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Mail 330 October 4 - 10, 2004






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Monday  October 4, 2004

October 4, 2004

SpaceShipOne Visits Space Again to Win $10 Million Prize By JOHN SCHWARTZ

MOJAVE, Calif., Oct. 4 The private rocket ship SpaceShipOne traveled into space and back this morning for the second time in five days, and was declared the winner of a $10 million prize intended to spur the development of private space flight.

The tiny ship, a sleek combination of rocket and glider designed by the engineer Burt Rutan and financed by the billionaire Paul G. Allen, soared beyond an altitude of 62 miles, the arbitrary line that is widely accepted as the beginning of space.

In a champagne-popping ceremony held on the runway when the spaceship returned from its flight, organizers of the Ansari X Prize, a space competition modeled on the great contests of the early days of aviation, said SpaceShipOne had broken a barrier. Under the rules of the competition, the winners must take a pilot and two passengers, or the equivalent weight, to an altitude of at least 100 kilometers twice within two weeks by the end of this year. This was SpaceShipOne's third flight into space this year, but most importantly it was its second in five days.

"We are at the birth of a new era, the age of personal space flight," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, who founded the X Prize eight years ago.

SpaceShipOne's journey into space today began shortly before 7 a.m.Pacific time, when it was carried to an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet by its mother plane, the White Knight, which released it at 7:49 a.m. The pilot, Brian Binnie, lit the experimental rocket motor, which burns a combination of rubber and nitrous oxide, and ran the motor for its full planned duration of nearly 90 seconds.

The craft reached an altitude of 368,000 feet, or 69.7 miles, some 7 miles higher than the arbitrary 100-kilometer line that is widely accepted as the beginning of space, and the minimum goal for the X Prize. That also far surpassed the previous flight altitude record for an air-launched craft, 354,000 feet reached by the government's X-15 in 1963.

After its swift ride into the sky, SpaceShipOne returned to earth and touched down at 8:13 a.m., greeted by its jubilant organizers.

There had been so much confidence that Mr. Rutan's craft would successfully complete its mission that the X Prize Foundation, which has planned for a day like this since its founding in 1996, scheduled an awards ceremony Nov. 6.

The prize will be paid by a special "hole-in-one" insurance policy, a common method of financing prize contests in which an insurance company essentially bets against success. The premium for the policy was paid by Anousheh Ansari, a telecommunications entrepreneur in Texas and a board member of the X Prize Foundation.

On its two previous forays into space, Michael Melvill was at the controls of the sleek, squid-shaped craft. In June, Mr. Melvill barely surpassed the 100-kilometer limit in a widely publicized test flight. Then, last Wednesday, Mr. Melvill once again took the controls to fly to 337,600 feet in the first of the two official Ansari X Prize flights.

Both flights underscored the fact that private space flight is still a risky endeavor.

In the first flight, Mr. Melvill's plane veered some 22 miles off course because of what the Rutan team first thought was a steering glitch but that they later determined was an overreaction by Mr. Melvill to the plane's roll. Mr. Melvill admitted after the flight that he thought he might die that day like a "squashed bug."

In last week's flight, SpaceShipOne went into a series of 29 rapid rolls near the top of its ascent. But Mr. Melvill was able to counteract the rolls with steering jets and bring the craft safely back to the landing strip, and said that he never felt that he was in danger because his training had prepared him well for dealing with the problem.

The test pilot for today's flight, Mr. Binnie, is a former Navy fighter pilot. He is 51 years old, and flew SpaceShipOne on its first supersonic flight in December 2003.

The successful completion of the X Prize competition could usher in a new age of commercial human space flight. Several companies are already in the running to bring tourists to space. Sir Richard Branson announced a new company last week, Virgin Galactic, to commercialize Mr. Rutan's technology. He predicted that he would be flying passengers, at $190,000 per ticket, on a new, larger version of the spacecraft by 2007.

Another company, Space Adventures, has 100 customers who have put down $10,000 deposits for its planned space flights. Space Adventures has already arranged visits to the International Space Station for two tourists, Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, who paid a reported $20 million apiece for the privilege. Another company, Zero-Gravity Corporation, is offering the experience of weightlessness to passengers by flying a cargo jet in repeating parabolas that will create weightlessness on every 30-second downward slope, allowing passengers to float around in the cabin.

And although Mr. Rutan and Mr. Allen have the clear lead today in selling spacecraft through their company, Mojave Aerospace, other X Prize competitors, and some not participating in the X Prize competition are still trying to develop their own craft to profit from the new era in space including Blue Origin, a secretive company created by founder Jeff Bezos.

One of the competing entrepreneurs expressed admiration for the accomplishments of Mr. Rutan and Mr. Allen, but insisted that the game is not over and the market is not closed. "Being first is a great thing it's not the only thing," said Jeff Greason, the president of Xcor Aerospace. "You'll notice that the Wright brothers were not the dominant force in commercial aviation."

The risks of space travel will still be high. "There will be a bad day sooner or later," said Marion C. Blakey, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said at a briefing with reporters. She added, however, that as long as potential passengers truly understood the risks, the government's approach would be caveat aviator.

"This country was founded on people who are risk takers," she said. The goal of government will be to minimize the risks for people on the ground who are not involved in space flight and did not agree to take on any risk, and to make sure that the risks for passengers are fully and accurately described.

Space boosters say regulators can only do so much, and that federal legislation is necessary if private space travel is to ever move beyond the realm of the stunt. One legislative proposal, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, would, among other things, limit legal liability for space companies in case of accidents. That bill, however, is stalled in the waning days of the current Congressional session.

The X Prize is not the end of space competitions. The X Prize Foundation has announced an annual X Cup to be held in Las Cruces, N.M., which will serve as an air show for rocketry.

And other contests are on the way as well. The goal of the X Prize, reaching suborbital space, was achieved by NASA by 1961. Far greater challenges stand before anyone who would attempt to orbit the Earth, which calls for greater rocket strength and far more resistance to heat and stress upon re-entry.

Robert Bigelow, who heads an aerospace company in Nevada, has announced a $50 million "Bigelow Prize" for launching a vehicle into orbit by the end of the decade. And NASA announced last June that it had created a "Centennial Challenges" office to sponsor competitions to solve some of the persistent problems of space exploration, with prizes in the millions of dollars, although the details are still sketchy.

Despite the challenges ahead, the prospect of an Ansari X Prize winner left Ms. Blakey, the F.A.A. administrator, ebullient. "It really is the beginning of personal space transportation," she said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company | SpaceShipOne Rocket Wins Prize With Second Flight

Associated Press October 4, 2004 12:31 p.m.

MOJAVE, Calif. -- A stubby private rocket plane blasted through the Earth's atmosphere for a second time in two weeks today, capturing a $10 million prize meant to encourage space tourism.

A crowd of thousands of enthusiasts on the ground began celebrating as soon as SpaceShipOne appeared to have climbed just over 62 miles -- generally considered to be the point where the Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins.

The rocket plane, funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul G. Allen, took off from a desert runway slung to the belly of a carrier plane with test pilot Brian Binnie at the wheel. It was released at about 46,000 feet and fired its rockets to continue to the edge of space.

"This is the true frontier of transportation," said Marion C. Blakey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, who stood near the runway to watch the space flight.

"It feels a little bit like Kitty Hawk must have," Ms. Blakey added.

SpaceShipOne appeared to top its required altitude within minutes of firing its rockets, said Peter Diamandis, who founded the X Prize eight years ago.

The rocket's backers can claim the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million award that goes to the first privately built, manned rocket ship to fly in space twice in a span of two weeks.

The choice of Brian Binnie as Monday's pilot was kept secret until hours before the scheduled takeoff. Last week, SpaceShipOne rolled dozens of times with Michael Melvill at the wheel as it hurtled toward space at three times the speed of sound.

"Let me say I thank God that I live in a country where this is possible," Mr. Binnie said after landing and receiving a hug of congratulations from his wife. "And I really mean that. There's no place on Earth that you can take this flag and take it up to space."

Mr. Melvill also flew the first flight by a private plane into space on June 21, and was awarded the nation's first commercial astronaut wings by the FAA.

After a safety analysis, SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan posted preliminary information about last week's flight on his Web site this weekend to address what he called the "incorrect rumors" that have circulated.

Mr. Diamandis created the X Prize, hoping it would have the same effect on space travel that the Orteig Prize had on air travel. Charles Lindbergh claimed that $25,000 prize in 1927 after making his solo trans-Atlantic flight.

Major funding came from the Ansari family of Dallas. More than two dozen teams around the world are trying to win the prize, but only SpaceShipOne has reached space.

Last week, Richard Branson, the British airline mogul and adventurer, announced that beginning in 2007, he will begin offering paying customers flights into space aboard rockets like the SpaceShipOne. He plans to call the service Virgin Galactic.


Subject: Parallels with the Dawn of the Space Age

And on the forty-seventh anniversary of Sputnik, the dawn of the Space Age!

Less than a year separated the sub-orbital flight of Alan Shepherd from the orbital flight of John Glenn. I wonder how much time will separate the first commercial sub-orbital astronaut flight from the first commercial orbital astronaut flight.

-- Joe Schembrie

The date is no accident, of course. And Sir Richard was there to confirm his order, and that he and Rutan will be passengers on the first commercial flight...

HIGH FIRE (Space Ship Won)

They have slipped the surly bonds of Earth bureaucracies and air And the X-philes got their money's worth: "The Future Is Out There".

On their "Touch the Face of God" run
 what was burning thru the thoughts
 Of the Rubber Rocket Squadron
 of the Laughing Gas Tronauts?

