both pros in journalism and PR, both news/politics junkies. They realized perfectly well that Tet had not been a defeat for us. But they also realized that Tet should not have been possible in terms of the official Washington story through January 1968: that the VC were marginalized, pushed out to the boonies, and had lost all popular support. Tens of thousands of VC had been able to assemble and move into position for scores of battalion-and-larger attacks, with so little intel buzz that a good chunk of ARVN (with MACV's concurrence) was on holiday leave. That doesn't mean the "average South Vietnamese" had wanted the VC to succeed. But very obviously, neither had s/he been motivated to tell local RVN officials or ARVN/US officers "hey, Charlie's being very active out here and here and here...." So maybe we weren't doing as well as advertised on the hearts & minds front..? The three Marines in my family didn't think that Tet was the end of the world. But they did think that Johnson, Thieu, Westmoreland & co. had been blowing a whole lot of smoke.
Your dichotomy of "civil war vs. invasion from the North" is simplistic. Again, look through the eyes of Tranh Van Sixpack in the countryside. Let's say that before Tet, the representative anti-Saigon solider is "my brother-in-law's kid who was always crazy for Old Pham's stories about Viet Minh days." After Tet, the representative anti-Saigon soldier is "some guy with a funny accent from the Red River delta." So Tranh van Sixpack is going to be a lot less sympathetic (or ambivalent), and Saigon is going to be getting a lot better intel, right?
Wrong: post-Tet, ARVN and MACV knowledge of where NVA forces were in-country was not significantly better than their knowledge pre-Tet of where VC forces had been. And enemy intel knowledge of what RVN and US forces were planning continued to be excellent (eliminating a lot of VC soldiers at Tet hadn't eliminated their sources throughout the South). So our "patrol, pin & destroy" or "sweep, clear and hold" continued to be largely ineffective. 80% or more of combat continued to be initiated by them, not us. Yes, now we were fighting mostly Northerners instead of Southerners -- but we still didn't know where they were, because most of the Southern population (just like before Tet) was still keeping its head down, trying not to get trampled by the elephants.
Monte Davis [emphasis added by JEP]
This is the letter that caused me to believe I have to write a primer on the difference between insurgency, civil war, and invasion including invasion by infiltration. Yesterday I sent a hurried reply:
Uhh.. because they wanted what they'd wanted since 1954 (a united Vietrnam under Communist government from Hanoi) ... and thought they could get it? Were proven wrong in 1968, wrong in 1972, and right in 1975?
I don't see anything in my message that is challenged or controverted by your question. I asserted that after Tet, few South Vietnamese civilians volunteered intel on NVA activity within the South -- any more than they had on VC activity before Tet.
Your question seems to imply that I'm claiming they wanted and welcomed an NVA victory and rule from Hanoi -- not at all the same thing. Maybe you know someone skilled at dealing with reading problems?
At which point I abandoned the correspondence, since it is pointless. But it is clear that there are some real problems of understanding here. My reply may have been a bit hasty, but I doubt that it deserved that reply.
Yes I do know someone skilled at dealing with reading problems.
I have also written extensively, including at the time, about the whole situation including the necessity for reforms in military intelligence. One key to effective intelligence is to understand who the enemy is. It is quite one thing to be looking for insurgents with ties to the local population, and quite another to be looking for invaders from the north.
I will point out that after Nixon's inauguration and the reorientation of our strategy to "Vietnamization", the US was able to clean out the infiltrators and close much of the border, so that invasion by infiltration was no longer a viable strategy; which is why the 1972 campaign of invasion by armored corps. Insurgency was defeated at Tet.
There was no more active recruiting of local Viet Cong. Many NVA units had been sent into the South, and it took time to eliminate them partly by starvation, partly by combat, partly by amnesty -- a lot of them just gave up -- and all that tended to be exponential, so that by 1971 it was no longer possible to mount any serious operation by infiltration. After that it took armed invasion. But during 1968-1971 there were many battles; and it was never made clear to the US that we were winning.
