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Mail 381 September 26 - October 2, 2005






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Monday  September 26, 2005

Begin where we left off, with more on the Iraqi Debates. They begin with a letter from Baghdad, and there were a number of replies and comments.

Dear Dr. P,

You invited comments on that young Jacobin’s letter. I believe two more basic, underlying principals undercut his case for invading Iraq. Making unjust war is evil. He doesn’t mention it, but it looks like 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and up to a million wounded. With 250,000 rounds/kill the wounded number seems reasonable. The second important reason is that this war has starkly emphasized the incompetence of the government and their repeated lying has destroyed America’s trust in anything the government now says. This will make it infinitely harder to sell good policies to correct the major fiscal problems now looming.

Israel is the major irritant in the Middle East, and right is not on their side. They are the ones with 3 or 400 nuclear weapons, yet it is Iran being reported to the Security Council for sanctions, for producing maybe 1 milligram of Plutonium? I believe MAD still works and having Israel the sole possessor of WMD just encourages them to behave like bullies. I’m now in favor of America stopping all payments to Israel until they make a real effort to promote peace and quit trying to influence American policy by bribing and threatening our legislators. In the end, morals do matter.

As others have already pointed out, most of these problems would not worry us if we had a LOT of clean, cheap nuclear power available. We could even make oil should that be necessary. Writing “I presume if we achieve energy independence we are not going to share that tech breakthrough with the Chinese” made me smile. It is the Chinese planning to build hundreds of modular pebble bed reactors, not America. They will probably sell them to us when the time comes, as we may not have the manufacturing capability left in the country.

I would have been cheaper and much better to give each American family a hybrid vehicle than wage this stupid war.

Adrian Ashfield


The Israeli situation is a great deal more complex than you say, and questions of right and moral balance are neither easily answered nor particularly relevant. Given the situation there, Israel's existence is not a matter for debate any longer. It does exist and has a right to exist. The question of how much we need to be involved in that is another matter.

But all that is less relevant than the question, are we better off investing money in military solutions in Mesopotamia or is there a higher return on investment in energy systems independent of the Middle East? And on that one the answer is clear. Given $300 billion we know what could have been done.

Regarding energy and the market: at the moment we subsidize gasoline and fuel oil prices by paying for military operations required to keep Middle East oil flowing. If the true costs of those operations were added as a tariff on imported oil, the market would be a great deal different, and domestic energy production would get more investment -- as would conservation measures. But we don't do that.


Subject: On Iraq, oil and nuclear power

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I am afraid oil is not unimportant. Among all sources of energy it alone has the advantage of being available in nature, being liquid and having a high energy density. I am totally in favor of nuclear power, but you cannot fill your car with nuclear power. It has to be converted somehow.

The US dependency on crude oil has to be blamed on the internal combustion engine. The US has considerable domestic oil reserves and large reserves of coal and uranium and makes a lot of electricity from hydropower. It is wrong to say that energy as such is a problem. Oil is the problem. Deplorable as that may be, what is the evidence that a switch to other forms of energy is cheaper than the current policy? This is a genuine question, but I am not ready to accept this as self evident.

Regards Oliver Neukum

You can certainly heat your house with electricity. Right now. And for $300 billion you can both build nuclear power plants and develop fuel cells. And subsidize replacement of inefficient cars with more efficient ones. Three Hundred Billion Dollars is a lot of money.

And, of course, the war is going to cost more.

Perhaps the simplest measure would be to put a tariff on oil imports large enough to cover the costs of the Middle East operations. Then see what happens.


Of course politics get in the way---



--- Roland Dobbins


Recent events in Iraq.


I am greatly heartened by the action the British army took in getting back two of our lads even at the cost of scratching the paint on a couple of iraqui cars. Western governments have been increasingly feeble in protecting those to whom they have a direct and immediate duty of care and I hope this is the start of a new trend.

Like your correspondents in Friday's mail, I was persuaded that the invasion was a good idea. This was partly because my (UK) Government told me the lie direct, and partly because we have deposed a Hitler before he could do real damage, like launching a nuclear war. Little weight is given to the Hitler aspect of the situation but it is not impossible that our actions have averted something much worse. We wll never know.

We can see that the planning for the aftermath of the military campaign was either not done at all or done by an organisation no better than FEMA. What the USA does about the abject failure of her Government whenever a branch of it is put to the test I simply do not know. Possibly colourful but not necessarily painful public executions of the titular heads of failed organisations would do the trick. Shooting Admiral Byng on his own quarterdeck comes to mind. Byng justly argued that his force was numerically inferor to the French fleet and did not attack them so leaving the British army who had fought a successful defensive campaign against the French army without the supplies and reinforcements that were needed if they were to continue. The opinion in England was that confusing numerically inferior, and inferior, was a capital offence and Byng was court martialed and shot. Subsequent admirals certainly tried harder.

John Edwards

And see below


Another cost of "the war on terror":


in which suspicious behavior on the tube in London ends up as a nightmare. How many of us would be suspicious under those circumstances? And see below on the Iraq situation.

Now read

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

I'll begin this with some stories from last week.

Paranoia in action: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/ 0,16132,1575532,00.html>

Music executive suggests Mac and Linux users should quite whining about songs that don't play on their computers and buy a regular CD player: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/23/ mac_linux_users_told_to_buy_cd_players/>.  

I read this one night after working during the day with the university chaplain: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/ story.aspx?story_id=2024767> . Skip to the last five paragraphs of Glees' essay to see what made me go non-linear.

Oxford to cut undergraduate education to close a £200,000,000 funding gap: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,591-1790314,00.html> .

China suppressing dissent on the internet: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ china/story/0,7369,1578189,00.html

Use of evidence obtained by torture: <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/ terrorism/story/0,15935,1578384,00.html> . Interestingly, information elicited by torture is usually less reliable. This is because people without knowledge are more likely to tell a falsehood under torture than the knowledgeable are to tell the truth.

Karate chops permitted to control children in jail: <http:// society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,1074,1578415,00.html

9/11 case: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1797955,00.html

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

Harry Erwin


Note well:

Subject: Rules.



- Roland Dobbins

We have not heard the last of this. Between Sarbanes Oxley and McCain we are rapidly losing the battle for freedom. Ah well. The intent was good.


Subject: Tractatus LogicoPiraticus

The InstaPirate interface has rich possibilities -if only as a substrate for judicious editing- Please post te attached if the Arts & Letters Daily is too hairy to format,

Here is the result of taking a rusty cutlass to the first page of Wittgenstein -attached as a Word doc: Tractatus Logico-Piraticus

Russell Seitz

The Pirate Translator is programmed by Sumir and here Edited by Seitz.

Tractatus Logico-Piraticus


1 Everythin' that be the Case be the Chase o’the Seven Seas.


2 What be the Case from Stem to Stern, be the existence o'atomic Facts.


3 The logical Picture o' the Facts be the Thought, smart as Paint.


4 The cunning Plan be the significant Proposition.


5 Propositions be Affadavys o' elementary Propositions.

(Arrrrr, yer elementary Proposition be itself good as Capn’s Word.)


6 The general Form o' truth-Function is: [ x, x, N (x)]. Sink me !

Tis the form o' the Proposition X marks the spot, for X be xi.


7 Whereof One cannot speak, dead Men tell no Tales.


Beggin’ pardon O’ Cap’n Wittgenstein & Master Quine

aboard of the flying Dutchman


Russell is probably the only person in the world to have thought of trying the pirate translator on Wittgenstein!


And on a more serious subject:

Subject: e-book dilemma

Dr. Pournelle,

A revisit of the e-book discussion, based on a personal dilemma.

I need/want to re-purchase Larry Niven's Dream Park trilogy, and a quick check at Amazon reveals that the paperback is not available new, however I may be able to get one of the three books in hardcover new... for about $45. So to get the books, I had to buy all three used from Amazon-linked resellers for an average of $1.10 each, plus about $3.50 shipping each. It will take between 2 and 5 weeks for the books to make it here.

Why have we been unable to find a reasonable technology solution that would in essence let me send Larry Niven (or his agent) $1.50 (or whatever), and get an electronic copy to read immediately? Are we so incompetent or fearful of piracy that with all our technology, with this 3 Mbps cable modem and 200ms latencies around the world, I have to wait 5 weeks to buy a book and Larry still won't see a penny from the sale?

I'd pay full retail price, around $7ish for a second-run paperback nowadays if I recall correctly, for an electronic copy I could read TODAY. Lower the price a bit and I could use the savings to buy a ream of paper and maybe even print out a copy I could take to the gym. The book is out of print, so it seems that fears of piracy are groundless - There is no way Larry can possibly benefit from the current situation, however he could make a few bucks by selling electronic copies.

So... Since we (consumers, writers, publishers, and distributors) have put ourselves in this situation, are we incompetent or just stupid? Why can't I pay Larry for the privilege of reading a copy of his book?

I assume the online bookstore will enjoy their $.93 profit and the post office will make good use of the $3.50 postage, but I'd rather give the money to the writer. Is the possibility that I'll behave poorly and give away a copy of a book not even available new, so terrible that writers must forego ALL reimbursements just because the alternative is making SOME money? The last time I checked, a small paycheck was better than no paycheck, unless writers earn welfare bucks when their books go out of print and that makes it more profitable to NOT print, sort of like how small farmers get paid by the govt to not grow certain crops in certain years...?

