Mail 737 Thursday, August 16, 2012
Only in real life:
Subj: "Am I my brother’s keeper?"
The article is by Dinesh D’Souza, and it is startling. Assuming that D’Souza is not simply an outright liar, the story is damning. It is a story of a personal relationship between D’Souza and George Obama, youngest brother of the President of the United States. Excerpts:
Barack Obama Jr. first met [his brother] George in 1987, when George was five years old. He met George again in 2006 when he visited Kenya as a U.S. Senator from Illinois; George was then in his early twenties. Had Obama helped George along the way, perhaps this young man would not have ended up dirt-poor and living such a degraded life.
So what’s the real story here? Where’s George Obama’s “fair share”? George’s tragic situation exposes President Obama as a hypocrite. Here is a man who demands that others pay higher taxes to help the poor—even poor people who are not related to them—while Obama himself refuses to help a close relative like George.
I will confess to being shocked by this story. I knew that President Obama had siblings in Africa, and that they did not live large. I did not know the whole story.
Now who would have thought?
Oh yeah, you and Niven.
We certainly live in interesting times.
And of course in China you can order spare parts to be collected from executed felons.
Subj: New free online courses from edX (MIT and Harvard)
Forwarded from edX, which is a joint effort of MIT and Harvard in online education.
We are pleased to announce that we have recently added six new free courses to the edX curriculum:
* Introduction to Computer Science I
* Introduction to Computer Science and Programming
* Introduction to Solid State Chemistry
* Circuits and Electronics
* Artificial Intelligence
* Software as a Service
* Quantitative Methods in Clinical and Public Health Research
To read full descriptions of these exciting new courses, and to register for any of these courses, please visit the new edX website at https://www.edx.org/
You can also find answers for many questions in our FAQ section, https://www.edx.org/faq
Thank you for your interest and support we look forward to building the future of online learning with your help!
Please forward this to your friends and colleagues who you think may be interested in edX.
The edX Team
A Swedish company, Day4, successfully played on people’s paranoia about/fascination with Apple’s development culture.
This story originated in the LA Times, but here’s a free source for it –
Day4 created a rendering of a screw with a weird, asymmetrical head. The screw was supposedly designed to keep Apple users from opening their products. With Apple’s track record of keeping controlled environments, this wasn’t too hard to believe.
Day4 had a plausible story, and now it just needed a way to get it out.
The company attached the photo of the screw rendering to a fake email that read as though it was from a source within Apple. Day4 then uploaded the picture to Imgur, and shared it as a link on Reddit in a post titled "A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws."
I have more information on jacketed hollow point rounds than you probably want to know, but it does no harm to collect it here.
Jacketed Hollow Points
Dear Doctor Pournelle:
Regarding expanding bullets, jacketed hollow points in particular, here in Ohio in a justified self-defense shooting, neither my assailant nor his mutant relatives can collect a penny in damages from me. But let me shoot that same assailant with a full metal jacketed bullet, get a through and through and kill somebody’s toddler on the other side of him, and I might as well use the next round on myself. I almost certainly won’t go to jail, but financially, I can stick a fork in myself. I’m done. Since I got my Ohio Concealed Handgun License, I have carried nothing but jacketed hollowpoints in my semi-automatic handguns, and lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoints in my revolvers. I would never carry anything else.
And regarding shotgun loads, are you sure that you didn’t mean "#4 BUCKSHOT" instead of "#4 birdshot"? The former is quite popular for self-defense. The latter is of dubious effectiveness at best, even at very close ranges… unless you’re trying to protect Tippi Hedrin…
= = = =
Just a quick line regarding your commentary Wednesday in response to your correspondent, jomath, concerning the Fish & Wildlife purchasing of several thousand rounds of pistol ammunition story. Most pistol ammunition currently carried by Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) contains jacketed hollowpoint/hollow cavity type (JHP) bullets. The reasons they use this ammunition in preference to Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullets or all-lead bullets such as the wadcutters you mentioned in your response, is that JHP ammunition can be relied upon more to consistently expand within the target, than FMJ or any of the all-lead or slightly-exposed-lead types of bullets. Further, many types of modern, polygonally-rifled pistols are intolerant of all-lead bullets, like those wadcutters.