Let me point out that most of the media and the academics in the US insisted that the Viet Namese War was a "civil war" and that is why we could not win. If you assumed that, then you would assume that if we could eliminate the insurgents we would win. Given that everyone was insisting that it was Civil War and nothing else, why is it astonishing that many including in the military believed it, and thus said that once the insurgency was over the war was over? But in fact that was never true. There had always been infiltration. The problem was that those of us who insisted all along that this was not Civil War but Invasion From The North could never get much of a hearing -- except with Nixon. Nixon took us seriously. No one else did.
Now any analysis of insurgency and invasion by infiltration needs to look into the matter of Sanctuary areas. Clearly it is quite difficult to stop infiltration if there are major sanctuary areas to which the infiltrators can withdraw and which are safe. Now both sides in that war had homeland sanctuaries: we didn't bomb the USSR where their tanks were made, and the USSR didn't mount attacks on Detroit (we destroyed Detroit with Free Trade, but that was later and another story). But so long as the DMV and north was safe territory, it wasn't possible to stop infiltrations. Once the Sanctuaries were no longer safe, infiltration stopped.
Regarding what intelligence we got and ARVN got: of course no one in his right mind wanted to be an US informer while the enemy could get to him and his family. Why would they? Keeping the population safe from the enemy is difficult. It was a bit easier, later, in Cochin China among the Chinese ethnic populations since infiltrators stood out, but protecting the population so that the price of cooperation with the government is no longer a horrible death is an important objective; and it is not reasonable to expect much cooperation so long as battalion sized infiltration units are operating. But infiltration can be prevented by closing borders; sanctuaries can be bombed; sponsors of infiltration can be punished; infiltration routes can be interdicted by air power and Spectre and what we called Blackbirds in those days, and electronic fences in conjunction with air power.
That is quite different from insurgency. The war changed fundamentally after Tet. It is interesting that US history doesn't seem to include any study of that, yet it is key to understanding what happened in Viet Nam.
If we could get Iraq as stable as Viet Nam was after Tet we would be a long way toward victory. If Iraq could be stabilized against insurgents and the enemy action reduced to infiltration we would be able to win and win big, with an exponential in our favor. But if we do not see the difference, and apparently few do, we truly are doomed.
And that is why understanding what happened in Viet Nam is important. Those who cannot remember history...
February 1, 2007
Subject: Tempting the legions' fury
Was the NBC report this Washington Post writer cites the tip of the iceberg?
His column makes it clear the "support the troops" idea isn't something to which he subscribes.
I expect to see much more of this as the war wears on.
The second half of James Lilek's "Bleat"
takes the columnist to task.
Tempting the fury of the legions indeed. I don't know William M. Arkin who writes a national security column for the Washington Post, but apparently he is an expert. So it goes.
Subject: Math video
Jerry, thanks for posting the link to the math video. With two kids in 1st and 3rd grades, I'd be very concerned if these "reforms" were part of our school system in Canada. Fortunately, they're not.
It seems to me that the one salient point was only hinted at. The standard algorithm for multiplication and long division that we all learned only works if you have memorized the multiplication tables. It seems today's students aren't expected to learn them. The "cluster" algorithm and the others presented only require that you know x 10 and x 5 (half of x 10) -- beyond that, you just add multiples of 1 to approach your answer. So the root cause is the failure to learn multiplication tables by rote before grade 4, and the education system's response was to find an algorithm that no longer required that knowledge.
I found it frightening that math taught in elementary school devotes time to geography rather than teaching the fundamentals.
We learned geography as well as math fundamentals. We learned the addition tables to 12 in first grade at St. Anne's; my friend in public school didn't learn them until the middle of second grade. We all learned the times tables to 12 * 12 by end of third grade, and I think earlier. In fourth we learned western hemisphere geography including the capitals of the states and the countries.
Subject: Math: looks like you predicted it
Math: looks like you predicted it
I remember reading "Higher Education", which you co-wrote with Charles Sheffield. In it you describe a future where students don't even know how to read without an electronic device. Your recent posting of the "Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth" video from YouTube and its description of how schools encourage the use of calculators over mastering basic skills reminded me of this. When I first read "Higher Education" I was amused by the illiteracy presented, thinking it a cynical, yet entertaining view of the future. Now I'm really starting to wonder just how cynical it was. . .