-- Bill Kilner



Subject: Praise(!) for the TSA

For once the TSA acts correctly but shames one of America's closest allies. Jerry, I am ashamed to say that a fellow Brit felt the need to leave the USA with a novelty toy flatulent dog. The dog, or its flatulence, triggered the explosives detector at the airport and its owner was detained and questioned for twenty minutes. No doubt the dog was also inspected and found not to be explosive so the duo were allowed to depart. One of the problems of non-intrusive detection of explosives is that wool has a very similar signature to some explosives. This story is from the BBC and quoted by The Register, I just wish that I had made it up. Regards John Edwards



The dinosaurs are crying: 



Indeed they are...

I've prosecuted or defended hundreds of courts-martial, and I can say that the article in question doesn't raise any real legal issues.

"A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statment if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant." The elements of disloyal statement are, 1. That the accused made a certain statement; 2. That the statement was communicated to another person; 3. That the statement was disloyal to the United States; and 4. That the statement was made with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the United States...or to interfere with or impair the loyalty to the United States...

The near impossible task would be to show the intent necessary. This is a grunt's eye view (and therefor valid but limited in scope) of the war. Unlike past cases where the speaker urged action (Parker v. Levy, US v. Harvey) in violation of orders/duty, this is not a call for action, other than perhaps legal political action. Were he an officer, his use of "unconstitutional" and "criminal" to describe the administration's actions might form the basis for a charge of Contempt Toward Officials, but not for an NCO.

The general article, 134, makes punishable offenses against good order and discipline or those which bring discredit upon the armed forces. However, this "refers only to acts directly prejudicial to good order and discipline and not to acts which are prejudicial only in a remote or indirect sense. Almost any irregular or improper act on the part of a member of the military service could be regarded as prejudicial in some indirect or remote sense; however, this article does not include these distant effects. It is confined to cases in which the prejudice is reasonably direct and palpable."

My conclusion is that someone COULD bring charges against this soldier, but if it went to a court-martial, I could beat them handily. No one is likely to push this that far. If the soldier were offered the lesser non-judicial punishment, he would likely opt for trial by court-martial where, again, he would likely prevail.

2002 Manual for Courts-Martial. It can be found at

Name withheld


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Months ago, someone mentioned that a plasma could be used to take away the heat of re-entry. I suggested building an additional rocket system into the nose of the shuttle to generate the plasma. You pointed out the nightmare of additional complexity, weight and loss of payload this would add to the shuttle. And yet, I couldn't let the idea go. It just seemed so appealing as a solution to how to beat the heat of re-entry.

And now I think I've got it: ablative paint. A paint made to burn off in a cloud of plasma when super-heated in re-entry. You could even mix up types with different 'boiling' points for different areas of the re-entry vehicle.

It only has to last long enough for those critical few minutes of super-heating. And it would be a lot easier to apply (and re-apply) than individual tiles.

At first I was thinking of explosive paint, but then I realized what is needed is really more of a controlled rate of ablation. Kind of a cross between paint and the old capsule-style heat shields of pre-shuttle days.

What am I missing, here?

Regards, Jim Snover

So what am I missing?

This is well beyond my level of expertise.


I've put up a mirror of Tom Syroid's Insights tree, up to the time he stopped posting in June 2003. There's a lot of material there, and good Linux guidance. So I'm hoping that Google will pick up on the pages in their new home at 

Any inbound linkage that you folks provide can only help the Google algorithm make the right choice.









This week:


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Tuesday,  October 5, 2004

Subject: Lost in the Hoopla- God Speed- Gordo Cooper.

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm sure someone has sent this but as a space,flight and race "nut" I note with sadness the passing of yet another of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

What a bit of irony that it happened on the same day as the success of the SS1 flight. I'm sure Gordo was watching.

One of several links-

Paul R. Cole Fan,reader for years. ( I once worked for Larry Aldridge- say HI next time you see him)


Dear Jerry

RIP Gordon Cooper.

But the RIGHT stuff still lives.


Douglas M. Colbary I & C The Electric Plant City of Painesville 440.392.5944 440.392.5938 FAX

"You Can't See Where you stand, From Where You Sit"

Carl Ellsworth Colbary

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know."

Mark Twain




Subject: Little touches of panic at Microsoft?

Dr Pournelle,

Little touches of panic at Microsoft? 

[QUOTE 1] Ballmer: 'No way' Apple will win digital media war

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told invited press at a London briefing that Microsoft would prevail over Apple, Sony and other competitors when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of home consumers looking to integrate computer technology into their home entertainment systems. "There is no way you can get there with Apple," he is quoted as saying by [END QUOTE]

...and then this:

[QUOTE 2] Ballmer suggested that most iPod users steal music... [END QUOTE]


[QUOTE 3] Gates not frightened of the big bad Linux

He just whistles a happy tune

THE GRAND NABOB of the world's software giant, Microsoft, Bill Gates, has told technologists that he is not afraid of Linux.

Speaking at a shindig at the Computer History Museum, Gates said that he had seen other threats to Vole's dominance come and go and Linux will eventually go the way of OS/2. [END QUOTE]

Methinks they protesteth too much.

Jim Mangles

There could be a possibility...


You might appreciate Glenn Reynolds' take on NASA:

"To beat the Soviets, though, we essentially emulated them. The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics -- a small-scale R&D enterprise designed to help the commercial aviation industry -- turned into the National Air and Space Administraton, a huge government bureaucracy that brought command-and-control methods to a new perfection. (For more on the historical background, I highly recommend Walter McDougall's book, The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age <*> .)

"NASA got us to the moon in an amazingly short time. But its subsequent history demonstrates that command-style economics is a little like steroids in athletics: You get a burst of rapid growth when the drugs first take hold, but after a while you realize that your national testicles are shrinking.

"That's what happened to NASA, which, after the good eight-to-ten years that most new bureaucracies get, became limp, flabby and fearful."

( )

................................Karl Lembke

Exactly. As I have said for years.

AND HERE IS NASA's answer to Space Ship One

(NOTE: Read all of this and the post that follows it!):

Subject: Now why am I not surprised?

Volume 2, Issue 34, October 5, 2004


NASA Redefines Boundary of Space After SpaceShipOne Flights

In an apparent fit of institutional pique following SpaceShipOne's successful claim on the X-Prize, NASA has unexpectedly raised the official boundary of space to 150 miles above the Earth's surface.

"Obviously, going into outer space is a major endeavor which really ought to be left in the hands of our planet's only capable space agency; namely us," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "We congratulate the fine engineering which went into the production of this novelty plane dubbed 'SpaceShipOne,' but must point out with regret that it hasn't reached space yet by our standards."

SpaceShipOne is a privately funded, manned rocket ship powered with laughing gas and rubber fuel built by Scaled Composites. It reached the edge of suborbital space Monday - nearly 70 miles high - to claim the $10 million Ansari X Prize, intended to spur private spaceflight. However, now that NASA has raised the boundary for space, SpaceShipOne is officially nothing more than a high-flying airplane.

"Well, let me tell you one thing: we're not giving back the prize money," said SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan. "We owe Paul Allen a lot of money, and frankly I don't want to mess with someone who's on Bill Gates' speed-dial list." Billionaire Allen earned his fortune with Microsoft, and reportedly invested over $20 million in the SpaceShipOne project.

"That price tag alone should be a warning sign to people," said O'Keefe. "Twenty million? That would barely cover the cost of the food on a typical NASA Space Shuttle flight."

NASA has come under heavy criticism recently for continuing to invest heavily in its aging fleet of Space Shuttles, which are notoriously expensive to operate and have experienced serious safety problems, including the loss of two shuttles to accidents.

"It's no coincidence that NASA set the "new" boundary of space just below the average altitude of typical Space Shuttle flights," said Rutan. "I would bet that, if we managed to reach an altitude of 150 miles, NASA would raise the boundary to 151."

It is unclear what effect the NASA announcement will have on the future of SpaceShipOne, or newly-founded company Virgin Galactic's plans to purchase a fleet of the craft to offer tourists brief visits to what was formerly considered outer space.

"I think we're going to move ahead with the plans anyway," said Virgin CEO Richard Branson. "I'll bet that people willing to pay $100,000 for a 20-minute flight that brings you back to the point you left from aren't going to be conversant with trivialities such as the legal definition of space."

So the petty little people at NASA want more $20 million dollar lunches only of course they aren't flying Shuttles anyway. This is typical of those creatures, who have eaten the dream.

NASA has had enough money to take us halfway to Alpha Centauri; enough money to have developed real reusable ships; but NASA's goal is to CONTROL WHO GOES TO SPACE, and hold monopoly for their bureaucratic empire. NASA is the enemy. Since Apollo, NASA has been the enemy.

What Congress should do is note this claim and take away their $20 million dollar lunches.

Subject: NASA redefines the boundary of space?


Sure reads like satire to me. I would like a reference (URL) to this before I believe it is real.

Chuck Bouldin

You know, on calm reflection, it is undoubtedly a hoax; not even NASA is THAT stupid. But the worst of it is they have been that stupid in the past, and I had no problem believing it.

You are right, of course, there is just too much in there that can't be there yet; good joke. Alas, it changes little. NASA has still eaten the dream.

But I bit on this one good.

Subject: About the NASA redefinition of space

I sort of get the impression you took the "NASA redefines space" story literally. It is parody, actually. The Watley Review, whence the story comes, says this about itself:

"The Watley Review is dedicated to the production of articles completely without journalistic merit or factual basis, as this would entail leaving our chairs or actually working."

The $20,000,000 food tab per shuttle launch would be in the neighborhood of $200,000 per plate! Still, NASA could do it if anyone could....

The URL:  

Mike Juergens


The original source for the "NASA redefines space" text is actually a satire site. 

It's a sad state of affairs that it seemed plausible until I googled on the article text.


-- Todd Masco

I wasn't given the source originally. As I said, I bit on this one; but alas, it could have been true.