Expanded bullets, all else remaining equal, will penetrate less than an unexpanded FMJ bullet, while still penetrating sufficiently to stop an assailant. (12 inches, per FBI doctrine in the 1980s. See, for example, this 1989 short paper from Special Agent Urey Patrick on Handgun Wounding: http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf) A brief survey of terminal ballistics data at websites such as brassfetcher.com or theboxotruth.com will buttress this point. Reducing overpenetration should reduce the frequency of bullets exiting the intended target, which in turn would reduce the frequency of bystanders being hit by exiting bullets, as well as lowering the velocity of those exited bullets. The net effect is that JHP bullets are safer for bystanders than FMJ. .
Moreover, as many of the pages at theboxotruth demonstrate, any defensive loading sufficient to penetrate enough to increase one’s chances of stopping an assailant, will also go through multiple house walls. If it won’t go through multiple walls, as birdshot won’t in most cases, it can’t be relied upon to stop the bad guy. (With the possible exception of certain frangible bullets, such as the various Glaser Safety Slugs. Your readers can google through the swamps of debate surrounding those bullets.) Stopping the bad guy from using lethal force against us is why the grave step of using deadly force is taken in the first place. It doesn’t do much good to mortally wound the assailant, yet not stop him in his assault. See, for example, analysis of the 1986 FBI Florida shootout with bank robbers Matix and Platt, which resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents and five wounded, after both robbers were initially wounded. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1986_FBI_Miami_shootout
I agree with your points that NOAA’s LEO tasks seem to be something the U.S. Marshalls could do. That said, once they have the task, I personally think NOAA’s buying 24,000 .40 S&W rounds for 63 officers is a non-issue. That only comes out to 400 rounds, or 8 50-round boxes, for each officer. I do not know Federal LEO firearm training standards, but 400 rounds per officer for training and carrying in their duty weapon, does not seem excessive to me, especially if this is meant to supply the officer for several years. Even if doubled, this would still be less than 1,000 rounds per officer.
Any plans on another book in the Burning City universe?
Thank you. I suspect that settles the matter, except that I do not believe in needless multiplication of armed federal officers. Game officers may be a sufficiently specialized force to be an exception, but I keep remembering that if BATF had been required to cooperate with the county sheriff there would have been no Waco massacre.
As to The Burning City series – Niven and I tend to think of it as The Golden Road stories – we have one in mind but it is not our next work. It takes Sandry and Burning Tower into Jaguar’s land to the south, where, incidentally, they may find European wood elves trapped in a rain forest…
re: Fish and wildlife bullets
Hello. I know you’re very busy, so I’ll try to keep this brief.
Pistol ammunition using hollowpoint bullets of some type or other have become the norm for law enforcement issue at all levels in the US, this transition having taken place mainly between 1980 and 1990, approximately.
The reasons for this are various, and include, but are not limited to:
the fact that they are designed to flatten out in a manner not unlike a rivet upon impact with soft tissue makes them tear a larger hole, which is more lethal and destructive, which in turn increases the likelihood of rapidly incapacitating the shoot-ee, all else being equal
the fact that they are designed to deform on impact also makes them somewhat less likely to ricochet should they strike a hard surface, such as a pavement or brick wall, reducing danger to innocent bystanders
the increased surface area resulting from the projectile’s deformation reduces total penetration in soft tissue, in turn making the bullet more likely to stay within the recipient’s body rather than perforate it completely, again reducing danger to innocent bystanders
There was a time when semiauto handguns did not as a rule function well with hollowpoint ammunition, which tended to cause feedway stoppages due to the shape of the bullet, at least without some labor-intensive hand-fitting work by an armorer–adjusting the feed ramp angle, polishing feed ramp and breech face, adjusting extractor tension, perhaps adjusting the feed lips of the magazine to hold the top round higher, and much more, some of it fairly arcane, but nowadays the popular polymer-framed police pistols were designed from the ground up with the assumption that they would be used with hollowpoints and are not finicky about ammunition at all, right out of the box. And of course this is a non-issue with revolvers, but police departments mostly haven’t used revolvers for about 25 years now.
Anonymous in Michigan
MSNBC ran a front-page caption "For Orphaned Elephants, Humans Are the Herd" for the coverage at this link –
I thought the co-author of Footfall should be notified!
It’s more than just the rapacious tax system killing Hollywood. In my previous life I was involved in operating television stations. We made a decision in about 1993 that we would not expand our operations in California as much because of the regulatory environment as the taxes.