Even more disturbing about that video was the indication that college students in the late 90s had trouble with basic math. I'm about the age those students would be now. I guess the Canadian curriculum was still quite strong. I was taught the standard algorithms for multiplication and division and was certainly not allowed to use a calculator until grade seven -- at which point we were expected to have already mastered basic skills. (Actually, I think a teacher did describe to us the Lattice Method. It just confused me, so I ignored it and went back to the standard algorithm). Heck, in grade nine I lent my calculator to a friend for his final math exam. He wasn't able to return it to me in time for my own, so I went without one. I passed with honours. Still, this makes me wonder about how my nephews will fare. I don't know if our curriculum has suffered in similar ways. . .
Subject: Up Helly Aa
The Space Merchants, AKA Gravy Planet
RE: Current View Friday 27th (God has left us work to do):
The way I see it: Either there are other intelligences out there, or there are not. (I mean mortal beings, or ones that used to be mortal, not the supernatural).
If there are, given the incredibly short time that human civilisation has existed, then they will be so far ahead of us that they would be utterly incomprehensible. (In twenty thousand years we have come from the caves to the threshold of space; where will we be after a million? Or a billion?) And they likely won't care what we do, and if they do care and don't like it then we would have a chance of resisting them roughly equivalent to that of a snowflake in a blast furnace.
If there are not? Well, then this tribe of jumped-up monkeys has the right, and I would say the duty, to expand - to bring life to the rest of the universe. YES, US.
The alternative is to keep on as we are, and eventually to run out of critical resources, and after that to go back to the caves and maybe devolve to non-sapience; and there will be none after us, for we will have used up resources that will take a billion years to replace - and the biosphere hasn't got that long, as the Sun gets relentlessly hotter as it ages.
Wells said it much better than I. "It is the Universe or nothing; which will it be?"
We have maybe thirty years to decide. My vote is for the Universe.
In short, our task is either to join the community of intelligences, of which we will be a very junior member; or the largest task conceivable, and one which will last as long as our species does, and perhaps longer; to bring life and mind to a lifeless universe; to bring a countless horde of worshippers to His side.
Worth our species’ talents, I think.
Subject: Viet Nam - Sample Size 1
This is only a sample size of 1. Perhaps it can be combined with enough others to gain a statistical picture. I was in Viet Nam fall 1970 - fall 1971. I started out in the Chu Chi area after the Cambodian incursion. I had no contact with the enemy. He was on his heels because of the Cambodian incursion. I then was sent to northern South Viet Nam; no fighting with Viet Cong.
We did fight the North Viet Nam army. They wore uniforms, had training aids (We captured booklets showing where to aim (lead) to shoot down helicopters), had hospitals in South Viet Nam. We had a lot of respect for them. They fought well.
Upon returning to Southeast Texas, conservative and still supporting the soldiers, I was struck that no one knew that the North Viet Nam army was in the South.
And few in the rest of the country. When we called it "invasion from the south" we were -- in my case quite literally, at Universities -- shouted down. Not so much by students as by faculty who did not want to know what was going on; they already knew enough, so now they could teach it. I recall Robert Vaughn the actor who was getting a MS in Communications at USC. I was invited to debate him at a "teach in". When I got there, the atmosphere was circus like with costumed people posing as "General Waste Moreland" (actually a bar singer known to the police as Calypso Joe). I was told "Mr Vaughn feels so strongly about this that he will not listen to you. You get to speak, then he will, but you can't be in the room when he talks."
I wasn't permitted to speak to Mr. Vaughn to tell him he was a coward. Perhaps I didn't need to. I expect he already knew.