Sean Long

Comments invited. I am beginning to wonder if a "public radio" site of out of print books maintained by authors with a "click here to send suggested donation" button would not work? A bit like subscriptions here work...



And is there balm in Gilead?

Subject: Weekly compendium of stories to make one laugh through despair (buffy willow)

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You may have seen this already, but if not:


is a site that collects some of the more egregious 'weird'-ness each week in one place. I read it to laugh through my tears and avoid despair. The avoidance consists of believing that there are millions of people doing useful work well, and that such are common enough that there isn't an equivalent column named "News of the Competent."

Cold comfort, sure....but I'll take some to none at all. After all, the root of comfort is, from Old French, 'conforter, to strengthen'.(with thanks to www.yourdictionary.com  )

Best Regards,

Doug Hayden

p.s. the last sentence of a main paragraph brought to mind a witty, clever book decrying improper punctuation, Lynn Truss' "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves". If you haven't read it, please allow me to recommend it. It came to mind because I believe Ms. Truss would object strenuously to the punctuation of the last sentence mentioned above.


I confess that "Eats, shoot, and leaves" breaks me up every time I think of it. Regarding cheery stories we have

Japanese woman calls cops over unreliable hitman


TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese woman called in the police after a hitman she paid to kill her lover's wife failed to carry out the job.

The 32-year-old Tokyo woman was arrested on Wednesday for incitement to murder, the Daily Yomiuri newspaper said on Friday.

The woman contacted a private detective through a Web site last November and paid him 1 million yen (4,991 pounds) in cash to murder her love rival, the paper said.

File Under "Hell Hath No Fury" and "I;ve Got A Little List"

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

"All Those Endearing Charms"


And now a pair of letters that came in at the same time. As well as more on Iraq=

Subject: Three hundred billion dollars

Dr. Pournelle:

I don't want to open up a can of worms regarding the liberation of Iraq, but you and others have said that there are better uses for the two or three hundred billion dollars. For example, you say, "And for $300 billion you can both build nuclear power plants and develop fuel cells." Sure, and if pigs had wings they'd be pigeons. I'm not saying that to be snarky, but you of all people know how government works. They'd announce a program, the envirowackos would file lawsuits, and they project would fade into obscurity. Case in point, levee reconstruction in your native Louisiana. Three hundred billion dollars would not build one reactor, or even one refinery due to the purposeful litigation tie ups by the Socialists and Greenies who want to incrementally destroy our infrastructure (so they can implement their own failed ideas on how to run our society).

Think about it. We've had one refinery open in thirty years. The last nuclear power plant was STP (South Texas Project), wasn't it? (If I am wrong, please tell me... I'm winging it.) We're close to maximum refining capacity, and energy producing capacity is at peak in some parts of the country. I realistically would not see one new power plant emerging from three hundred billion in government money, even if it was earmarked for nuclear power. Another case in point is that highway bill that porked its way through Congress? If Congress finds money, they'll try and spend it.

To be honest, saying three hundred billion dollars could be used for this or that is sheer fantasy. Indulging in this speculation, or calling names of war supporters, both border on silly. I know you don't support the war. I respect that. Please extend that to those who do. I could find a lot of uses for three hundred billion dollars, but that doesn't mean that Congress would let me do what I want. They'd find some other pork projects to ensure their re-election. As for the war, I'd like those on the kook left and the paleo right to let us win, and encourage us to win. (Darn, there goes that can of worms. Sorry!)

Regards, Bill Kelly Houston, Tx


Subject: Andre Glucksmann on Hate and Terrorism

Hi -

Andre Glucksmann, the French philosopher, has an excellent critique of the problems facing modern states in dealing wth terrorism in the current issue of "Der Spiegel", the German monthly (page 216 ff).

I haven't been able to find it in English, so I covered it in my blog under this:


with a very rough transcription of what he says.

Basically he laments the fact that we all seem to talk and natter about what is good, but there is a failure to talk about what is evil, and given the apparent moral vacuum of modern day states, evil will expand to become absolute unless it's been stopped.

I realize that you are probably overwhelmed with mails like this, but as a long-time lurker on the View, I thought you'd be interested.

Thanks for your time and best regards,

John F. Opie

These two letters seem related. Mr. Kelly appears to be saying that the Republic is so far decayed that have no choices left: we cannot reform and we cannot develop our own resources with our own means, so we must send the troops overseas to assure energy supplies.  It is politically easier to fight wars than to develop resources.

I do not know what encouragement Mr. Kelly seeks: the resources of the nation are being poured into Iraq. We can hope for good results, but at what price? No doubt King Canute could stop the tide from coming in (at least to the edge of his throne) by building a cofferdam of his housecarls. We are America. We can do anything we want, nearly. Except, apparently, come home, mind our own business, and develop our own resources.

Now, Mr. Kelly, what is it you want me to do? Are we so far gone that it is unpatriotic to point out that there are alternatives to war?

Subject: springtime for Saddam

" Little weight is given to the Hitler aspect of the situation but it is not impossible that our actions have averted something much worse. We wll never know. "

The author was less silly than a lot of the people writing to you - but silly enough for all that. Hitler had Germany to work with. Saddam had Iraq. It makes a difference. You know, it's interesting to see just how utterly free of logic, facts, and experience the average person who votes and determines our fate is.

Gregory Cochran

Subject: "Young Jacobin"


As for your young Jacobin, it strikes that just about everything he said was insane. Like we're supposed be worrying about a final conflict between Israel; and the Arabs, when in fact nothing is happening at all, or will. The guy's from another planet.

After a while there's just no point in talking with crazy people. Unless they're female, blond, stacked, 25, and own a liquor store.

Gregory Cochran

Well I do wonder about the Armageddon: who will furnish the weapons? I believe it was tried a few times, and Israel expanded each time.

And Mr. Ashfield replies:

I never wrote (or thought) that the Israeli situation was anything but complex, but while you may not think the difference between right and wrong is relevant, I do. I agree that Israel exists and that it should continue to do so, but only within the boundaries laid down by the UN. Israel should stop stealing more land on a near daily basis. Reading the detailed history of the “peace talks” it is clear that Israel wanted land more than peace. Their policy towards the Palestinians has been that of apartheid.

Your $300 billion is probably low for the war in Iraq. I read that the earlier estimates had somehow left out the medical and disability costs for the veterans. Add that in and the bill could easily top $1 trillion: enough for a lot of new energy.

I agree with you that “we” won’t do what is logically required to solve the energy problem. As I wrote, American politicians will not act until the crisis is already upon us. Without a eureka discovery or two, and the availability of lots of non-polluting power, hydrogen power for transport is just an expensive red herring: about as foolish as methanol.

Adrian Ashfield


And here is one solution to the situation:

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

As a young man, I rarely had political discussions, though I listened to quite a number of them from the MSgt’s and Officers I worked for. It’s interesting, at least to me, how the military mind tends to simplify things and reach totally unexpected conclusions. Your website is like that. It makes me think, and for that I can’t thank you enough.

Lately you’ve been teasing us with hints of a dissertation on the war in Iraq, specifically of what to do now. I’d like to offer a rather simple solution. Dissolve Iraq. As a historical entity it never existed. Erase it from the history books. Forbid polite discussions of it except in quiet whispers.

Split it into parts. Give the good parts to those of our ‘friends’ in the region that have ‘supported’ our efforts there.

Give the oil-producing regions to Jordan. They can use them and they’re practiced at controlling unruly populations in handling the Palestinians.

Give the northern Kurds to Syria. Let Syria experience a little of the pain that Turkey goes through each year. Syria can definitely use the lessons in humility the Kurds will most certainly teach them.

Hand the Sunni section of the country that doesn’t have any oil to the Iranians. They’ve been trying to get parts of Iraq for decades. It seems only natural now to ‘reward’ them for all of their ‘help’ in solving the Saddam Problem.

What’s left give to the Palestinians. They’ve wanted their own country for half a century. Give it to them. Move them out of Gaza, the West Bank, and western Jordan and into this large section of land. Let them name it what they want and set up whatever form of government they want. With no oil, no political capital, and 30+ different views of how the country should be run, I’m sure they will have no problem forming a government. The population already there might object, but I’m sure the Palestinians can handle them.

If we hurry, we can have our military home by Christmas, though if I were the president, I’d have them stop by Afghanistan and Pakistan on the way home and remind them that historically they can easily go the same way as Iraq if we don’t find Bin Laden soon. No threat, just a friendly reminder.

It would be a serious lesson for everyone concerned. If you mess with us, you may disappear entirely. Wait, why does that sound familiar? Is that the theme music from the Godfather movies I’m hearing?

Ciao, Godspeed, and please finish another book soon.

Braxton S. Cook

p.s. What impact would switching from oil to say hydrogen have on the 1.5 million people employed by the oil industry?

To your final question: eventually most would go the way of buggy whip manufacturers, but that will take quite a while. We will need oil for a long time to come: just not so much that we have to send the Army and Navy to fetch it.