We had a tenured faculty member at Berkeley object to rebuilding a transmission facility on grounds that it was near stone walls built in the hills "by the Indians, in prehistoric times, under the guidance of beings from outer space." And the way California environmental law works, I had to commission an archeologist (approved by the state) to produce a report rebutting the assertion. As I recall, that was about $10K. And don’t get me started on an employee demanding that we re-work her workstation to relieve her wrist pain. The problem: she was seeing two different Chiropractors whose instructions for the changes were opposite and contradictory. Or ……..but you get the idea.
Silicon Valley remains strong, but no longer stands alone in electronics. Lots of the smaller specialists that support Silicon Valley have bailed out to Nevada, Texas, or Arizona. California would be bankrupt if it had to account the way that private companies do; and our one-party legislature spends like they had a multi-billion dollar surplus, when they are way over their heads in debt. The chickens will come home to roost, surely. Its only a question of "how soon."
California cannot continue this, but it does serve as a horrible example for the rest of the country…
Subject: Group launches campaign accusing Obama of taking credit for bin Laden raid
I wondered how long it would be before the Intel and Spec Ops community had enough:
A group of former military and intelligence operatives launched an aggressive campaign against President Obama Wednesday, accusing the president of claiming undue credit for the Usama bin Laden raid and suggesting his administration is behind politically motivated security leaks
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/15/military-group-reportedly-accusing-obama-taking-credit-for-bin-laden-raid/?intcmp=trending#ixzz23fUUla7D <http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/15/military-group-reportedly-accusing-obama-taking-credit-for-bin-laden-raid/?intcmp=trending#ixzz23fUUla7D>
I suppose it had to happen.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my note. I’ve been thinking about your comment "My preference is for government at local levels to be responsible for the safety net. … "
I’ve spent most of my life in rural agricultural settings; and what comes to mind for me is power imbalance. One way I’ve heard it put is: if a hundred farmers each brought a bushel of grain into a room, and a hundred buyers bid for it, they’d soon reach a fair price. When a hundred farmers each bring their bushel, and there’s one buyer in the room, it’s a different story.
I distrust any concentration of power; consequently, concern about the power of the federal government makes a great deal of sense for me. But while a government big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take away all you have, so are three men with guns and a truck. It seems to me that our economy is rapidly degenerating into oligarchic crony capitalism, and they’ve got a really big truck. Government is a pretty feeble counterbalance, but it’s the only one I see around; and local governments haven’t a prayer.
Given that within my lifetime I haven’t seen any administration of either party actually decrease the size of the federal government, I am inclined to suspect that our real choice is: what sort of big central government do we want? "Liberalism" seems to offer an incompetent "Brave New World" of decadence and cradle-to-grave care. "Conservatism," as currently presented, seems to offer something between "1984" and Pohl and Kornbluth’s "Gladiator At Law": a garrison state, whose only funded business is war, and an economy controlled by and run for the benefit of a self-perpetuating oligarchy. I find both appalling, but find a little more room for humanity in the liberal nightmare. Especially if it’s incompetent.
Then there’s the real possibility that this century will be China with footnotes. In which case we’ll need a strong central government indeed.
Thank you again for a venue in which people with greatly differing views can try to think together.
Allan E. Johnson
Herman Kahn famously said that the most significant fact of the 20th Century was that the United States and England spoke the same language, and the most significant of the 21st Century would be that the US and Russia were Caucasian nations. He was probably wrong. And China with footnotes…
Click here: If we want to improve education in the UK, why not do what we know actually works? – Telegraph Blogs <http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/timworstall/100019454/if-we-want-to-improve-education-in-the-uk-why-not-do-what-we-know-actually-works/>
Nothing you haven’t long spotted but Worstall puts it well. I find his columns normally worth it.
"Or as PJ O’Rourke once pointed out (and my own early experience confirmed) anyone who has ever dated an Education major knows what the problem in teaching is: it’s not an occupation attracting the clever.
What’s really remarkable about this empirical evidence is that the three things that seem to be important are the three things that would and do produce fits of the vapours in our educational experts and the teaching unions. But maybe it’s just a result of that third problem: they’re really not all that bright."
"a lone wolf howling in despair in the intellectual wilderness of Scots politics"
You may be interested in my political blog http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/
There are some good and intelligent teachers. I have been married to one for over fifty years, and my son is married to another. But Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies to education in spades with big casino. But the purpose of public education appears to be to pay educational workers with no regard to their competence or accomplishments.