Subject: Oops.

- Roland Dobbins





My deepest admiration to Burt Rutan and company on their accomplishment with Spaceship One.

However, on this "Less than a year separated the sub-orbital flight of Alan Shepherd from the orbital flight of John Glenn. I wonder how much time will separate the first commercial sub-orbital astronaut flight from the first commercial orbital astronaut flight."

I fear that a lot longer than a year will separate this suborbital flight from an orbital one. I don't think Spaceship One has any clear scalability path to reach orbit. The use of the rubber/nitrous engine is very clever in its simplicity, but it probably doesn't perform quite as well as a V-2 (in specific impulse), let alone a later design. I'd be happy to stand corrected on that if I'm wrong.

I hate to rain on the parade, and I -very much- admire these gutsy pioneers, but I think we are still a decade or more, not one year, away from a similar performance with an orbital flight.

Chuck Bouldin

The engines certainly will not go orbital nor will anything in Spaceship One itself lead to orbit beyond the use of innovative methods to build it and to build the simulators and flight control mechanisms.


XCOR says less than $20 million would in fact build a ship that does have a direct traceable path to an orbital ship, and which will do sub-orbital flight as well as launch small (20 Kg) payloads with a second stage that will get to orbit. Look into XCOR XERUS project.

 And Bill Gaubatz who built DC/X says he can do a full X project with 3 tail numbers and flight testing of a VTOL multiple engine system that either makes orbit or goes a very long way sub-orbital for well under a billion as a government X project.

I would undertake to use Sir Richard's $100 million to build an orbiting ship, and estimate better than 75% chances of success. There are others who can do that a lot better than I could, since the only advantage I have is that those who can do it would work for me -- and I know who they are.


Subject: Operator error?

---- Roland Dobbins


Startup Devises New Way to Squash Worms,1759,1665212,00.asp?kc=ewnws100404dtx1k0000599

Tracy Walters


Subject: FW: Copying Money?


While I abhor counterfeiters, this is pretty big brother-ish (full email below)

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees - or Copy on New Photocopiers

You probably know that high quality, low cost digital scanning, copying and printing technologies have been used to counterfeit currency, but did you know that the government is fighting back? When you put a document under the glass of your new photocopier or scanner and push the button, it dutifully makes a high resolution copy - unless the document is one of the new style twenty or fifty dollar bills. If you do that, you just might be surprised to see a message pop up informing you that you should visit this website to become more educated on counterfeit laws: <>

At the site, you'll find all sorts of interesting information about restrictions on photographing or otherwise reproducing currency in the particular country you choose. For example, reproductions of U.S. money must be either much smaller (less than 3/4 the size of the original) or much larger (more than one and 1/2 times the original) and cannot be double sided.

It's actually an interesting site, but it could be a little unnerving to have your printer or copier send you there. You probably never considered that the machine could know what it was copying. And of course, if it's that smart, you might wonder what else it can do. If your computer is Internet-connected (as most are these days), will it send a message to the Treasury Department to report that you're trying to illegally copy money? <snip>

Tracy Walters


And then we have:


Sometimes I wonder just how nuts a place can be. To wit, Berkeley: 

And don't miss the "art cars": 


Fair warning: Full frontal nudity. (Male only, this is Berkeley...)

Sorry to bother you with this Jerry, but it really is an amazing little paper plane. I came across the website while scrolling through some joke lists. Hope you can find five minutes to check it out. Darrell

Darrel Van Wagner

No bother. It's neat. Thanks! It's very like the paper airplanes I built in Christian Brothers College High School back in Memphis. Allan Cleveland and I worked on them trying to get them right.

Dr. Pournelle,

Some other reader might've already let you know, but I figured it couldn't hurt: the article you quote in today's mail is actually from the Watley Review, a satire news site similar to the Onion. The original link is here: 

Not that it would surprise me all that much, NASA being NASA. I imagine there are already quite a few congressmen comparing NASA's budget to Scaled Composites'...

BTW, I'm very much looking forward to the release of Burning Tower; I read The Burning City a week or so ago, and already I'm getting impatient to find out more...

Adam DeConinck

Yes, it's clear I was had. But reading BURNING CITY is no bad thing to do...

Subject: Quotes of the da...decade

"I am going to be devoting the rest of my life to this pursuit -- space tourism."

"We solved the problem of flight control on reentry. This development by itself has reduced the risk of flight by a factor of 10."

Burt Rutan to Matt Lauer on "Today," October 5, 2004.

Jim Woosley










This week:


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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

You know you've made it big when Google honors you with a special logo.

SpaceShipOne wins the X Prize - October 4, 2004: 

While SpaceShipOne may not lead directly to an orbital spaceplane, I'm wondering how hard it would be to modify the design to enable, say, a 20-passenger plane to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Sydney in a couple or three hours. It might be expensive, but I'm sure someone would be willing to pay the premium.

Dibs on the window seat!


Bob Shepard

I think the reentry speeds would be too great for substantial sub-orbital travel using the Spaceship One design. However, with better engines it could go Mach 3 and better for considerable distances. I'd have to work this out, but understand the system was designed to go high, not far...


Windows in control of the friendly skies

Dr. Pournelle,

A link to some interesting events involving airplanes, but no box cutters or nail files. 

I think the pertinent paragraph is this:

The genesis of the problem was the transition in 2001 by Harris Corp. of the Federal Aviation Administration's Voice Switching Control System from Unix-based servers to Microsoft Corp.'s off-the-shelf Windows Advanced Server 2000.

By most accounts, the move went well except the new system required regular maintenance to prevent data overload. When that wasn't done, it turned itself off as it was designed to do. But the backup also failed. In all, the southern California system was down for three hours, though other FAA centers restored communications within seconds, Walker said.

Thank you,

 Douglas Knapp

I had heard most of this except the specific Windows Advanced Server 2000 part. We have run Windows Advanced Server 2000 for some time, and Darnell has been using it in his classes; I had not known about any requirement for monthly resets. I do know that the event log in all Windows Servers can become clogged and when that happens there can be problems with everything else, like printers not working. The remedy is generally much larger hard drives and giving event log a few gigabytes; but of course that might not work with something as busy as this.

Does anyone know more about this?  AND SEE BELOW

Subject: Oops.

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Apple at commodity costs.

"The cost is really a commodity-cost level."

--- Roland Dobbins

Cool news!

Subject: Official Space


The funny thing about the spoof news report is that the official US government (and hence NASA) definition of space is *lower* than the X-Prize altitude.

Astronaut wings for USAF, USN, & USA are earned when the individual concerned reaches an altitude of 50 miles above the earth -- 12 less than the 62 (100 KM) for everybody else's space boundary.

This altitude was set in the early '60s, and is that altitude because it is one the X-15 could reach. (The USAF wanted its *own* astronauts.) AFIK that is still the qualification altitude. (To change it would be to say that Joe Walker et al. weren't "real" astronauts, and that would be chinzy at this point.)

Go Rutan & Branson and their followers! We'll get Artimis Spacelines yet.



NASA inspector indicted for fraudulent inspections of Discovery over a two year time span. 

Steve Setzer







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, October 7, 2004

Dobbin's black helicopter:

N173FR is owned by:


They are in hangar 161 at Mojave.

they seem to have a few of that model. 

Here's a spooky "black helicopter" factoid: There are no photos on that page (the other pages showing the aircraft in their fleet have some stunning photos.)

Flight Simulator?: About a year ago you teased an article about flight simulators and operations out at Mojave. (either XCOR or Scaled) I've scoured your pages and and haven't seen more than a couple sentences on the subject.

I got lucky a few years ago and picked up a copy of X-Plane. Amazing little program. I'm pretty sure that some user has cobbled together xerus and SS1 models for that simulator.

...thanks for the pics and the story of your trips to Mojave.

Mark Hartwell

We are looking into the details of the flight simulator used by Rutan. We know he uses about 15 off the shelf PC's and Windows 2000, but we don't really know the details of the installation.


Subject: FW: Report from the Front Line

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Subject: Report from the Front Line

[For those of you who haven't gotten my "Thoughts" before, I'm a Major in the USMC on the Multi-National Corps staff in Baghdad. The analysts and pundits who don't see what I see on a daily basis, in my opinion, have very little credibility to talk about the situation - especially if they have yet to set foot in Iraq. Everything Americans believe about Iraq is simply perception filtered through one's latent prejudices until you are face-to-face with reality. If you haven't seen, or don't remember, the John Wayne movie, The Green Berets, you should watch it this weekend. Pay special attention to the character of the reporter, Mr. Beckwith (the Journalist in the movie). His experience is directly related to the situation here. You'll have a different perspective on Iraq after the movie is over.]

The US media is abuzz today with the news of an intelligence report that is very negative about the prospects for Iraq's future. CNN's website says, "[The] National Intelligence Estimate was sent to the White House in July with a classified warning predicting the best case for Iraq was 'tenuous stability' and the worst case was civil war." That report, along with the car bombings and kidnappings in Baghdad in the past couple days are being portrayed in the media as more proof of absolute chaos and the intransigence of the insurgency.

From where I sit, at the Operational Headquarters in Baghdad, that just isn't the case. Let's lay out some background, first about the "National Intelligence Estimate." The most glaring issue with its relevance is the fact that it was delivered to the White House in July. That means that the information that was used to derive the intelligence was gathered in the Spring - in the immediate aftermath of the April battle for Fallujah, and other events. The report doesn't cover what has happened in July or August, let alone September.