And see below



Holly Lisle has a wonderful take on Ms. Streisand's pronouncment today at


As for me, "Global Warming Emergency" probably got her much better press than "Hey, buy my new CD." But then, I guess I'm cynical, or something.

I WOULD like to see the diploma from Ms. Streisand's doctorates in atmospheric science and solar physics.

Jim Woosley

Well, perhaps Holly is a bit less patient than she might be. Not unjustified, mind you. It doesn't take doctorates in anything to understand some basic principles.



This week:


read book now



This is from another conference. James Guest is an Australian party leader and intellectual. You may think of this as a Guest editorial:

Why do intellectuals get things so wrong so often?

September 27, 2005

Leading Australian conservative Owen Harries, in The American Interest, on a poor academic track record

ON political matters, intellectuals tend to share two characteristics: they are slaves to fashion; and, on the big questions, they tend to get things hopelessly wrong.

Intellectuals generally are prone to run together. Beneath their often savage surface differences and scorn for orthodoxy, there is usually a surprising degree of uncritical acceptance of erroneous views concerning the way things are and, in particular, the way things are going.

Thus, if you had been an intellectual living in 1910 or thereabouts, it is more than likely that you would have subscribed to the view, propagated by Norman Angell in The Great Illusion that war was a dying institution (because it did not pay), and that the forces of capitalism - technology, free trade and liberal rationality - were rapidly creating a peaceful and borderless world. You would have been wrong, of course. But the fact that an unprecedentedly bloody war followed soon afterwards did not prevent Angell from being awarded a Nobel prize in due course.

Had you been a typical intellectual 25 years later, on the other hand, you would have believed the exact opposite: that, with the Great Depression, the world was witnessing the death throes of capitalism and liberalism, that the failed system was destroying itself due to its "internal contradictions". To replace it there was a "coming struggle for power", to quote the title of another enormously influential book by John Strachey, a fight to the death between fascism and communism.

Indeed, the belief that capitalism was finished remained intellectual orthodoxy in Europe well into the next decade . . . At the end of the 1940s, the influential editor and man of letters Cyril Connolly was saying . . . "It is closing time in the garden of the West and from now on an artist will be judged only by the resonance of his solitude or the quality of his despair." All this as the West was on the eve of the biggest surge of economic prosperity in human history, brought about by the supposedly terminally ill capitalist system.

Go on another couple of decades and the prevailing intellectual view was that the totalitarian communist system was indestructible, the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War, and the US, defeated by a peasant army in Vietnam, torn by internal dissent, disgraced by Watergate, was losing it.

As late as 1984, the intellectuals' favourite economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, was insisting that "the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years", and that "the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower." Even later, in 1987, a history book Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers made an enormous impact in intellectual circles when it depicted the US as suffering badly from "imperial overstretch" and facing decline. And later still, into the 1990s, it was widely predicted that Japan and perhaps Germany(!) would soon overtake America economically.

Nor should one forget the apocalyptic conclusion of the Club of Rome in the 1970s - that unless prompt and drastic action was taken to limit population and industrial growth, the world would self-destruct by the end of the century - which was enthusiastically seized on by most intellectuals. Before the end of the decade, the club's book, The Limits to Growth, had sold four million copies and become the bible of the enlightened.

And so it goes. Why do intellectuals get things so wrong, so often? . . . Is all this worth bothering about? Probably, yes. We are living at the beginning of an epoch whose essential character still awaits definition. At present, several competing herds of independent minds are careering around, noisily insisting that their preferred label - American hegemony, borderless world, rise of the Asian giants, postmodern world, ecological catastrophe, war on terrorism, etc - does the trick. As we listen to them, it will do no harm, and it might do some good, to bear in mind what an appalling record of prediction intellectuals have had in the past century.

James Guest

And there was this reply:

It occurs to me, in fact, that the list of major intellectuals who got things RIGHT would be, though short, quite illuminating.

---Burke (and John Adams) on the French Revolution

---Bertrand Russell on the Russian...

Interesting to note that Orwell, now regarded as the sage of his time, was flat wrong about everything. Not one of his predictions came true.



This is a unfair to Norman Angell, who described early in the 20th Century in detail just how horrible a new European War, fought with the full power of industrialization, would be. His argument was that such a war would be a disaster for all sides and that peace and trade made far more sense. He was much more right than all those who went to war in August 1914 assuming they would be victorious by Christmas.



Dr. Pournelle,

Regarding Orwell being wrong... I don't buy the flat statement that he was completely wrong. Was he wrong, or did he instead shape the future as people made conscious decisions to guide society away from the future he saw? Or is he still right, just not yet?

Yes, my television isn't (yet) reporting back my conversations but my cable box is not only reporting what I watch, it contains industry mandated and government supported circuitry that dictates what content I can watch, what I can do with such content even after it makes it inside my house, I can go to jail for circumventing electronics in a device I purchased, and I can go to jail for even longer for telling others how to do the same.

So how wrong was Orwell again?

Sean Long



Victor Hanson has some stinging words in the Wall Street Journal:

"In a world of intellectual integrity, Robert Birgeneau would ask, 'Why are Asians excelling, and what can Berkeley do to encourage emulation of their success by other ethnic groups?' Denice Denton might wonder whether open hiring, monitored by affirmative action officers, applies to university staff or only those who are not associates of the president. President Hoffman would decry Ward Churchill's crass behavior and order a complete review of affirmative action and the politicized nature of hiring, retention, and tenure practices at Colorado. And Larry Summers? In the old world of the campus, he would defend free inquiry and expression, and remind faculty that all questions are up for discussion at Harvard."


I work at Caltech, which is somewhat buffered from the trends Hanson declaims. But the U.S. can't function solely on places like Caltech; it needs well-run liberal-arts university programs (and universities) as well. This worries me.

--Erich Schwarz


On another matter entirely:

Subject: Codecs

Jerry, I just read and enjoyed your latest column. On the issue of codec, please check out: http://www.k-litecodecpack.com/ . I recommend the full version. Their executable examines the codecs on your system, upgrades where necessary, adds new ones and just keeps your system up-to-date. It leaves any standard codecs untouched. During installation, select 'decode only' and make sure to add the Indeo drivers which are not checked by default. It just works.

 Fred Collington

Thanks.  I will have to try that.


On electronic publishing:

Dear Jerry:

As you know, I have a little experiment going called Francis Hamit Electronic Publishing. So called because it distributes my previously published magazine articles (mostly). To do this, I had to characterize them as e-books. So it ain't rocket science. Anyone can do it. Register your copyrights before you publish. Details at the Copyright Office web site,

Step number one is to have a clean copy of your text prepared in whatever format you are going to publish it in. If you convert it from another format (such as Wordperfect to Word) you will have to re-edit it to detect and correct unintended artifacts and odd paragraphing and word wraps. Then determine which format you want to publish it in (I use Adobe Reader and MS Reader). You will have to re-edit for the same problems. (Hint: you have to print it out at every stage to be sure and really examine it closely for errors.) If you want to control customer copying then I recommend you use a high security level and never use HTML, which is designed not just to be copied, but rewritten easily.If you value your work, you must retain control of it. Using HTML is giving it away.

Step number two is to buy a group of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) from R.R. Bowker, the ISBN agent for this nation. You will need a separate one for every version of every title. So, if you have an e-book in Palm, Adobe and MS Reader, that's three ISBNs, not one. Further information at the Bowker web site, including prices.

Step number three is to contact Lightning Source, Inc at their web site. They distribute e-books and e-documents to the online bookstore trade. The discount from the retail price is 55%, but you set the price. This will get you on Amazon, Powells, El;ibron, Fictionwise, Diesel E-books, and dozens of affiliated sites, and not just here, but in the UK, Australia, France, Canada, Germany and Japan. Amazon alone has 50 million potential customers.

Lightning Source also does Print on Demand books in various formats, so you can republish hard copies which are produced as customers buy them. Perfect for out-of-print books.

Part of this process is creating or hiring someone to create designs for book covers. These are done as JPEG images and can be done with MS Paint or a similar program Leigh does all of mine. These get uploaded on Lightning Source along with the text of your products.

Lightning Source pays ninety days after the sale, once a month. They send the money to your bank account. Once you have everything set up, you just collect the money. They have been waiving the set-up fee for e-books for some time now and that offer is good until the end of the year, at least. I also recommend that you read The Long Tail web site to better understand how online niche markets work.

Now of course, there are little quirks and a learning curve, but if you want to take your out of print work and get it out electronically you can do it. I've been promising a handbook on all this, but we are still figuring it out and are not quite ready for that yet. Anyone who wants to see what a finished e-document looks like can go online at Amazon or one of the other sites and buy one of mine.


Francis Hamit

And see also below


Subject: blogging done right

Dr. Pournelle,

You must be doing it wrong. This article says that you ought to be making a min of $2500/month off of your "blog".


Maybe you just need to hire some kid to run a second site, post to it once a week, and let the kid come up with the rest of the content and revenue for the remaining 6 days a week? Let him keep 50% of the proceeds and it might be worth it.

Sean Long

Great honking horny toads.  But no, it wouldn't be worth it. What I need is more subscribers. That's a hint, I say a hint...




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 28, 2005


A day devoured by locusts. See tomorrow's mail.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dr. Pournelle,

Before reading my letter below I think folks should read this article.