Subject: Math in Shelby County, TN and Deadly force in Iraq
Hello, since you are from this area I thought you might interested in hearing how the schools from your old hometown area teach math. We live in Germantown, TN and our son, who is in the third grade, goes to Shelby County Schools. After watching the video I looked through my son's math book the next time he brought it home. It is a Macmillan/McGraw -Hill publication, Math(Tennessee Edition). From what I can tell the book teaches multiple methods for problem solving. I don't have much of a problem with that, but in my opinion the book doesn't spend enough time on the traditional method. There seems to be a big focus on "Mental Math" which is ok, I think, but there isn't a single page devoted to memorizing multiplication tables. That's ok though, with your warning I can be prepared to teach him myself. Math was my favorite subject in school and I'll be looking for multiplication tables and flash cards this weekend.
On another subject, in reference to the letter that you posted. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail451.html#Tuesday
Quote from the letter;
"If our soldiers or Marines see someone about to level an AK-47 in their direction or start to are receive hostile fire from a rooftop or mosque, there is no time to go through a seven-point checklist before reacting. Indeed, the very fact that they see a weapon, or begin to receive hostile fire should be sufficient justification to respond with deadly force."
My question is, why are our Soldiers in Iraq forced to operate under more restrictive ROE than our police officers at home?
Wise choice. Learning the addition tables to 12 -- not just ten, but 12, and 15 is better -- and the multiplication tables again to at least 12 * 12, preferably 15 -- is easily within the capability of just about any student whose parents read this web site. The other thing to be certain of is reading: the ability to read ANY word in the English language, so that reading vocabulary is at least as large as speaking vocabulary (for years I could read and understand words I didn't have quite the confidence to speak aloud, and I expect most of us have had that experience.) The way to assure that the kids can read is to get Mrs. Pournelle's Reading Program and go through the lessons. Kids will find the early lessons a bit dull but they're short and quick; and building confidence in handling the rules is important. Kids who can already read will get through it all in a couple of months and will then have confidence when they run into polydimorphicphenylacetate. Those who need a bit longer to get through the lessons clearly needed them.
As to the goofy Rules of Engagement, I have no idea.
Suggested ROE for Iraq and Afghanistan
1. Shoot if you think you need to.
May be a bit extreme, but not much so. It's certainly the "rules of engagement" we had in Korea and (I am told) World War II, although I frankly don't recall ever hearing of "rules of engagement" in those days.
February 3, 2008
Subject: Suggested ROE for Iraq and Afghanistan
I think our soldiers should go by this ROE: "Scare us and we shoot you."
If you want to know more about William Arkin:
Subject: Global Warming
Dear Mr Pournelle, I am trying to make up my mind on Global Warming. The information I get from the media is now saying that it is most defiantly happening and that ManKind is probably responsible. From my reading of your site you agree that something is happening. You don't believe it is Global Warming. I would like to know what evidence you have that it is not. Or do you just not agree with the thousands of scientist that say it is happening. Can you demonstrate what is wrong with their science? Is there a climate scientist that you would trust to give a scientific answer?
At the moment it seems to come to "They" say it is and you say it isn't.
Come now. Surely you do not think I have simply made all this up? Or that I have not written about it before, giving references?
The situation remains: computer modelers are certain they know what the climate is and will be, and how human activity affects it. The climate scientists who actually deal with the data do not find the evidence that the modelers are sure must be there.
Determining the temperature of the earth is not a matter of sticking a thermometer into the ground. What is the temperature of the earth? Day or night? Noon or midnight? Equator or pole or temperate zone? Which pole? Which temperate zone? Don't be silly, you say. It must be an average. Fine. Average of what? We don't even have measures of temperature in many places, and even if we have them now we haven't had them for long. And do we take air temperature? Ground temperature? Globe temperature? (That latter is used in human engineering a lot: take a copper globe about the size of a softball, paint it black, and put a thermocouple inside it suspended in the middle. It now gets a temperature made up of air temperature and the radiant environment. Alas, we don't have globe temperatures for as many places as we have direct temperatures of air or ground.
So: it should be obvious that I can make the temperature anything I like simply by choosing what I average and what weights I give to the different temperatures that go into my average.