The naysayers will point to the recent battles in Najaf and draw parallels between that and what happened in Fallujah in April. They aren't even close. The bad guys did us a HUGE favor by gathering together in one place and trying to make a stand. It allowed us to focus on them and defeat them. Make no mistake, Al Sadr's troops were thoroughly smashed. The estimated enemy killed in action is huge. Before the battles, the residents of the city were afraid to walk the streets. Al Sadr's enforcers would seize people and bring them to his Islamic court where sentence was passed for religious or other violations. Long before the battles people were looking for their lost loved ones who had been taken to "court" and never seen again. Now Najafians can and do walk their streets in safety. Commerce has returned and the city is being rebuilt. Iraqi security forces and US troops are welcomed and smiled upon. That city was liberated again. It was not like Fallujah - the bad guys lost and are in hiding or dead.

You may not have even heard about the city of Samarra. Two weeks ago, that Sunni Triangle city was a "No-go" area for US troops. But guess what? The locals got sick of living in fear from the insurgents and foreign fighters that were there and let them know they weren't welcome. They stopped hosting them in their houses and the mayor of the town brokered a deal with the US commander to return Iraqi government sovereignty to the city without a fight. The people saw what was on the horizon and decided they didn't want their city looking like Fallujah in April or Najaf in August

Boom, boom, just like that two major "hot spots" cool down in rapid succession. Does that mean that those towns are completely pacified? No. What it does mean is that we are learning how to do this the right way. The US commander in Samarra saw an opportunity and took it - probably the biggest victory of his military career and nary a shot was fired in anger. Things will still happen in those cities, and you can be sure that the bad guys really want to take them back. Those achievements, more than anything else in my opinion, account for the surge in violence in recent days - especially the violence directed at Iraqis by the insurgents. Both in Najaf and Samarra ordinary people stepped out and took sides with the Iraqi government against the insurgents, and the bad guys are hopping mad. They are trying to instill fear once again. The worst thing we could do now is pull back and let that scum back into people's homes and lives.

So, you may hear analysts and prognosticators on CNN, ABC and the like in the next few days talking about how bleak the situation is here in Iraq, but from where I sit, it's looking significantly better now than when I got here. The momentum is moving in our favor, and all Americans need to know that, so please, please, pass this on to those who care and will pass it on to others. It is very demoralizing for us here in uniform to read & hear such negativity in our press. It is fodder for our enemies to use against us and against the vast majority of Iraqis who want their new government to succeed. It causes the American public to start thinking about the acceptability of "cutting our losses" and pulling out, which would be devastating for Iraq for generations to come, and Muslim militants would claim a huge victory, causing us to have to continue to fight them elsewhere (remember, in war "Away" games are always preferable to "Home" games). Reports like that also cause Iraqis begin to fear that we will pull out before we finish the job, and thus less willing to openly support their interim government and US/Coalition activities. We are realizing significant progress here - not propaganda progress, but real strides are being made. It's terrible to see our national morale, and support for what we're doing here, jeopardized by sensationalized stories hyped by media giants whose #1 priority is advertising income followed closely by their political agenda; getting the story straight falls much further down on their priority scale, as Dan Rather and CBS News have so aptly demonstrated in the last week.

Thanks for listening. Feedback is always welcome, though I can't promise an immediate response....

Thank you.

Sunday, October 3, 2004 The debate through the eyes of Marines

GORDON DILLOW Register columnist

I don't know where you watched the presidential debate, or which line of post-debate spin you take for gospel. But where I was, in a tiny, two-bunk barracks room at Camp Pendleton, with five young Marine "grunts" crowded around a small TV and a large ice chest full of Bud Lite and Red Dog, the sentiment was unanimous.

As the current commander- in-chief, George W. Bush already commanded that room. But during and after the debate, he owned it.

"Bush all the way," my friend Sgt. John McFarling, 31, of Charleston, S.C., said when I asked who won.

"Bush," agreed Cpl. Adam Hartlove, 21, of Pasadena, Md.

"Definitely Bush," said Cpl. Benjamin Hess, 22, of Boise, Idaho.

"Bush kicked his behind," said Sgt. Erik Sphoon, 26, of Salem, Ore. - although being a Marine, he obviously didn't actually use a prissy word like "behind."

"Bush won," said Cpl. Bryan Carter, 21, of Altoona, Iowa - and then he boiled down his personal view of the Kerry vs. Bush contest into simple grunt terms.

"It's like a new platoon lieutenant. You're just not going to trust him like you would trust a lieutenant you've been to war with."

Now, before I go on I want to make it clear that these Marines are speaking strictly for themselves, as citizens; they're certainly not any kind of official spokesmen for the Marine Corps.

And before you Kerry supporters out there cry foul about the obvious lack of pro-Kerry sentiment, let me hasten to say that of course there are people in the military who support Sen. Kerry - and I'd be happy to hear from them. I didn't intentionally try to stack the deck here.

Instead, these are just five Marine infantrymen I knew in Iraq, young men I deeply admire, who have an interest in politics and who happened to congregate Thursday night around a TV in this spartan, cinderblock-walled room - and who happen to lean toward the Bush side.

"I've been looking forward to this (debate) all week," Cpl. Hess told me - and then he laughed and added, "That shows you how lame my life is."

But even though in this barracks room there wasn't much debate over the debate, it was interesting to hear these Marines' take on the presidential race, and the world in general.

After all, every one of them saw combat and lost buddies during their recently completed tour in the Sunni Triangle. Most of them also saw combat during the war last spring, and chances are that most of them will be back in the combat zone sooner or later - probably sooner.

So while we all have a stake in national politics and international affairs, their stakes are a little bigger. Because it's their hides that have been, and will be, directly in the line of fire.

And yet, perhaps ironically, while they have the most to lose in a continued struggle in Iraq, these Marines seem to naturally hew more to the hard-line Bush stand: Toppling Saddam was necessary. We have to stand fast. It's better to fight terrorists over there than to fight them here.

"I'd rather fight them 10,000 miles away than have my daughter and my family attacked here," Sgt. Sphoon said.

And even though they have firsthand knowledge of the dangers and difficulties and frustrations of Iraq, like President Bush these particular Marines take the optimistic view. At one point Bush said, "I expect to win. It's necessary we win. We have a duty to our country and future generations of America to achieve a free Iraq" - and when he said it there were nods all around.

"I think we can win, I think we can establish a democracy over there," Sgt. McFarling said. And then he added, simply, "We have to."

So in this room, if not in the polls and among the pundits, it was the president's night Thursday, with Sen. Kerry taking the mostly jocular verbal hits.

"Flip-flop!" the Marines shouted at the senator's image on the TV. "Be decisive!" they demanded. "It's one of the 14 principles of leadership!" And they called out in unison, "Four!" at Kerry's fourth reference to having served in Vietnam.

"I respect his service," Cpl. Hartlove said. "He's obviously a decent guy. But hey, I served in Iraq. Should you vote for me just for that?"

"He was in the Navy, right? He drove a boat, right? That's all he did was drive a boat," Sgt. Sphoon said - a comment that was partly humorous, partly political, and partly a manifestation of the traditional friendly rivalry between "jarheads" and "squids."

And so it went, for 90 minutes and beyond, the Marines discussing, heckling, questioning. For me it was a hopeful and encouraging sight. I've seen these young men engaged in war and combat; it was good to see them engaged in peace and the democratic process.

"You know what the cool thing about this is?" Cpl. Carter told me. "I mean, here we are in the military, and we have to follow orders and everything. But we still get to help choose who our boss is."

Well, Cpl. Carter has got that right. No matter who wins or who loses, seeing a corporal help choose a commander-in-chief is a very cool thing indeed.

A cool thing indeed. So long as we are talking about helping with the choice.





And from good news to:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You might be interested in Walter E. Williams latest columns on the academic policy in place at Benedict College in Columbia, SC. It seems that the professors are required to give a substantial portion of freshman and sophomore grades based solely on effort and attendance. Two professors have been fired for refusing to do this.

See more at 

John Prideaux

See also C S Lewis on equality in education...


And from Sue: 

No threat seen to district; children are safe, police say By Kelly Thornton UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER September 30, 2004

A man arrested by U.S. authorities in Iraq had a computer disk in his possession containing a public report downloaded from a U.S. Department of Education Web site on crisis planning in school districts, including San Diego Unified.

The man was described as an Iraqi national with connections to terrorism and the insurgency that is fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Officials in San Diego said the man's intentions were unknown.

San Diego law enforcement officials said there was no indication of any terrorist plot against schools in San Diego or elsewhere in the country. They did not publicly release the information because there appeared to be no threat. The information was relayed to the San Diego FBI office last week and then to the school district Friday.

"The children are absolutely safe," said San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. "If there was a threat, we, the San Diego Police Department, would be first to notify (parents). This is not a threat."

The disk contained a document entitled "Practical Information on Crisis Planning, A Guide for Schools and Communities." The 50-plus page document, published in May 2003 by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, is available to the public on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site, said San Diego District spokeswoman Peri Lynn Turnbull. <snip>

We saw this in the Daily News this morning. Still digesting it... Recall what happened in Russia.


Subject: The NASA satire

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I don't blame you for being taken in over the NASA satire "article," or being angry about the article to begin with. Heck I was angry too, and I read your note at the beginning. This is not only the kind of thing they could do, but the kind of thing they have already done.

On January 1, 2000, Lori Garver (you know her; former National Space Society Executive Director who turned coat to become a NASA flack) was interviewed on the Today Show. When Katie Couric showed her footage of the Rotary Rocket Garver giggled and said "Isn't that cute and funny looking? But in ten years NASA will have something So much better!" She then described Venturestar. Uh...yeah. You bet. I'll say. Uh huh. Now Rotary Rocket did have all sorts of problems. But they sure could not have been helped by the funding that got pulled after that.

Napoleon may have said "Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to incompetence." However, finding out that it Was malice all along can sure get one's blood up.