American Spectator September 2005 Pg. 32 Saddam Removal Why the U.S. had no alternative. By William Shawcross Introduction by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. http://ebird.afis.mil/ebfiles/e20050927393827.html 

Dr. Pournelle,

I have great admiration for your position regarding whether or not we should have involved the United States in the current war in Iraq but I must respectfully disagree. The article cited above spells out in a lot more detail the reasoning behind an offensive vice defensive Global War on Terrorism/Islamofacism. I find Gregory Cochran's Ad Hominem attacks less than helpful to the debate. It would be easy to dismiss opposing views as removed from reality.

Two issues are at hand. Should we have invaded Iraq? We did and in the next paragraph is a short description of one of the reasons why. It is not the only one. The other issue is whether or not we should stay and where it is in a larger strategy. That will take a little more to explain.

The one thing certain we learned about September 11th was the incapacity of our intelligence services. (We also know they cannot be grown back overnight.) The filter of our worldview was one of uncertainty of our opponents' abilities. We also knew it would be completely unacceptable for Islamofacists to gain control of WMDs, they certainly would use them. We knew then (and now have undeniable evidence) of links between Iraqi intelligence and AQ. We knew Saddam Hussein had WMDs at one time and were convinced he still had them. We were risk averse and our intelligence services were not functioning. The only certain way to ensure he did not have them was to invade.

Anyone who believed we could contain Saddam Hussein is not familiar with what was going on in the region. I was part of the Naval forces enforcing the sanctions against Iraq. Oil smuggling was rampant. Ships seized would be back in smuggling service within a couple of months. Allies were becoming less and less willing to assist in enforcement. The smuggling on land was far worse. The unspoken truth in CENTCOM was sanctions were expected to be lifted in fact if not in decree by the UN Security Council.

Again, we are there. Others have already made the argument on the effects of cutting and running. I'd like to examine the strategy in our Global War on Islamofacists.

Make no mistake we have enemies in the world, namely the Islamofacists. As the article I cite below indicates, Islamofacists had the drive and desire to destroy us long before we entered Iraq and will do so later. Islamofacists see our very existence with our news, culture, MTV, freedom of expression, economic vibrancy etc. as an affront to them and a form of aggression. They attacked the World Trade Center twice for a reason. It is the real symbol of our power and what separates us from the Islamofacists vision of how the world should be. To remove the source of irritation would require removing the United States and its culture from the world stage. (The French would be happy for about five minutes until they discovered Islamofacists turn their sights on them...)

It has been argued the United States could use the Fortress America strategy to defend ourselves from those who oppose us. I've conducted too many war games on defensive strategies and inevitably they always fail as the strategy surrenders the initiative to the enemy and forces become outflanked. We could attempt to defense every vulnerable asset of our country within; the private security sector would become an enormous employer. Even more of the TSA/Praetorian types could be placed on every corner and the entrance to every mall, etc... It is standard military theory to use defensive strategy only as long as required to enable forces to launch an offensive strategy later. The offensive strategy works because you can always overwhelm an enemy at a single point when he must defend a large area. We must defend a large area in a defensive strategy because we have little confidence in our intelligence capabilities.

Anyone who has visited the ports of industry in this country would see how futile and destructive to our economy it would be to attempt to search every cargo hold, container and barge that enters this country via ship or truck. If it were easy we would already search more than 5% of the cargo entering our country. The very symbol of our vibrancy is dependant upon that trade. Cut it off and we will have accomplished for the Islamofacists what they failed to fully accomplish on September 11th.

A defensive strategy is not likely to succeed. If it did, the United States would truly be in the hands of the Praetorian Guard and look more like the Islamofacists we are supposed to oppose. So what is the offensive strategy? You can completely destroy your enemy or defeat him.

For the Soviet Union we started with containment and discovered in the Carter years that the American Culture had weakened. A 50-year strategy was leading to a desire to muddle through and surrender. South and Central America was being lost to the communists and we had laws to prevent people from supporting those who opposed communism. To win, the West used containment combined with propaganda and ended it with offensive operations. Countervailing forces prevented major military operations to enable the communist to use glorious military victories to unite nationalism behind them. Meanwhile, propaganda, not only from the United States Government but private industry such as Coca-Cola and McD, converted and corrupted those it touched. The Nomenclatura started to lose their hold (on themselves and their countrymen) when everyone saw what could be had in the west. Then we went on the offensive in South and Central America as well as Afghanistan. People back a winner. The Soviet Union was losing; Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were winning. It all fell apart from there. We did not have to destroy them all. We converted them to capitalism.

For Islamofacists, we have the opportunity to prevent them from growing into a larger problem later. Hitler was a rabble-rouser in drunken beer halls in a backward, broken, and defeated country. People back a winner. He started to win, his crowds grew larger. Stalin was a pathetic ivory tower type born of Serfs. People backed a winner, his followers grew larger.

How do we eliminate the pool of people who can be drawn to such leaders? Genocide is not an effective practice. Eliminating UBL has proven ineffective. We needed to demonstrate armed conflict with the West was useless, but we also had to demonstrate there is an alternative to what the Islamofacists have to offer. We needed to change the shape of the strategic board and not just muddle through until a real challenge arose. WMDs make the WWII, wait, hold, attack response strategy ineffective.

Iraq for better or worse was the ground we chose to change the shape of the strategic board. I strongly suspect Dr. Rice (a student of Dr. Possony) is the true architect of this strategy. We prevented the Islamofacists from having a uniting victory in Afghanistan. We then went on the offensive in Iraq and other places. We flexed our muscle and changed the minds of people within Iraq and nearby. We are having a success. It is at time slow and incremental, but there is success inside and outside Iraq. Afghanistan has held elections. Saudi Arabia has a very active campaign to kill the AQ members in their country. Musharraf has stopped supporting the Taliban and is supporting our efforts in Afghanistan. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have held elections, though limited in enfranchising. Lebanon has had a popular uprising that has freed them of Syrian control and placed them on the road towards a popularly elected government. Egypt is moving in the same direction and it looks like Syria's Baath party will not stay in power beyond the end of this decade. People are backing winners, and while there are countervailing forces, UBL is not enjoying the status as the winner, nor is Zarkowi. Napoleon said, "Morale is to the physical as three is to one." The battle we are fighting at the strategic level is completely dependant on the morale level. This battle must be fought on both the physical plane as well as the morale/philosophical level. If we muddle through we will find a President Carter (John Kerry) who will one day tell us the philosophy of Islamofacists is morally equivalent to our own while hinting (academics already say it) capitalism is evil and corrupt. We need an offensive strategy and an Iraqi representative government is it. People back a winner with a winning idea.

We could leave the world to its own devices. We could have done the same in World War II. Why should we care if Europe and Asia were taken over by Fascism? We could have done the same in the face of growing Communism. Why should we have cared if Europe and Asia was taken over by Communism? Why did we get involved? Why shouldn't we have just kept making money and defended only ourselves? We certainly could have built a strong enough Navy in both conflicts to keep them out of the United States. I think the answer was we knew instinctively that if we waited too long we would soon be alone and they would be coming for us.

Could we have averted far more bloodshed if we had been on the offensive against Fascism and Communism early on? We certainly took our time to face up to Hitler, many Conservatives thought it was a mistake to get involved. It would appear the lesson learned regarding the Third Reich was used in deciding the strategy regarding the Soviet Union

We need an offensive strategy based on ideas. We cannot surrender the field and we cannot wait until the last hour.

Perhaps I am a naïve young Jacobite but I was there when we blockaded Iraq, I was there when we invaded, and I'm probably going to join good friends of mine on personal augmentation assignments to Iraq.

For reasons I hope you understand, I sign as

Serving Officer

P.S. This came out far longer than I initially desired, but I do not have the capacity to describe this strategy in a shorter form.

You argue well for the standard military view, and perhaps you are correct. I have reservations.

In my judgment you overestimate the power of the jihadists, who can't really mobilize enough military force to win the sea battle it would take for them to do us much harm; underestimate the capability of Europe once it realizes it is really threatened; and entirely neglect the effect of Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction which are destroying the entire Islamic structure. Islamic primitivism tends to work among the uneducated -- but also condemns its adherents to primitive weapons. Few Arabs could make the weapons they need to do us any real damage. They had to use our airplanes as cruise missiles because they were incapable of making their own -- indeed of piloting them without going to our schools. As their youth discover blue jeans, rock and roll, and computers they become less enamored with jihad; and those who remain in jihad are the ones who flunk out of the new technology.

Islamic regimes get power from money. If oil were $10 a barrel there would be enough to pay off the crooks who control the oil, but not much left over for jihadists. I really don't care how corrupt their regimes are so long as they do not threaten the United States.

I would rather put the money into the Navy for defense, and into energy production, than pour it into the desert sands along with the blood of our Marines and troopers.

In any event I think it is long past time for a real debate on strategy. The Congress did not do its job properly before we went in there. Perhaps it can't. Perhaps the United States is no longer capable of looking after its own interests.

Meanwhile I sure am glad we have the Navy and the Marines.

God bless you, sailor. And see below


About the whole Palestinian thing - I've quit caring

From Mr. Ashford's letter:

"Their [Israeli] policy towards the Palestinians has been that of apartheid."