Now we go to time. Over time conditions change. We all know that cities are warmer than the countryside. If I take a temperature at the same place every day, but someone builds a black parking lot on the spot as part of a new suburb that will change the temperature. Now how do I manage to average that in to get my trend? How much of the rise in temperature is due to changes in the conditions under which I measure it?
I could go on; the point is that we don't have the temperatures over time for most of the Earth; we have to make computer models to estimate what the temperatures used to be. That model can give me any result I like; I need only play with the inputs.
Arrhenius (the first man to win two Nobel prizes) back about the turn of the century did some calculations on CO2. His results are still about as good as any.
But I am sure I will now be denounced as a tool of the oil companies. Note though that global warming report generation is a big business, and some people have made their careers pushing this. Others started as Ice Age Disaster predictors, but have successfully got on the Global Warming gravy train. Try to get a grant to support a study that does not go along with the global warming "consensus."
The consensus is among those who bought into the consensus. You never hear about the dissents.
What I do know is that if we're scared of CO2 there are ways to take some out of the atmosphere. And no one seems to be interested in those.
Anyway, it doesn't matter, does it? The debate is over, the Earth is doomed, and there is nothing we can do about it. Didn't they just say that today? Pardon me if I seem a bit disgusted by all this.
Incidentally, there appears to be Global Warming on Mars. It's not clear to me how human activity caused that; it seems more reasonable to guess that if the two planets are both heating up, it may be due to solar output.
Subject: So Much for Bio Mass
Rain forests are disappearing to provide bio-mass to the Netherlands. Why am I not surprised.
|This week:||Sunday, February
Subject: Re: ROE
A Canadian Peackeeper that served in Cyprus stated in an interview done in 2005 that they weren't allowed to return fire without getting approval from HQ, and that they weren't in contact with HQ, so they would have to call their base and have them call HQ. They also were only allowed to carry seven bullets and they had to be carried in your pocket, not in your gun.
He also said thank God they don't have the same rules today or the Peacekeepers would all be dead.
Subject: global warming industry? What's next, the cancer-industry?
I'm a long-time reader and fan of your fiction and non-fiction. Thanks for writing it! (Another Motie sequel would be great!)
In my day job I work as a computer programmer in the world of climate science. I am not an atmospheric scientist; I'm a computer programmer.
But I think you are reaching very far to find any kind of conspiracy or "Global Warming Industry" which is manufacturing, or even swaying, results. That's simply not the case.
To me, it looks more like the sort of difficultly one might express on hearing that they had cancer. It's just bad news that you don't want to deal with. You're in denial.
But when a 1000 of the world's best climate scientists study the issue and come out with their conclusions, what kind of mind would disregard that? Or think that there is some conspiracy?
A case can be made for various JFK conspiracies, and maybe even for UFOs, but not for a climate conspiracy. The IPCC is the best estimate of the world's scientists.
Deal with it.
I work with scientists every day. They are not perfect. They are not saints. Some of them aren't even that nice. But they are honest, they are hard-working, and they are *smart*.
So why do you choose to disbelieve their conclusions?
I won't argue, but we do collect a lot of data these days.
The problems of missing data are mostly in the past. We did not have satellites 100 years ago, and so we will never have satellite data for those times.
These days there seems to be (almost) more data than we can handle.
(But that always seems to be the case, and we continue to write software to process the flood of data and extract useful information. And our computers and software are getting better faster than the data is getting to them, just barely.)
Very good idea!
Seems like a carbon tax of some kind is sensible.
I'm sure that you have studied enough differential equations to know what the real worry is. When we start kicking the side of a delicate dynamic equilibrium (i.e. our climate), then what might happen?
Sure, it might fall into an equilibrium we like even more! Yippee! ;-)
Or it might fall into one that we like a lot less. Oh oh! :-(
Which is more likely?
Would you say that it's OK to kick the side of an antique grandfather clock to try and adjust the time?
One reason I was reluctant to post this is that it is not only rude, but chopping up messages into tiny bits and commenting on them is one of the worst forms of debate I know of. There is no possibility of rational debate if your only notion of what I have said is given in tiny snippets followed by snide remarks.