I was born a year and a half before Sputnik. I have dreamed the Dream since my parent's got me up early to watch Alan Shepard's first Mercury hop. I was raised on Heinlein, Clarke, Niven and..well, You. When I was a boy I fully expected to have the opportunity (if not the skills or money) to travel to space by now. I have been embittered for many years, wondering if my children would l ever have the chance, let alone me. I see these latest developments as a breath of fresh air, and my hope is at least rekindled.

Sincerely yours, Frank Luxem


Dr. Pournelle:

I watched Jay Leno's interview following the Space Ship 1 flight, with Mr. Rutan and the pilot of the first flight. They had the fortune to meet Mrs. Bush backstage.

Jay Leno commented that the conversation was like interviewing the Wright brothers.

Apparently, NASA wasn't much help. Mr. Rutan had to jump through many, many hoops to get launch permission.

Mr. Heinlein's "Future History" had a false dawn for spaceflight. It occurred to me while watching Jay Leno's interview that perhaps our own false dawn is past.

I hope so. I also confess envy: You were there.

Now, what can we do to make sure private initiatives are not stifled? Write your favorite Congresscritter? Find a modern Cicero to proclaim that NASA must be destroyed? I'm not sure I like that last, as there may be a place for a reformed NASA. Is there hope that a way can be found to create your dinosaur farm.

Marvelous pictures. Thanks for posting them.


Regulations have been a real problem (remind me to tell you about desert tortoises and Mojave Airport some time). Whether we are past the false dawn isn't clear.


Subject:  First-Grader Arrested, Handcuffed After Fight'

the link: 

Message from David K. M. Klaus: Have these cops no sense of discretion? Arresting eight-year-olds? As you say, Ye Gods!

No comment.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I, too, can't believe they would arrest an 8 year old for fighting. Then I thought 8, and he's still in the first grade? What am I missing here?

Bill Grigg



And more on the FAA system failure:

Subject: FAA voice system failure

I read this in comments on Slashdot, so take it with a grain of salt. The story is that the Harris software was the problem. Its idea of the current time comes from the Windows GetTickCount() function, which returns the number of milliseconds since system start as a 32-bit number. It wraps around to zero after 49.71... days, which is clearly documented by Microsoft and has been for ages:

< >

Microsoft's fault? Not really. When you use high-resolution timers, you think about overflow--end of discussion. Especially when dealing with APIs from the 16-bit era, that are well-documented to overflow.

Harris should have fixed their program. It would be trivial to write a thin wrapper around GetTickCount() to either fix the wrap-around or rescale the count. However the problem _was_ identified, and a correct work-around _was_ developed.

The real question is why the person in charge of that FAA facility did not consider it their personal mission to keep that box working. They and several staffers should have personally visited that box every Monday morning and made sure it had been reset recently enough. To put a single, unsupervised, poorly-trained, low-level employee in charge of a high criticality function is idiocy.

-- Daniel Newby,


Subject: Windows in control of the friendly skies

It was not a Windows problem. It was a bug in the application. Windows has a function that tells you how many seconds the system has been running. This variable resets to zero every 49 days. It is supposed to do that and is well documented. In fact IIRC the documentation even has a warning not to use this for certain time functions due to the reset.

The application programmer used this function anyway and when the computer got to the reset date the program would crash because it would get a negative value. A quick and dirty fix was to just reboot the computer every 4 weeks rather than to spend the money to rewrite the software.

IIRC there was a similar issue with the OS in Windows 3.X and/or 9X as one of the system programs (printing?) had the same bug. It was never a high priority to fix with MS as these OSs were designed for home use where multi-month uptime was not a material factor.

Remember, any resemblance between a network news article and reality is merely a coincidence....

Gene Horr


Now a very Un-PC letter:

One of my favorite public policy "trick questions" is, "Of all the 'occupational categories' tracked by the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), which one leads to 'affluence' for the most American women?"

The more "liberated" a person is, the less likely they are to reply "homemaker", even though that *must* be 10-to-1 vs. any other occupational category.

I woman consultant I mentioned this factoid to at San Diego Airport actually got *angry* at me. The funny thing was that her (futile, of course) public education reform project was being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (So I asked her what, exactly did Melinda do to get her name on the door?)



I suspect, with no proof, that the new Mrs. Woods set her cap for Tiger, the world's most eligible bachelor, before she even met him. First, even though she could make a living as a swimsuit model in Sweden, she took a job as a nanny for Sweden's top golfer Jesper Parnevik. She went with the Parnevik family to US tournaments, where her spectacular appearance made a stir along the sidelines. Her looks spoke for themselves, but her boss introduced her to Tiger, with good recommendations to him beyond her looks: she's good with children, honest, hard-working, nice, acts interested when I talk to her about golf, etc. It's actually a rather Victorian story. Lots of young women could profit from studying it.

Then again, my wife says that maybe Mrs. Parnevik decided to marry her off to Tiger Woods before she became the second Mrs. Parnevik.



And an exchange of letters on jihad from another forum:


On 30/09/2004 R wrote: > P,

> I've previously hypothesized that Bush's invasion of Iraq, even though  it was a huge miscalculation, may turn out to be a net benefit to the  West. Why? Because if it causes the Muslims to rise up in the West  much sooner then the response from Westerners will prevent a total  demographic catastrophe in Europe.

> France would be better off in the long run if the Jihad started next  year than in 20 years. Better to crystallize the nature of the fight  now before many more immigrants are allowed in and many more babies  are born. It is not too late to deport illegals and to cut off all  Muslim immigration. In the extreme it would even be possible to start  revoking citizenships and deporting Muslims.

> The EU mandarins want to ignore the obvious. Well, an insurgency in  Europe would so enrage the populace that the mandarins would be forced  to take action.

> So are you really certain that Jihad is coming to France? Holland too?  And London?

I'm not so sure the intervention in Irak is so positive for France : it has indeed accelerated the cristallyzation, but in a negative orientation, which will lead to civil war more than anything else. This week end, we met with C a friend who is a French MP, and his answers to the questions about anti-americanism (everything is the fault of Americans) and anti-semitism were 100% the same as we can find in the French newspaper, that is, according to me, completely out of the reality. The wife of this MP (a very close friend) told me that the current problems were caused by the fact that Americans had STARTED a war ! She had no knowledge at all of what is written in the Qoran, and when I tried to explain her the first verses of the sourate 9, she answered that I was an extremist. Of course, this MP has an access to non public informations, and is obliged to keep secret : I believe a big part of his answer was just to hide what he knows. But it scared me anyway.

About Holland and London, I've no information, but for France, the Jihad has already begun, even if it's not yet very visible : about 70 areas of France are officially considered as outside the control of police and are totally controlled by Muslims. My impression is that there is a debate inside the different extensions of the Muslim Brothers about how to achieve the Jihad :

- The internal organization of Muslims is that a self-defined leader will dictate a Fatwa, that those who recognize him will follow. If such a leader has not enough followers, his fatwa will be completely unsuccessful. The dominant leader in France are from the UOIF (the official representation of Muslim Brothers in France).

- For the moment, the Tariq Ramadan, Dr Milcent (= Dr Abdallah), and others, from the UOIF seem to prefer a non-terrorist but legal Jihad.

- Some other groups have already declared the Jihad against France, but did not succeed (probably a success of Police) : an Algerian group had done this in 1994, Al Qaida has done this this summer, etc.

- It seems that many people are getting guns and other firearms

So, my impression is that, at one moment, some groups linked to the Brother Muslims will consider that the present strategy is not efficient enough, and one leader will make a successful fatwa, and it will probably be the start of an intifada.

A bientt,


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away Philip K. Dick

Which may tell you more than you want to know about jihad in Europe.


The only commentator that I have located to date who knows what WW-IV is all about is a "neocon", so what is a fellow to do?


> in the late 1990s when Egyptian newspapers claimed
> that chewing gum Israel was selling in Egypt was laced
> with sexual hormones that aroused insatiable lust
> in young Arab women     
This war is also about sex
Charles Krauthammer

I had not realized that the Arabs were *that* crazy on the matter of
sex. If Big Pharma came up with a drug that could do *that*, the
Egyptians would be 'way at the end of the line to get some <grin>.



Dr Pournelle,

Would you buy a used submarine from this navy? 

Jim Mangles



 Fix What's Wrong at the Airport: Start Profiling

 Susan Estrich Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004

Why me?

I almost didn't make it to Cleveland today for the vice presidential debate. I was in Newark, being searched.

An interesting article...




A couple of things struck me reading Ms. Estrich's article

> The head of security agreed. It's all the fault of the ACLU, he explained. They make us do it this way. > > My friend Nadine Strossen, who is the president of the ACLU, would be surprised to find out how much power she has.

Does she really think the Bush administration would have implemented the system this way if they didn't have to? It's pretty disingenuous for the PC crowd to saddle the rest of us with their goofy ideology and then disavow its concrete manifestation.


> When I landed in Cleveland, I learned that half the big-shots on the Washington flight had also been subjects of the "big > search." They had one-way tickets, too, since most of them are headed > to St. Louis from here. Lots of time wasted > today. Hopefully no terrorists slipped through while they were > searching journalists.

When did journalists get to be "big-shots", and why are journalists above suspicion when the rest of us are not? The sheer arrogance is astounding.

She may be right about one thing, though, even as she dances around plain speech:

>The conservatives are the ones who put this crazy system into effect. >It took Nixon to go to China. It will take liberals > to fix what's wrong at the airport.

Yes, indeed. It may take liberals to implement a security system that preferentially searches young men from Muslim countries. If the conservatives try they will certainly be attacked at every turn - by the liberals, of course, especially those in the press.