I really stopped caring on 9/12/01 when I saw them cheering in the streets. The Palestinians declared themselves our enemy and cheer our misery. They've chosen their friends. Let them fix it.

Scott Kitterman


Dear Jerry,

I suppose that since you’ve posted my comments anonymously and I’ve not asked you to change that I don’t have the right to publicly protest Mr. Cochran’s remarks, but could I trouble you to convey to him my question as to whether it is insane to believe that….

It is wiser and in U.S. interests to treat countries with lots of nuclear weapons near a critical area of resources differently (maybe even more favorably) than we treat that country’s enemies…

We are part of the global economy, and that means what happens to the driving motor of that economy (right now, in this foreign energy-dependent reality) – oil – does matter to us, and

Sadaam was playing chicken with us about whether he in fact had WMDs in said critical area of resources, and it was worthwhile to establish that he was bluffing but we could do that only by crushing him

And as to his point about Sadaam not being Hitler – do we have to wait for enemies to get to Hitler size before we take them out? If preemption means anything it means making sure that nits never get to become lice.

Anyway, in my little alternative reality, nukes and oil matter, but I would appreciate it if he could provide me with a window on the sanity that thinks that they don’t…

And if you don’t want to play switch board operator simply ‘cause I got my toes stepped on, I understand and my apologies. I could be dead wrong in pretty much all I’ve argued but I think Herr Cochran would be better off demonstrating that rather than granting us a peak into his virtual libido….

Young Jacobin

I can give you this much answer: The US currently sends about $2000/year/Israeli citizen to Israel as straightforward aid. This keeps their socialist state going. It is Jacobinism pure and simple to imagine that they are better off with a socialist government. It is also hard to see why it is in the US national interest to send that much money abroad to a nation whose existence would not threatened without that subsidy.

What happens to oil does matter; but the argument that Saddam could not be allowed to remain in power is not the same as arguing that we have to go in there and set up a democracy preserving the integrity of a "nation" created not long ago as a consolation prize to the Hashemites for their loss of Mecca. For that matter, perhaps we ought to give Iraq to Jordan: there remains the "United Arab Kingdom" notion from the days when Hashemites ruled both Iraq and Jordan (there also lingers the ghost of the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria; perhaps we should help Egypt recover its lost Syrian provinces?). Why Iraq must be united and independent is one of those questions seldom answered or debated: and why the US must make that so is even less obvious. If we had to wring Saddam's neck, then we had to do that; but that neck is wrung, his children are dead, and he can safely be abandoned as can Mesopotamia. We leave, with the parting message that we will be back the day a regime there threatens our interests. Have a nice century. We'll take our expenses for liberating you in cheap oil.

Nukes and oil do matter; but you have not made much of a case for pouring blood and treasure into the sand.

If you argue that the Republic is dead, and we must now look to Empire and national interest, then I tell you that Incompetent Empire is not the way. If you ask me for an Imperial grand strategy I will be glad to give you one, involving client states, Sunni client armies, puppet governments, and all the rest; but the Jacobin notion that we must rule Iraq according to the US Constitution, persecute our soldiers for contravening the laws of decency while forcing them to fight a war with barbarians, and set up a democratic regime in a place that has never had one and has no notion of what such would be like: I fear you ask what is beyond the means of our soldiers and sailors. Canute the Great could keep the tide from his throne by a cofferdam of his carls, who would have done his bidding -- read Kipling's Song of the Red War Boat for details, or even just because it is worth reading -- but he was wise enough not to attempt it.

We will build a cofferdam of our sons to keep alive the notion that we can plant democracy in Mesopotamia. I hope that can be done; but I fear it is a cause lost from the beginning.

I know how to rule Mesopotamia in our interest. I know how imperialism works, and how to set up an empire that will last, perhaps not the thousand years of the Third Reich, but for all of this century. I know how to build a CoDominium. I do not know how to build universal democracy, nor how to keep Iraq intact when it never was so, and build democracy in a land that knows nothing of the institution. Nor do I see why it is necessary to our security to try.

If our security demands empire, then I am for empire. Ave. Ave Caesar Imperator! We can keep most of our domestic institutions including electing our Commander in Chief, with each new Imperator pardoning the outgoing one. Perhaps we can avoid proscriptions. We can build client states, and keep Foreign Legions in place throughout the world. That I know how to do. And if dominating Mesopotamia and rooting out our enemies wherever we can find them is the price of our continued existence as a kind of compromised republic, then so be it. But understand what it is you set out to do, and what the price is likely to be.

You have given up on the Republic; yet you continue to argue that we should act like a republic, not a competent empire. Why?


Subject: "US weapons, foreign flavor"


 Quote: "Our job is to get the best for the war fighter," said Kenneth Kreig, who was just named the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer. "Innovation is not always bounded by borders. We want the best capability at the most cost-effective price and from the best suppliers we can find." unquote

No, no, and no. Their job is *not* to get the most cost-effective anything. Their job is to look after National Security and Sovereignty, and their 'budget' is to be used to stimulate R&D and growth in the US domestic economy, in this case military contractors and all the "Tier XYZ" suppliers that feed them. Shopping on cost is directly contrary to that goal. I opposed the Barretta as the US service pistol, not because I have any love per se of .45 caliber versus 9mm, but because my tax money should not be used to inflate an Italian arms manufacturer. Ditto most of the Navy's turret guns, etc. etc... The reason the US isn't necessarily the leader in all realms of R&D is because government spending went global, not vice-versa. As is typical in most beaurocracies, they've lost sight of why they exist in the first place.


Mike Smith

The business of the law is to make business for the law. The business of bureaucracies is to make business for the bureaucracy. The purpose of government (other than self-government) is to hire and pay government workers, then to accomplish whatever it is those workers are assigned to do.

And see http://www.mentalsoup.com/mentalsoup/basic.htm


Empire Marches On

Like a landslide, Dr. Pournelle, empire starts slowly and picks up mass and momention as it goes:


Some quotes:

"President Bush yesterday sought to federalize hurricane-relief efforts, removing governors from the decision-making process. "It wouldn't be necessary to get a request from the governor or take other action," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday. "This would be," he added, "more of an automatic trigger." "Mr. McClellan was referring to a new, direct line of authority that would allow the president to place the Pentagon in charge of responding to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and outbreaks of disease."


"The ACLU cautioned against such a change of law. "The Posse Comitatus Act is sometimes criticized as some sort of obscure, centuries-old law," Mr. Edgar [Timothy Edgar, national security policy counsel for the ACLU] said. "But you know, most of our liberties are centuries old. So that would be like saying the Bill of Rights is obscure and old. "Our strict separation between military and civilian power is one of the things that separates us from Latin America, for example," he added. "Changing that would put us on a huge slippery slope."

Surprise, surprise... Something the ACLU has said with which I agree.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Am I crazy or is this a very bad thing?


"In ethnically diverse Los Angeles, many immigrants find that learning Korean, Spanish or Mandarin is more important than English."

John R. Strohm

An exercise for the reader...


Subject: slouching towards oligarchy


I always suspected Nixon's plan was to end the cold war by agreeing to make the U.S. 50% similar to the Soviets and the Soviets 50% like us.

The next obvious step would be to become half-Islamofascist and have them become half like us.

I never liked the first plan and I must put my foot down before Part 2 is fulfilled: it will lead, at best, to the U.S. being 25% free, 25% a stultifying and totally corrupt bureaucracy under oligarchy, and 50% insane.

Come to think of it, perhaps it's already come to pass.



Subject: Funny to hear it from John Podhoretz

First Bill Kristol bails on the Bush Administration and says the messed up the war in Iraq and now this guys says "power has corrupted the GOP beyond repair." Their strategy is to distance themselves from the Administration before November 2006 in hopes of holding onto the House & Senate. Blame George is the new Neocon strategy. Makes me think I might have had a few things wrong about President Bush based on his new enemies.



September 29, 2005 -- THERE'S good reason to believe yesterday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will simply crumble to dust over time. But will the Republican Party have the time to weather the political storm? Only a fool or a naif would dismiss the possibility that the whole DeLay indictment is an act of prosecutorial misconduct. The indictment itself is very thin, a three-page document that only mentions DeLay at the bottom of the second and the top of the third pages and is allusive to the point of unintelligibility.

DeLay's prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, has a long history of using his office in questionable ways against political rivals. DeLay played some major political hardball back in Texas a few years ago when he masterminded a successful effort to redraw the state's congressional districts — behavior about which Texas Democrats remain plum loco — and Earle has been on his tail ever since.

Earle was humiliated in 1994 when he sought to drop a case he had brought against Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on the eve of trial just so he could switch judges and give it a second shot — only to see the judge swear in a jury to assure that Hutchison receive a full acquittal.

Some liberals defend Earle on the strange grounds that he isn't guilty of using his office to play politics because he's also indicted fellow Democrats. But in the highest-profile case he had before Hutchison, Earle was also humiliated when an absurd bribery charge he had brought against Democratic state Attorney General Jim Mattox led to a quick jury verdict of "not guilty." He also indicted himself once — on some campaign-finance charge — so there's some reason to believe he might be a bit cracked.