However: when my points are given, I don't see any disagreement. We have plenty of data, he says. Bat puckey, I say; we can't predict the climate a year in advance, but we have computer models that will predict it 100 years in advance, and if you believe that we can negotiate some real estate transactions. We don't have enough actual climate data. We don't even have a good agreement as to what combination of the measures we do have constitutes "the temperature of the Earth." We don't see a rise in the previously agreed averages, but we do note that there is a rise in temperatures at night, so that becomes part of the new temperature measure.
But we didn't have all that good a set of data taken at night, so the history of night temperatures is hard to come by.
As to the snide remarks about a cancer industry, and 1000 of the world's best scientists: first, the definition of being one of the world's best climate scientists is that one accepts the "consensus" on global warming. That is also the criterion for getting grants. If you want grants to study alternative hypotheses, you have few sources of funding -- and God help you if you allow an oil company to fund your research. You certainly cannot be one of the World's Best if you do that.
Since we exclude those who don't agree, we can hardly feign surprise that there is agreement.
Other than my dissent that this report is in fact as definitive as you say, and your implication that I must be an idiot if I don't accept the great consensus as proven, the only other note is that a carbon tax would be a great idea. Tax on whom? Will it be paid by India and China? Who will collect it? What you mean is a carbon tax on the American people, who are governed by laws that include treaties. No one else is going to pay this carbon tax.
Deal with it.
But I at least would feel a lot better if there were funding -- say 10% of the climate research grants -- for those who don't accept the consensus and are open to the notion that perhaps what's going on is more complicate than they thought.
I was around in the 1970's when everyone was concerned that the ICE was returning, and we needed a genesis strategy to cope with the new Ice Age.
As to the levity about kicking a grandfather clock, an economy is a delicate thing also: carbon taxes have great effects. Perhaps we might want to look at ways to remove the CO2 that don't involve whacking the economy? And we might also look at the problem of methane, which is about 25 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2. And we might wonder why Mars appears to have had periods of heating and cooling, and, what do you know, the Earth has had a number of cycles of heat and cold and that well before the Industrial Revolution. And despite the fact that some of the world's best climate scientists have said we have to get people to forget the Medieval Warm period because it will just confuse them -- ie our 1000 best can't figure out why there was a Medieval Warm so the want to pretend there wasn't one -- we did have a Medieval Warm period, it was not caused by CO2 from industries, and maybe, just maybe, what caused that may be important to our understanding of just what's going on.
If we need to cool the Earth we will need means for easy access to space. We need to study non-permanent ways to affect albedo. We need reversible means for removing carbon from the atmosphere. We need to look at new energy sources. We need to worry about methane and methane sources.
But the best suggestions of the 1000 best is a carbon tax?
Subject: Interesting quote via Technocrat.net
A.N. Whitehead :
"It is a profoundly erroneous truism repeated by all copybooks, and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of operations that we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle--they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments." http://technocrat.net/d/2007/1/26/13801
The topic of the article is the declining quality of mathematics education in the U.S. (sounds like the mathematics version of 'whole language' reading instruction to me)
Richard Weaver's Life Without Prejudice makes much the same point. Your computer does a table lookup for the addition and times tables answers. It's faster. Some things should become habits. Making good habits happen is the essence of learning skills.
Subject: Life - not death - in prison,
It seems that black Americans are significantly more likely to survive in prison than in their own neighborhoods. They are less likely to be murdered- so less likely that the mortality rate among black state prison inmates was 57 percent lower than their counterparts of similar age on the outside:
Lord of the Flies redux.
Is this frightening? Or a commentary on modern times?
Hazard to navigation at best, casus belli at worst.
-- Roland Dobbins
- Roland Dobbins
Is there a minority report on this future crime?
- Roland Dobbins
Falun Gong to the organ banks. This is civilization. And the future: China will inevitably become more powerful than the US given present trends continue.
The good news is that we're still rich enough to buy some kidneys and livers.
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