Eric Baumgartner










CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, October 8, 2004


Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 3:55 PM


Dear Families and Friends of the Thundering Third, Greetings again from Camp Abu Ghurayb. This is my fifth letter to you as we prepare to begin the month of October, and the fourth month of our deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. I am pleased to report that our great Battalion has continued to perform its duties in Iraq with a high degree of combat efficiency in accordance with the legacy of valor and professionalism we inherited from our Veteran forebears of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, and Somalia. "Your" Battalion is maintaining the initiative, aggressively patrolling 24-hours a day across our assigned area of operations. We continue to experience success in all assigned missions and have experienced a number of firsts on the small unit tactical level since I last reported to you. Of note, we have recently caught three different IED emplacing teams, killing one terrorist when he attempted to forcibly recover a pistol taken from him by India Company Marines. This was the last move he ever made, as a well trained Marine used one round to eliminate the threat to his buddy's safety. Another man, who was also caught on scene, wisely decided to desist and was detained safely, according to our standard operating procedures. The India Marines, in the midst of a mounted combat patrol, astutely recognized suspicious roadside activity at night and caught these men in the act of burying the IEDs. India's men also interrupted the late night work of a team of six IED planters who were observed placing artillery rounds in the ground along the roadside in an area commonly targeted by IEDs. The Marines engaged immediately, killing two men. The others abandoned their shovels and ran into complex terrain beyond the road. Exploiting the site, the Marines found two buried artillery shells

with wires and remote detonating systems. A similar success occurred a couple of weeks ago when a Headquarters Company ambush patrol caught two men in the early morning hours with suspicious bags in their hands walking along the roadside. The concealed patrol uncovered and yelled in Arabic, telling the suspects to halt. They carefully approached and subsequent search revealed rolls of wire and activation devices used to detonate IEDs. We detained these men and learned through later questioning where the explosives were located that they were going to wire for detonation. Indeed, the information provided by these men led us to several buried 155mm artillery shells, which were safely destroyed by our motivated combat engineers. There have been many other tactical successes like the ones I just described, in missions ranging from but not limited to ambushes, counter IED and indirect fire patrols, locating terrorist arms and ordnance caches, renovating schools in time for the new school term, and training Iraqi Security Forces... whether in contact with the enemy or with friendly people seeking a better life, your Marines and Sailors are doing great things out here every day. As you may have heard from your loved ones out here, daily temperatures have thankfully begun to drop. Although we continue to experience days with temperatures above 100F, it has been noticeably cooler, particularly at night and in the early mornings. After working hard all day on the move and then settling into an ambush site at night with a damp skivvy top, it can actually get a bit chilly for our Devil Dogs. No one is we put the often brutally hot weather of the past few months behind us, I don't think that any member of the Thundering Third will ever forget his "balmy" summer of 2004 in Iraq.

The time for rotation of forces who began their deployment in February is upon us. Accordingly, the Thundering Third recently said farewell to the finest Regimental Commander most Marines and Sailors will ever have the privilege of serving under, Colonel John Toolan, USMC. In an emotional farewell, the Battalion presented our outgoing CO with a couple of hand crafted plaques made by his Marines. Colonel Toolan, or "Inchon Six" as he is affectionately referred to in 3/1, often referred to our Battalion as "the sharpest knife in his drawer". Appropriately, we presented him a plaque with a captured SKS bayonet affixed and an Arabic quote that stated, "the knife can still cut, even when sheathed". Col Toolan Sir, we will not forget your inspiring leadership, tactical proficiency, words of wisdom and patience, great humor, caring spirit, and deep love for your Marines and Sailors. We all wish Colonel Toolan, his Lady Helen, and the rest of the Toolan Clan continued success in their next assignment, where Colonel Toolan will continue to teach, coach, and mentor LtCols and Majors from around the world as Director of Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia. Colonel Toolan passed the Regimental Colors to Colonel Larry Nicholson, who was hurt on his first day of command and had to relinquish command to Colonel Mike Shupp, who was originally slated to command our regiment but had to delay due to a family illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with Colonel Nicholson and his family for a speedy return to full duty and the command opportunity he so richly deserves. We are proud to welcome Colonel Shupp, the new "Inchon Six", his Lady, Sherrye, and their family aboard our Regimental Family.

A number of our attachments have also recently said farewell to their Brothers in the Thundering Third. Our Combat Engineer Platoon, led by1stLt Korey Mullins, and GySgt Shawn Hannah have successfully completed a seven month tour in Iraq. Their support of 3/1 and 1/5 has been superb. SgtMajor Sax and I had the privilege of walking patrol with these incredible Marines and Sailors and you will not find any finer in our great Marine Corps.

We also said farewell to a superb Truck Platoon, led by 1stLt Mike Ligouri and GySgt Richard Hathaway, from our cannon cocker brethren in the 11th Marines. We will also miss these great Marines and Sailors - men who did everything asked of them and more for Country and Corps, logging thousands of safe road miles throughout Kuwait and Iraq over their deployment. We also wished a fond farewell to our Civil Affairs (CA) Team, led by Major Larry Kaifesh and GySgt Mark Kline. Our CA Team has proven to be the Battalion's number one fire support asset as we continue our work to rebuild Iraq, and bring water, power, sanitation and other essentials to the people living in our area of operations. Many of these people have never had any of the aforementioned services before in their lives. The people of the City of Nasser Wa Salaam (NWS) have been particularly appreciative. These people are predominantly Shia in their Muslim preference. They were ignored by the Saddam regime and brought in from southern Iraq to work in local steel and cement factories as laborers. The Thundering Third, through the hard work of our Civil Affairs team and the Marines and Sailors of Lima Company have made great changes in NWS. The reat work done by Major Kaifesh and GySgt Kline and their men, and the friendships they made here will be remembered for a long time to come (some of you may have seen the well written article on our CA Team published on the USMC Official Website and the Camp Pendleton Scout's 9 Sept issue). Congratulations to these superb Marines who performed magnificently day in and day out to make Iraq a better place, and to bring freedom to the Iraqi People. May I also offer a note of thanks on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps and our Battalion to the families of these men, who sacrificed at home over the past seven months to enable their loved ones to serve our Nation overseas in a time of war - our men couldn't accomplish the things that they have without you behind them. With all the recent farewells came corresponding "welcome aboard" greetings. Our new Combat Engineers are led by Capt Mike Goldstein and GySgt Dewayne Walters. Our Combat Truck Platoon is led by Major George Hanlon and GySgt Mike Wittrock. All of our new Marines and Sailors hail from the fighting 14th Marines, based in the great State of Texas. Well aware of the incredible reputation held by our Brothers in the 4th Marine Division, we are honored and privileged to serve with them here in Iraq. After a solid turn-over with their predecessors, these new members of the Thundering Third have hit the ground running and rolling, and are performing at the "3/1 Standard" in combat. Our new CA Team is led by CWO Gerald "Godfather" Reese, and SSgts Dan Mercado and Jason Mapel. These men lead a fresh, motivated crew of Marines and a Navy Corpsman, who have continued the great work of Major Kaifesh and his "Rough Riders" without missing a beat.

As promised in my last letter, I want to highlight some key points about the new Iraqi Army and the Specialized Special Forces that have been attached to us and are doing a tremendous job alongside our Marines and Sailors. Our success with the Iraqi National Guard (ING) has been mixed. In the City of Al Karmah, a satellite city of Fallujah, pressure from terrorists and insurgents has been great on the local population. This pressure has translated into a significantly reduced level of effectiveness in our ING Company there. At the forefront of our efforts in Al Karmah, Lt Don Toscano and SSgt Nick Fox and their Combined Action Platoon (CAP) Marines from Weapons/George Company have performed above and beyond the call of duty and are making progress. These men have become part of an experiment created during the Vietnam War, where the CAP concept was initially formed (some might argue, however, that Marines have been performing missions like this since the days when Lt Chesty Puller and GySgt "Iron Man" Lee were marching as provisional Nicaraguan National Guard Officers through the steaming Nicaraguan jungle, chasing a terrorist bandit named Sandino and his cronies back in the early part of our last Century).

While the Al Karmah ING continues to develop, we have achieved marked success with India Company of the ING to the east in Nasser Wa Salaam. In fact, India Company is easily among the most successful ING Company in the Al Anbar Province. Cooperative efforts between our Combined Action Platoon (CAP), led by 1stLt Zach Iscol and his Weapons/George Marines (with support from Lima Company) have facilitated the creation of a very capable Iraqi ING Company led by very patriotic and dedicated Iraqi Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. This unit has had a number of successes to date, including killing and capturing insurgents, locating caches and IEDs, etc.