What all this means is that DeLay may well come through this as Hutchison did — not only uninjured but actually strengthened because voters in his district might see Earle's action as a witch hunt.

But that won't prevent the mainstream media and partisan Democrats from teaming up to create a potent anti-Republican storyline that has a very real chance of connecting with voters in the year leading up to the 2006 midterm elections.

The anti-Republican case boils down to this: Power corrupts, and now it's clear to see that power has corrupted the GOP beyond repair. <snip>

First they get Bush into a war he can't win with their strategy. Now they bail. What is it that deserts what it thinks is a sinking ship? Ah, yes...


A frequent discussion point at Chaos Manor, Dr. Pournelle, seems to revolve around various concepts of "What's wrong with the United States?"

I received a communication from a law firm which illustrates at least some of the problems:

"For those who can't wait, here is the typescript version of the proposed regulation interpreting the deferred compensation rules in section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. (Apologies to those of you who might be receiving this from multiple sources.) The typescript version is 234 pages long. The regulation is scheduled to be published in tomorrow's Federal Register; we will circulate the Federal Register version when it becomes available.

"The proposed regulation extends the deadline for amending plans to comply with section 409A until December 31, 2006. Some, but not all, of the Notice 2005-1 transition provisions that were in effect during 2005 are extended into 2006. For example, employees will be permitted to make new distribution elections until December 31, 2006, except with respect to payments due in 2006. The rule permitting SERP distribution elections to be coordinated with qualified plan distribution elections also is extended until the end of 2006. In contrast, however, the "opt-out" rule permitting employees to cancel deferral elections and receive accelerated distributions expires at the end of 2005, and no additional relief is provided for elections to defer compensation earned in 2006."

Two hundred and thirty-four pages! And from the note, all it appears to do is extend some deadlines and not extend others.

Too many lawyers....electing, lobbying, and otherwise assisting other lawyers to become tenured masters in governing bodies up to and including Congress. That's one thing that's wrong with the country! I'm reminded of the tiny people who tied down the giant with a thousand threads in one of the Gulliver books. Yet, virtually everyone has a friend or a relative who is a lawyer and/or has had a lawyer come to their aid in time of need.


Charles Brumbelow

We sow the wind


And now for something entirely different:

Harlan Ellison convention story?


Begin quote:

So Tycho and I are up in front of the audience with Harlen, and Hank (the con organizer) presents us with some jester hats ("Fool's caps"). Tycho and I put ours on because we are polite, but Harlen - who is apparently too cool for school - refuses to wear his. I turn to him and say, "Don't you want your hat?" and he tells me to fuck off. This caught me off guard, I mean I have no clue who this fucking coot is. Then he points to a pad of paper he has and asks if I'm aware that his paper is also called foolscap. Now, I've never heard that term before, I pretty much just call it paper so I shake my head "no." This really isn't a fair question. I mean, it would be like me asking him about Photoshop or if he can remember what he had for lunch. The guy was essentially setting me up to look stupid in front of all these people. So then he asks me if I even attended college and I say "No, I did not." Then, he says "did you at least finish high school?"

I said that I had, but you couldn't really hear me because the audience is laughing at me along with Harlen. So once they stop, I turn to him and I say, "While I've got you here I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Star Wars stuff you wrote."

I didn't know him very well but I felt like mistaking him for someone who writes Star Wars books was the sort of insult that would cut right to his brittle old bones. The audience seemed to agree because I could hear a lot of ooooooooh's and oh no's over the laughing. Some people in the front even suggested a fist fight was now in order. I look over at Harlen and he's staring at me like he wants to choke me. He then says "so that's how it's going to be." Now keep in mind that he's the one that started hostilities when he told me to fuck off. I'm just the one that finished it. The guy tells some pretty funny stories about how witty he is and how he's always saying clever things at exactly the right moment. When confronted with someone who was unwilling to take any crap from him he had no clever retort. The great writer just glared at me and then walked off stage. I don't doubt that given enough time he could craft a perfectly worded and extremely vicious response but up there on stage in front of all his fans the man didn't have shit.

I don't blame Harlen for not knowing who I am. I honestly don't expect him to. I don't expect anyone that old to know who I am. I did expect him to be polite and at least respect the fact that I was a fellow guest of honor. That was apparently too much to ask for from the great Harlen Elison.

End quote


The web site continues with other silly stories about Harlan Ellison, including the particularly silly one about his saying to a tall model "What would you say to a little --?" I have even heard that one told with my wife as the "tall model". Of course it is not true nor ever could be. Whatever Harlan's defects, unrequited satyriasis would not be one of them; he has never lacked for desirable feminine company. And I have never heard him be gratuitously insulting to anyone. In retaliation, yes; but never gratuitously.

I don't usually defend Harlan since he is capable of defending himself, but I find this story appalling. Invited to be a Guest of Honor, then to share that with others, Harlan is my age; he has his own notions of what being Guest of Honor should mean, as do I, and being invited to wear a funny hat is not one of them.

But having just spoken with Harlan, I find there was no hat to begin with: there were hats for the two artists, but the Chairman of the Convention did not have one made for Harlan. He was given some paper. Foolscap. Alas, Gabe didn't know what foolscap was. You can find out the rest of the actual story on Harlan's web site but it's hardly worth it.

Harlan did of course write the screen play for a Star Trek episode, "The City at the Edge of Forever," which is highly regarded. He does vivid short stories. He does not do novels, and does not do Star Wars stories or books, and frankly I would expect anyone being a co-GOH would take the trouble to find out at least that much.

I had no idea who Gabe and Tycho were; looking them up by googling Foolscap I find it is Gabe Krahulik and Tycho Holkins, aged 22 or 23 years old, and very hip. They were artist guest of honor or some such. Harlan is my age.

If one invites Harlan to be GOH, one invites him warts and all; one does not invite him to suffer fools gladly or indeed at all. It's just not part of the package. What you do expect is one of the more prominent writers of our field, a man who can be charming and gracious, who will work hard, but who expects to be treated with some respect.

I note that the convention had a special auction for the victims of Katrina. I am certain that Harlan insisted on that, and that he worked tirelessly to make that auction a success. He has raised as much money for such events as anyone I know, including the SFWA Medical Emergency Fund of which I am a trustee -- and Harlan is not.

 I don't insist that my friends like each other, which is probably fortunate since Harlan has been my good friend for 40 years and more, and we both manage to make enemies as well as friends. But I'd sure rather spend time with him than with a lot of people I know.


This came up in another discussion group:==


The Hallmark of the Underclass

By Charles Murray Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Watching the courage of ordinary low-income people as they deal with the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, it is hard to decide which politicians are more contemptible--Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or Republicans who are rediscovering poverty and claiming that the government can fix it. Both sides are unwilling to face reality: We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem."



This part was particularly disturbing:

"The underclass has been growing. The crime rate has been dropping for 13 years. But the proportion of young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes, has not.

A rough operational measure of criminality is the percentage of the population under correctional supervision. This is less sensitive to changes in correctional fashion than imprisonment rates, since people convicted of a crime get some sort of correctional supervision regardless of the political climate. When Ronald Reagan took office, 0.9% of the population was under correctional supervision. That figure has continued to rise. When crime began to fall in 1992, it stood at 1.9%. In 2003 it was 2.4%. Crime has dropped, but criminality has continued to rise.

This doesn't matter to the middle and upper classes, because we figured out how to deal with it. Partly we created enclaves where criminals have a harder time getting at us, and instead must be content with preying on their own neighbors. But mainly we locked 'em up, a radical change from the 1960s and 1970s. Consider this statistic: The ratio of prisoners to crimes that prevailed when Ronald Reagan took office, applied to the number of crimes reported in 2003, corresponds to a prison population of 490,000. The actual prison population in 2003 was 2,086,000, a difference of 1.6 million. If you doubt that criminality has increased, imagine the crime rate tomorrow if today we released 1.6 million people from our jails and prisons."

Liberal conservatism is at an all time high, with renewed calls for welfare and busing - everything that didn't work the first time - but no one has any new ideas so just keep repeating the same ineffectual at best, harmful at worst, policies just so you can say you're tying to do something insead of nothing. Meanwhile keep importing an ever larger, and therefore ever less manageable, underclass. We don't have any ideas, but we'll come up with some eventually, until then let's compound the problem as much as possible.


And see below




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  September 30, 2005

Subject: More Iraq Nonsense

Dear Dr. Jerry,

Your correspondent "A Serving Officer" on Thursday, 09/29 wrote (I have added some emphasis to particularly interesting assertions):

For Islamofacists, we have the opportunity to prevent them from growing into a larger problem later. Hitler was a rabble-rouser in drunken beer halls in a backward, broken, and defeated country. People back a winner. He started to win, his crowds grew larger. Stalin was a pathetic ivory tower type born of Serfs. People backed a winner, his followers grew larger.