A testament to the success achieved by our Marines and Sailors at India Base is the many dignitaries have visited over the past two months to see what they are all about. These dignitaries have included our Commandant and Assistant Commandant, and a former Commandant, who is currently the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. These distinguished gentlemen, and many other senior officers, have continuously demonstrated support of our efforts to create a viable Iraqi Security Force, which will assume the mission of security in Iraq upon our departure. I was on the range with them today and marveled at the level of proficiency they demonstrated in dry fire and movement training. Working side by side with Marines who live with them and know all of their Iraqi names and can give them basic commands and encouragement in Arabic, these men moved with aggressive enthusiasm and all stated that they are ready to go to Fallujah if called upon. This particularly special type of duty has matured our young Marines beyond their pay grades... looking across at the men who surrounded me for a few remarks, I couldn't help but think that I was looking at a group of NCOs instead of PFCs and LCpls with just a couple of Cpls in a crowd of over 20 men. Your Marines are doing great things out here for Country, Corps, and the people of Iraq. We are also working with the Iraqi Specialized Special Forces (ISSF), led by an incredible officer, BGen Khalis. General Khalis is the former commander of the Iraqi Special Forces, where he commanded at every level up to Brigade and was director of the Special Forces Academy and Command and Staff College. This charismatic and exceptionally patriotic officer has formed two battalions from the old Iraqi Army. He has done this by carefully vetting and selecting his leaders for the challenges at hand. BGen Khalis has selected some superlative officers and soldiers, and the ISSF we are working with in the Thundering Third are superb Soldiers. These men share every hardship with us, are out patrolling everywhere we are, and have already shed their blood at our sides. They are particularly valuable at recognizing situations and especially people that are out of the ordinary (reminiscent of the old British _expression, "absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal"). Unlike their ING counterparts, the ISSF are mainly composed of career special forces soldiers who received specialized training and were part of a small, elite group during the Saddam period. These men are from over 50 separate tribes across Iraq and have no political stance other than to support the Interim Iraqi Government. I would respectfully disagree with Ms. Ozernoy in her article below regarding the term "militia" as these men are career professionals who have returned to Army service in defense of their nation. What is perhaps most laudable about all of the Iraqi Security Forces personnel, is the fact that every one of these men faces grave and imminent danger to their families as they carry out their duties. Indeed, BGen Khalis' family was abducted some weeks back by terrorists, who set ire and placed explosives at his home after taking his family away. Efforts to recover them are ongoing and they remain in our thoughts and prayers every day. Major Awda, our India Base ING Company Commander was also attacked by terrorists with automatic weapons on his way to his command post at India Base. Major Awda keeps his son with him at all times to ensure his safety when he is not at home. The terrorists here are ruthless, savage, and do not play by any rules. It takes an extraordinary level of sacrifice, determination, and heroism that most Americans cannot imagine to serve in the Iraqi Security Forces and government. Men like BGen Khalis and Major Awda, and many others, are serving in these conditions every day to bring freedom to their fellow Iraqis (please see the attached news article below about our brothers in the Iraqi Special Forces).

As stated at the beginning of my letter, all of our companies are doing great work here. Sgt Major Ed Sax and I want to take a moment to recognize a few standouts from each:

Kilo Company, the "Spartans", celebrated the combat meritorious promotions of Cpl's James A. Flattery and Jose F. Sanchez. Sergeant John M. Doyle also earned his Sergeant's stripes meritoriously in combat. SSgt Select Travis M. Fields, was selected on the most recent promotion board at Headquarters Marine Corps. Sergeant Jonathon C. Scarfe has been selected to attend university and earn his 2d Lieutenant's bars at OCS. The men of Kilo are proven adept at all tactical tasks assigned and have maintained an aggressive and persistent focus despite a high operational tempo. Among the many caches and IEDs they've discovered, they recently detained several high value targeted individuals working against Iraqi and Coalition Forces in targeted raids.

India Company the "Raiders" have combat meritorious Cpl Sammie D. Jackson, and LCpl's Cody M. Kyle and Alejandro Rodriguez. LCpl Justin M. Thompson was selected as the Bn's Marine of the Quarter. We also had two outstanding Sgts, Lawrence T. Love and Michael A. Vaz, selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. India Company, continues to set a standard for sturdy Marines and Sailors focused on mission accomplishment. As described in the opening lines of this letter, they have identified IEDs, discovered weapons and explosives caches, and have captured a number of dangerous terrorists with incriminating materials, in addition to the many other combat tasks associated with the duties of a rifle company in Iraq.

Lima Company combat meritorious promotions include Cpl William J. Higgins, LCpl Mathew S. Sandy, and Private First Class Ryan O. Easton. Recently they conducted operations in our southern area of operations is support of US Special Forces, which resulted in numerous enemy killed, weapons captured and a bomb making factory destroyed. The "Warriors" of Lima Company continue to execute all assigned missions with esprit and professionalism.

Wpns/George combat promotions include Sgt John P. Monahan, Cpl Steven C. Gillespie, and LCpl's Jay G. Phillips and Cameran J. Urias. Cpl Mathew C. Bassett was selected as the Battalion NCO of the quarter. Sgt Christopher P Lopez was selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. He has also done incredible work as a Combined Anti-Armor Section Leader in Combat. Our Weapons/George Marines continue to train Iraqi Security Forces, patrol the roads of our sector, fire mortars, heavy machine guns, TOW and Javelin missiles in support of combat operations, and a host of other mission profiles related to our duties here. Also, Corporal Dylan R. Collins, of Cap Delta / 81's Plt, has been selected to attend university and earn his 2d Lieutenant's bars at OCS.

Headquarters Company continues to superbly support the entire Battalion and is involved in every operation we conduct in some regard. Some of the Company standouts over the past month have been Chief Richard Tomlinson, who pinned on his new Anchors in a classy promotion ceremony, HM1's (FMF) Brian Dike and Rick Good who earned their Fleet Marine Force Warfare Pins, Cpl's Curtus Hartsell, from our Communications Plt and Cpl Anthony R. Roberts from our Supply Section earned combat meritorious promotions to corporal, LCpl's Amado H. Sosa from our Combat Administration Section, and Marshall C. Lewis from our Communications Plt earned a combat meritorious promotions to Lance Corporal, Sgt Nathan Osowski who earned the opportunity to attend university and earn a commission as a 2d Lt in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning and Education Program, and Sgt Cayleu Wojcik, who was selected for Staff Sergeant. Meanwhile, Headquarters Company continues to do all the things required to keep our rifle and weapons companies in the attack, as well as our attachments. The men described above are standouts in a reinforced infantry battalion full of standouts. It is one of my great privileges and pleasures in life to see these men earn combat promotions, NCO and Marine of the Quarter honors, and earn additional qualifications while participating in combat operations. I can well imagine the pride felt by the families of the above listed superlative Marines, who are serving their country most honorably in a time of war.

Morale and Welfare Recreation Center Update - thanks to continued generous donations from great Americans back home, GySgt Howard Payne, and his great Headquarters Company Marines have continued work on our battalion recreation center known as the "Bull Pen". Our Marines and Sailors are relaxing inside the cool movie lounge, watching satellite TV or movies on a plasma screen, with computer games and an ever increasing library, loaded with books and magazines and board games. Large quantities of mail and packages continue to arrive and are greatly appreciated. Cpl Dick Rogge, a US Marine WWII Veteran and career G-Man, has sent us enough cans of Virginia Diner Peanuts to supply the entire Regimental Combat Team! Cpl Rogge recently fractured his leg back in Westlake Village, and the men of the Thundering Third wish him a speedy return to full duty. Col Clark Henry (a Thundering Third Veteran of Chosin Reservoir) and his Lady recently sent multiple boxes of Gatorade packs, which have been well received by our men across the Battalion's battle space. Captain Seamus Garrahy out in historic Gettysburg continues to keep the Thundering Third stocked with his "Gung Ho" Sauce - thank you Sir! Sgt and Mrs. Dan Frydrychowski, have sent half of San Clemente's Ralph's Supermarket shelves to us out here - they have a care package operation in their garage that is the envy of the Marine Corps Logistics Depot at Barstow. Indeed, we've received all kinds of great packages full of food, books, and hygiene items that all go to good use. SgtMajor Ed Sax has flash backs to his company gunnery sergeant days and never gets tired of distributing these items for delivery to our Marines, and sometimes to Iraqi children. I want to repeat that I cannot tell you how good it feels to know how many people are behind us back home. These packages and the inspiring messages contained within really make a great difference to our Marines and Sailors... all are deeply, deeply appreciated.

Like their forebears in the Thundering Third from WWII (15 Feb 42) to present, our Marines and Sailors have continued to serve with fortitude in the face of adversity. As you must know, we continue to sustain casualties here in Iraq. Due to great combat leadership and training, a high percentage of our wounded are returning to duty. Unfortunately, as noted in previous letters home and the comments above, we have had a few men hurt enough to be medevaced back to the USA. On this note, our Marines and Sailors continue to be blessed with visits by a number of the Battalion's Distinguished Veterans. These visits mean the world to our men and their families, and mean the world to the rest of us in Iraq, knowing that our lads are being well cared for in the rear. If any of our Battalion Families or Friends would like to visit wounded men in the Camp Pendleton area or on the east coast at Bethesda, please contact Gunnery Sergeant (Select) Ray Ortiz, at the 3/1 Rear Command Post at (760) 763-0557. He can also be reached by email at:

It is also my sad duty to report to you that we have lost three of our brother Marines killed in action here in Iraq that were close to many men in the Thundering Third. LtCol Kevin Shea, our Regimental Communications Officer, Corporal Steven A.Rintimaki, a TOW Gunner from Weapons/George Company, and Lance Michael J. Allred from Fox Company 2/1, who was a former Thundering Third Battalion Color Sergeant and 3/1 Veteran of OIF I. All of these men gave their lives for their brother Marines and Sailors here, and for all Americans in defense of the freedoms we are all privileged to enjoy. America owes these Marines and their families an endless debt of gratitude. They are greatly missed by their brothers here and by their families back home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. We continue the mission we began here together, as they would have wanted. I also want to recognize the loss Mr. Hajji Kameel, our Battalion's senior interpreter. Hajji Kameel, was a very compassionate and distinguished senior gentleman, who learned English working with British managers at the Iraqi National Oil Company in the years immediately following WWII. Our brother member of the Thundering Third was killed in Baghdad during his off duty time. We held an emotional memorial service with all available interpreters and many members of the Battalion to remember him. One of our young Corporals described how Hajji Kameel would never wear body armor or a helmet when out on the often dangerous roads of Iraq. On the road early every day with the Civil Affairs Team, the Corporal said that he used to enjoy watching Kameel "stare out the window, sniffing the cool morning dawn of freedom". This service was filmed and a copy was delivered to Kameel's family in Baghdad with condolences from the Thundering Third. Hajji Kameel is greatly missed by all of us, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers. The Koran reads, "From God we are delivered to the earth, and to God we return". I will conclude this letter with all of our best wishes to you at home, especially to the great Ladies who continue to do great things in our Thundering Third Key Volunteer Network. A number of family related events have occurred over the past several months back in the USA, and our Key Volunteers have been there for our Battalion Families in EVERY circumstance. I do not have the words to express how important the compassionate work our Ladies are doing is for all of our Marines and Sailors and their families. Ladies, THANK YOU from all of us forward deployed for the continued superlative support - we all cannot wait to be home with you again soon.