The idea that Hitler was a rabble rouser in beer halls (I've never seen a beer hall drunk, by the way. Sounds like a Monty Python idea!) is correct, but the point is not that he roused rabble, but that he was perhaps the best rouser of rabble, and the rabble he roused took control of a country that was NOT by any means a "backward, broken" country. The statement that the Germany of 1919 was backward is simply laughable to anyone who knows even a little history. I know more than a little (Germany was my special field of study at university). Suffice to say a look at the number of German Nobel laureates in the hard sciences won in the first third of the twentieth century (for work largely done in the fist two decades of the century) will put the lie to any concept of German backwardness. I don't know where that statement came from, other than out of a desire to hammer home a point that is a bit ludicrous. Are we truly to compare the "Furor Teutonicus" to the Arab tactic of melting away into the sands when confronted with superior strength? Really? Saddam was not a Hitler (thank God) and Iraq is not Germany (there are so few points of congruency between the two it's not even worth going into. Check any almanac for economic differences, population, history...oh, it's all there, and silly to even have to point in that direction for an intelligent readership).

Stalin: To niggle a point, while true enough that his parents were both born serfs, at the time of his birth they were free. His father was a failed small businessman (a cobbler). More to the point, Stalin was not a "pathetic ivory tower type". Much like the young Saddam, the young Stalin was a thug, funding the Bolshevik branch of the socialist party by robbing banks in a "wild west" style that the true ivory tower types in the party condemned. He came to power, much as Hitler and Saddam did, through a combination of bully boy tactics, back room political deals and sheer terror. The idea that either was a "winner" that people followed out of personal interest was true once they had power (the Bandwagon Effect), but does not explain how they GOT power

But again, all of that is beside the point. Russia in the mid 1920s when Stalin began his drive for ultimate power in the Soviet state and Communist party was a giant in terms of potential, and was finally close to the take off point economically. Under the Tsars Russia was on the verge of becoming a superpower when World War One upset the applecart with a vengeance. The revolutions and civil wars set them back a decade or two, but in the 1930s even a stupid and inefficient command economy turned Russia into a military powerhouse for a few decades. Russians have never been slouches at hard science, either.

When I read of Iraqi scientists winning Nobel's, Iraqi industry developing weapons as advanced as the V-2 rocket was in 1942, and threatening to overrun all of Europe , then I will get worried about IslamoFascists (we need a better term. Calling these latter day Hashishim "Fascists" of any stripe is an insult that cuts both ways: They're dumber than Fascists, and less of a threat to the West than any even a Castor Oil Fascist was, let alone Hitler's jackbooted thugs.).

For a few years Hitler controlled every province of the old Roman Empire (with the sole exception of Egypt. where he only got a good piece of it for a while) either as client states or by direct occupation (including Mesopotamia for a short while) AND the rest of Europe AND a good chunk of Central Asia. Stalin had about half of Asia, held China under his thumb for a few years, AND had half of Europe AND strongly "affiliated" Communist parties in half of the rest of Europe to help him out. Where do I begin in pointing out the differences between threats like that, and Saddam? Saddam had some desert, 20 million half-civilized people, and enough oil to be able to pull the short hairs of the Stupid West that cannot get off the Oil Teat? Oh, and if he had become some latter day secular sultan of all the Islamic lands, he would have had even more sand, a few hundred million half civilized and barely literate people and twice as much oil with which to finally convince the Stupid West to get off their asses and do something about solving the oil dependency problem.

The Europeans have the ability to defend themselves from any Hashishim free lancers or Hashishim controlled state.. The greatest danger from that direction is a Neo-Fascist or Red Fascist regime rising in Europe in some fashion and truly going on a crusade, for want of a better term. Europeans are hardly the sort of people to push around. They invented the two most lethal modern ideologies, and wielded them with a vengeance in various forms for much of the last century. Some of them anyway.

They were pretty dangerous before that too.

I would hate to see a Sweden, for example, that returned to it's berserker roots, or even it's early modern attitudes: "The king is dead. Take no prisoners!"

Spare me the "Fortress America" argument. It's a straw man. No, we do not seek to build a wall and hide behind it in fear. We'll walk softly with a big honking stick, and any Hashishim or Hashishim harboring "state", failed or otherwise, that pokes a finger at us will get a visit by some very capable young men with very effective means of persuasion. When they finish, they will always leave a note, perhaps attached to the Ace of Spades, basically saying "If this message was not understood, we'll be glad to send it again!"

It's pretty well summed up in another example from history: "Don't tread On Me!" I really wish we would adopt that as a battle flag. Really.

By The Way, is not "Rome" on HBO just the Best Television Ever?

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

si vis pacem para bellum

And See below


Subject: Hallmark of the Underclass

Further to Jason’s comments on “The Hallmark of the Underclass.” As usual, Dr. Murray gets it right and so will probably receive plenty of flack from the liberal elite. He suggests that a good part of the problem is due to lack of a father in the family and with illegitimacy rising from 4% on the early 1950s to 35% in 2003 (all births) and 68% for blacks, he makes a good point.

While he notes that all the government programs have failed and repeated failures are probably what we will get, he doesn’t suggest any remedies. Apart from failed families I suggest two other reasons. The school curriculum is not suited to the potential underclass. Those things, that might have been useful to them like shop class, have been eliminated. What they have to suffer through is insufferably boring to those adolescent males. Then after they leave school, they find the well paid, but lesser jobs they might get, in manufacturing have been off-shored. Thanks to the stupid war on drugs, it looks to them that drugs represent easy money.

I don’t remember who wrote the SF story about how having a job would be a privilege for the few, but I don’t see much chance of the basic reasons for the underclass being corrected anytime soon. Maybe the time when the workers will have to support a permanent non working class is already with us. It would be useful for the government to keep that number from growing so fast and remember that what they have already tried doesn’t work.

Adrian Ashfield


And now for something completely different:

Subject: a gadget that will interest you

Jerry, here's a welcome change from all the political debate and general bad news: an American firm, Linear Logic, has come up with a really useful gadget for your car, at a decently affordable price.

It's called the scan gauge, and it is really 3 devices in one. First, it is a code scanner; if your 'check engine' light is on, this device will retrieve the code or codes, and - at your option - turn off the check engine light. It will also retrieve a whole set of data - basically, a 'core dump' from the car computer, identifying exactly what operating conditions were present within the engine at the time the code was set. Obviously, this is a very useful tool for those of us who still do our own auto repair.

Secondly, it is a wide set of gauges. You can display any four values simultaneously from a total of these 12 parameters:

* Fuel Economy
* Fuel Rate
* Battery Voltage
* Coolant Temperature
* Intake Air Temperature
* Engine Speed (RPM)
* Vehicle speed (MPH)
* Manifold Pressure (not available on some vehicles)
* Engine Load
* Throttle Position
* Ignition Timing
* Open/Closed Loop

Some of them, such as vehicle speed, are already displayed on most dashboards. But others, such as Intake Air Temperature or Manifold Pressure, are a bit more esoteric.

The third function of the device is that it serves as a very useful Trip computer, saving such data as Maximum speed, Average speed, Driving time and distance, and others. If you tell it how big your gas tank is and when your tank is full, it will then tell you fuel remaining and distance till empty, based on your current mpg rate.

What I found particularly interesting is that the device serves as a very sophisticated miles per gallon meter. It accumulates mpg data since it was last reset, which is referred to as 'trip' data; this can be very useful for testing such parameters as average fuel economy at different vehicle speeds, or whether removing the tailgate from your pickup truck improves your fuel economy (apparently, it does not.) Trip data is also accumulated in a 'today' buffer, which contains the average of all the days trips; and the 'today' buffer in turn is rolled over into one spare buffer, called the 'yesterday' buffer. This allows you to manually record all of yesterdays results, should you so choose.

Some parameters, such as miles per hour, are dependent on things the scan gauge cannot know about, such as tire size; so there is a mechanism to fine tune the display, in order to obtain extremely accurate results. Similarly, you can individually set display units; you can, for example, display miles per gallon, kilometers per litre, or litres per 100 kilometers. The display is illuminated, and can be set to a total of 4 different levels; LCD contrast can also be adjusted. Installation is very simple; you simply plug one cable into an existing socket under your dash, and find some place to stick the gauge. It is powered from your vehicle through the cable, so no batteries are necessary.

There are some caveats. First, the device requires that your vehicle be equipped with an On Board Diagnostics II socket; all 1996 and newer vehicles have this, and many 1995 vehicles as well. There are also a few problems with isolated 2005 vehicles due to changing standards, so if you have a 2005 and are thinking of purchasing a scangauge, you'll want to check the website http://www.scangauge.com/ for compatibility with your vehicle. Finally, you should know that the scangauge can only report parameters that are being checked by your vehicles computer. For example, the scan gauge will report fuel pressure, if your vehicle has a fuel pressure sensor, and it's monitored by your car computer; but hardly any north american cars do that.

The device sells for $129.95, which I felt was a decent price, given everything that it does. I've ordered one; the company includes free shipping to any point in the United States or Canada. They expect it to arrive within 1 to 3 weeks.

What I expect to be most useful, is the ability to check the claims being made for various strategies to improve fuel economy. For example, one of the claims circulating the net right now is that a small amount of Acetone - between 1 and 4 ounces per ten gallons of fuel - added to the gas tank will boost mileage by up to 35%. Of those who have tried it, some have reported good results, while others have reported a loss of mileage. Enthusiasts point at the oil industry, accusing them of flooding the net with false negative data; in response, the validity of the testing methodology is questioned. But a device like the scangauge can test this, and other, mile per gallon claims very effectively.

Another intriguing claim is that, by clamping a (usually very overpriced) magnet to the fuel line, mileage is dramatically increased. In fact, there have been scattered independent tests of these devices over the years; and many tests do seem to confirm a small improvement in mileage. I'm not aware of any known mechanism by which inducing a magnetic field and forcing gasoline to flow through it, will increase its available energy content; but there are enough scattered small and vague positives, that it might make for a decent field of research. There are other claims as well; and the scan gauge should provide a quick, error free mechanism for claim evaluation.

I'm looking forward to playing with it.

Regards, Charles Worton

I am ordering one immediately... thanks.




This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 1, 2005

Subject: Re: people I consider silly

" Don't bother to print this.

I don't think that I can change their minds - should I bother to argue with them? People who think that Saddam was on the verge of snowballing into some kind of great power leader, when in fact he was an old man in a small, broke, incompetent country? When he didn't even control all of his own country? When the Nasserite-Baathist kind of ideology he represented had been dead in the water for thirty years? When all the Arabs in the world, put together, are weaker than Belgium? People who don't realize that the 'islamofascists' who are willing to _do_ anything to the US number in the hundreds to low thousands worldwide, and don't a have a pot to piss in? People who think of a few ragheads as an existential threat to the United States? People who just can't bring themselves to realize that the _vast_ majority of the people blowing themselves up in Iraq were never much interested in that kind of thing before we invaded - that we _created_ them? People who actually believe in Arab democracy? What do you do with such people?

It seems to me that the vast majority of the people getting excited about this stuff don't know much about the strategic equation, or history, or damn near anything else. . They don't keep a running estimate of national power potentials in their head, a la Strausz-Hupe. But I do. Typically they don't know how utterly backward and gormless these people in the Middle East are - look, often they don't know simple facts about the population size, even the location of half of the countries in the Middle East. The same is true of the policymakers. When Condi Rice talked about how the Taleban was backed by Iran - which is the opposite of the truth - I didn't think it was of part of some Machiavellian scheme. I figure that she just didn't know. Now she's supposed to be this high-faluting strategic advisor, and I'm not even fucking interested in the Middle East - but what I read, I remember. I knew that Iran came within an inch of invading Afghanistan in 98, because of Taleban attacks on the Shi'ite Hazara minority. But then I read the paper. When Wolfowitz talked about the lack of troublesome holy cities in Iraq, I thought to myself " Karbala? " - because I've read a book of or two on Islamic history. Not that I'm very interested in it, but I seem to know more relevant stuff than anyone in the Administration, more than any pundit. Do we pith these guys like frogs when they get these jobs?

I casually mention that China acquires more industrial and scientific muscle in a single month than Iraq will _ever_ have, but of course I'm wrong: it's a single week, not a single month. But hardly anyone reacting - I hate to call what they do thinking - seems to be able to remember that some countries are big and some are small, some have industrial strengtth and some do not, some are looking for trouble and some are not. Size matters. As for which Arab or Islamic governments were slavering for a final conflict with the US - which would of course leave them radioactive glass - I can tell you the exact number: zero. Paul Gross thinks we need to invade and control every Arab country - what does one say to that? Other than make a reservation in a rubber room?

" Young Jacobin" doesn't seem to realize that the last time any of the Arab countriess could fight Israel was when they had full Soviet backing: arms support and more. The Soviet Union is gone: they can't field a significant army by themselves, and they haven't even tried for going on twenty years. Israel faces nothing but irritating guerrilla activity: no existential threat, not even the ghost of such a threat. And everyone in Israel knows this. Syria is no threat, Egypt no threat, Jordan no threat, and of course Iraq was no threat to Israel well before we invaded. . I'm suppose to take seriously the notion that Israel might suddenly push the Armageddon button when literally nothing is happening, in a strategic sense? Look, I keep in my head a rough estimate of the Israeli armed forces - tanks, jets, nuclear stockpile and delivery vehicles - and I really don't think they have to worry. Not one fucking bit. Somehow, I don't think that your correspondents know the basics. I doubt if most of them know the history: I'll bet a majority remember the Arabs running a sneak attack on Israel in '67. They don't know power, they don't know history, they don't know technology, they don't know modern guerrilla war, they've never heard of nationalism - even though nationalism is the root of > 50% of the shit that came down in the 20th Century. I could swear that they're all from Mars. Or maybe some less warlike planet.

Gregory Cochran

Subject: progress !


 Updated: 2:47 p.m. ET Sept. 29, 2005

WASHINGTON - The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.

Gregory Cochran


Subject: From Practical Machinist...


"I just returned from a trip to China and here are a few of my observations........

"First off, I think we are all in big trouble and bigger than we can imagine. The scale and speed of things is amazing. For example the PuDong area of Shanghai.... 15 years ago it was a rice patty... today there are 300 skyscrapers there including the worlds 4th tallest building and a radio tower that dwarfs that.... imagine looking at Manhattan.... and then realize it is all new. There are construction sites everywhere.... they do work with both hand and machine.... you'll see rope and tackle derricks right next to cranes..... they work construction 3 shifts a day... this way you can build a 50 story building in a year and half or so.

"These folks work.... I think that is all they do. I saw very few things to do with spare time..... only one golf course..... no ball field (unlike Japan where they are everywhere).... I don't think these folks play much.

"I told my friends at lunch today "I feel like I have been to the future and back, and I didn't like what I saw"

"We won't be able to run our country on FEMA debit cards, housing bubbles, frivolous lawsuits and deficits forever. We also can't stay successful selling pizzas and hamburgers to each other."

Quotes taken from several postings on the thread, Dr. Pournelle.

Charles Brumbelow


Joanne Dow responds to my mailing:

(I recently sent a mailing to subscribers; the quote she gives here is from that.)

From: "Jerry Pournelle" <jerryp@jerrypournelle.com>

> We are all well, here, and Niven's house, which was very close to the  fires, sustained no damage. California's part volunteer part  professional emergency services teams worked splendidly, and my oldest  son Alex is part of the communications design and implementation  effort that makes such things possible. The fires here convince me  that my notion of reviving the old largely volunteer Civil Defense  organizations is sound.

I believe you are perfectly correct in that regard. Some well trained volunteers reimbursed for their training and emergency related expenses works quite well. It works even if their training is rewarded solely by fun, as evidenced by the ham radio operators who provided significant help during Katrina and Rita.

The local volunteers also know the lay of the land. That is why we do not fly in Federal rescue people from Nebraska or Florida when we have a person stranded up in the mountains here. We send in experienced local people who know the lay of the land and our local realities and dangers.

The only other "solution" is a despicably huge expansion of FEMA to station people in every city and locality to sit on their butts until a disaster comes. Then they can say they responded instantly.

If they were to respond properly and instantly in New Orleans there would have had huge Federal warehouses containing God knows what and a cadre larger than the NOPD periodically training for local disasters and then getting rotated out to their next quasi-military assignment. FEMA would grow bigger than our formal military and not enjoy the old military traditions that still keep the US military the fine force it can be and mostly is. (Those who violate this trust are dealt with formally and sincerely, too.)

Local Civil Defense organizations, perhaps with a different name since it is a Civil Response Corps. "Defense" begs the question of "response to what?" We'd inevitably turn them into Terror Responder defense rather than "any kind of disaster" responders. That would not be good. Their training should be tailored to maintaining as much critical infrastructure (food, water, public safety) as possible for a two week period. Any disaster that did not experience a Federal response for aid, not rebuilding, in two weeks probably means recovery is academic, anyway.

That brings me to Joanne's nasty barb of the day. "What in <censored> prompts the people of New Orleans and Louisiana to think that the people of the United States of America owe as much as $1000 per capita, not per tax payer but per capita, to REBUILD New Orleans?" Where was this Federal rebuilding for Galveston in 1901? Where was it when the San Adreas fault leveled San Francisco? Where was it when Chicago had its many flooding and fire disasters? And after recovering, on local money and loans received, how long was it after how many of these disasters that the cities of San Francisco and Chicago hosted massive and well regarded Worlds Fairs? And here the bozo in the White House and Congress are talking about Federal level rebuilding? Not on MY dollars I should hope. Loans yes. Grants, no <censored> way, gang. What hurts about it even more is feeding that money to one of THE most corrupt cities in the third most corrupt state in the union.

(And if you've watched http://mgno.com/ for the last few weeks you'll notice that DirectNIC's CEO, Sigmund, is making observations that come quite close to "what happens if they throw the doors open to NOLA and nobody comes back?" (DirectNIC is at the very least setting up a second facility in some OTHER part of the country. They, too, have had it with NOLA's extreme vulnerability.) If you have not visited that site I cannot highly enough recommend the blog. These fellows kept DirectNIC, a large hosting operation, running 24/7 all the way through the Katrina hurricane. They did it with properly outfitted emergency power. They did what NOLA should have done with their police communications and did not. If NOLA is to be rebuilt it should become a Federal Park Service preserve.


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


Subject: NYT on WFB's '65 mayoral campaign.


- Roland Dobbins

They left out one of the best lines. "Mr. Buckley, if you are elected Mayor, what is the first thing you will do?"  "Demand a recount."










CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, October 3

I took the day off.






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