As time permits, I will write again. I hope that this update has provided you with an insight into the Battalion's recent accomplishments and progress. In addition to your support for your Marines and Sailors over here, I also respectfully ask that you keep the families of our lost and wounded Marines and Sailors in your thoughts and prayers. The 3d Bn, 1st Marines honors the sacrifice of Corporal Stephen Rintamaki, Lance Corporal Michael Allred, and LtCol Kevin Shea, our RCT-1 Communications Officer, and Mr. Hajji Kameel, who are gone but never forgotten. John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

God Bless and Semper Fidelis,

LtCol Willy Buhl


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Thanks for such a fansinating website! I Googled your name yesterday on a whim, as I often re-read some of your works but did not have a clue of your personal history. And so I found a wonderful site, complete with "rodent protection agent".

Just a comment, though probably not technical enough for your general readers: I've been following the story of Space Ship One via BBC News website all year. The more I've learned, the more I've been converted to the idea that private enterprise will usher in the next definite age of space travel/exploration/colonisation. I grew up with the idea that every major project has to be somewhat like the Manhattan Project: massive government initiative with unlimited money wrapped in a military package. And though military money and use has probably been the most effective resource for aircraft development these last hundred years, it doesn't necessarily mean that national military policy has a great deal to do with getting things established on the Moon, let alone Mars. From this far perspective, America seems a place of huge financial and technical resource that often gets mis-used (thinking about all the budget blather concerning the current Mars initiatives). Yet the US Government does not have to control all that resource; far from it. It is a wonderful image of mine to see some mad combination of Bill Gates and Richard Branson getting colonies established on Mars. Rather sooner than later too.

Thanks again for your website.


Daniel Neal Orchestra Librarian Cape Philharmonic Orchestra PO Box 4040 Cape Town 8000 Phone: +27 21 4109880 cell 082 8490718 Fax: +27 21 425 1009

Thanks for the kind words.


Subject: 500 tons of yellow cake in Iraq buffy willow

Tracy Walters

I grow weary of the WMD discussion. Saddam once had a nuclear program. He clearly wanted another. Iraq is as large as California and it's not that hard to hide nuclear weapons labs: we did, in New Mexico, for a long time. Saddam once had chemical weapons: he stockpiled them and he used them. On people. He bluffed that he still had them, and he did so well enough to deceive his own generals. He wanted biological weapons and again convinced many that he had them.

While the evidence of any continuing nuclear program was thin, it's hard to prove negatives, and he did have the raw materials. He had bought yellow cake before and the word was out that he'd buy more. Oil for Food gave him lots of money courtesy of officials bribed with vouchers: some in France, some in Russian, probably some in the US, certainly some in the UN. Bribery works. News at eleven.

If you thought chemical and biological weapons important enough to invade over, the President had ample evidence that there were some and not a lot that there were none. He was well within his prudential limits to invade if he thought the damned things were important and Saddam was not deterred. I don't agree on those points, but I don't advertise myself as infallible either. Clearly my disgust with the egregious Frum and his neo-Jacobin cohorts colors my judgment, but the fact remains that Bush has a good argument that invading Iraq was prudential. That turned out not to be the case, at least as it was conducted with the neo-Jacobins and their love affair with Chalabi, but that's another story and not one being debated at all.

And there is zero evidence that Kerry and the Democrats understand that the lesson of Iraq is that we shouldn't get involved in world territorial disputes, but should develop our own resources and intervene in the rest of the world only when there is clear connection to our interests. Bush may or may not have learned that lesson, but he starts with a party that at one time believed that; Kerry starts with a party that boasted of using our military in places where there was no US interest whatever, simply to right wrongs and do good. Whether defending the rights of Albanians to be illegal immigrants to Kosovo was all that moral is another thing we could debate, but it certainly was not in our interest to do so, and darned near started the Cold War all over again.









This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 9, 2004

I don't normally run press releases as mail, but this strikes me as intersting...==


Stephen Gordon Communications Director (512) 637-6867

Thomas Knapp Media Coordinator


"They can vote for anyone that they want, so long as I select the candidates" -Boss Tweed of New York City late 19th Century Politics

The Commission on Presidential Debates which conducts the Bi-Partisan national events is using public resources to facilitate private, exclusive 'Infomercials' say two of the excluded candidates who were arrested upon attempting to enter Friday's St Louis debate. MoreAt

Below is the blogged account at one of the candidates web site

8:38PM CST

The first report from St. Louis is in - and presidential candidates Michael Badnarik (Libertarian) and David Cobb (Green Party) were just arrested. Badnarik was carrying an Order to Show Cause, which he intended to serve the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Earlier today, Libertarians attempted to serve these same papers at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the CPD - but were stopped from approaching the CPD office by security guards.

Fred Collins reported to me from the ground that Badnarik and Cobb are in great physical condition and great spirit.

As soon as more details are available, they will be posted here immediately.

8:51PM CST

I just spoke with Jon Airheart on his cellular telephone. He reports that while he could see no handcuffs, both Badnarik and Cobb had their hands behind their backs, as if they were handcuffed. Airheart also confirms that Badnarik did have the papers to serve the CPD in his jacket pocket.

9:09PM CST

The first AP report just hit Google News:

Just as the debate began, two third-party presidential candidates purposely crossed a police barricade and were arrested. Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik were protesting their exclusion from the debate . 10:09PM CST

My cell phone is ringing off the hook. There is no way to catch up with all of the messages left - and I am sure the memory is full by now. Things are going too fast to keep up with them.

Jon Airheart just reported that he and Fred Collins are catching a taxi to the jail where Mike is currently located. The address is 200 South Tucker Street, St. Louis, MO. Jon stated that there were over one hundred police offices with helmets and shields in the particular line they crossed.

Thomas Knapp just reported that prior to their arrests, Badnarik and Cobb explained to the crowd why they chose civil disobedience to express their message. He stated that Badnarik had to “bodily” push his way through the police line. Once through, he peacefully surrendered, was handcuffed, and taken out of direct site.

10:30 PM CST

We now have multiple audioblogs from Jon Airheart (in chronological order) at:

10:42PM CST

More news reports:

This quote comes from this St. Louis Post-Dispatch report:

“I have the freedom of speech and they have no authority to barricade that,” Badnarik said from outside the security line.

The Progress Report reports:

“Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik pushed his way through the police line at the debate site about a minute after Cobb and was similarly arrested. Cobb and Badnarik have participated in genuine, non-scripted, nonpartisan debates four times in this campaign; a fifth debate is scheduled for October 15 at Eastern Tennessee State University with a number of other candidates.”

10:51PM CST

Apparently, we have overloaded the facilities at We will save and FTP the audioblog postings to our site as soon as we can retrieve them.

11:04PM CST

Jon Airheart and Fred Collins just called. They are at the city jail mentioned above. Jon stated, “What I will now tell you shows the absolute ineptitude of government. They don’t even know, and won’t know for three to four hours, whether he [Badnarik} is in this particular jail.”

Fred Collins said, “He [Badnarik] should have picked a better city in which to be arrested.”

The question which remains is whether Mr. Badnarik is in the city or the county jail.

11:12PM CST

It is a good thing we changed servers last night - as we have been seriously farked tonight.

11:19PM CST

The following is reported via e-mail from George Getz, the Libertarian Party communications director about his attempt to serve the CPD in D.C. today:


At about 2pm ET, I hand-delivered the paper called “Arizona Case Order.” I talked to David [Euchner - the lead attorney in the Arizona case] immediately afterward and he said the other papers can be faxed later. I am now back at the office, and there’s no one here, so I’m unaware of any developments.

I will also fax the affidavit, as David and I discussed earlier.


11:23PM CST

Former LNC Chair and Operations Manager for the Badnarik campaign Geoffrey Neale responded with:

Do you have a signature from anyone at the CPD?

11:27PM CST

Here is Mr. Getz’s response to Mr. Neale:

Unfortunately, no. But this guy was so hostile there was no way he would have signed it. He wouldn’t even take it in his hand, and made me just put it on the desk instead.

He wouldn’t even tell me his name!?! – he was just “Tom.”

I replied, “Tom, huh? Could you be more vague, Tom?”

However, David (our attorney) was on the phone with “Tom” at the time I came into the office, and overheard the whole conversation, so I don’t think he can deny it. The lawyer is an “officer of the court,” or whatever, and if he tells the judge that’s what happened, that better be what happened. Plus, in my affidavit I described the schmuck and his assistant schmuck pretty well, which would be very odd if I wasn’t there.

Let’s hope for the best.


11:50PM CT

Nancy Neale (Geoffrey Neale’s darling wife) just sent me the following interesting link while I was being interviewed by some reporter from Missouri:

End of Blog at

Consider .... the ALTERNATIVE Presidential Debate

Windows Media PLAYBACKS at and

Libertarians Michael Badnarik

Greens David Cobb


as Bush or Kerry demonstrated which of them really is the....


...some watch on-line playbacks of PBS: Crashing the Parties

a 'fair & balanced' report of the impact and saga of 3rd Party Alternative Politics


to download (aprx 100mb) and playback from your computer's hard drive At URL (link) below, right click & 'save target as...'

Liberty InterNet TV archive of this & other shows

also available free for playback and/or download



If -- in yesterday's presidential debate -- John Kerry can talk of the threat of Iran's possessing 37 tons of yellowcake that can be refined into weapons-grade uranium, then why isn't President Bush bringing up the 500 tons of yellowcake that the United States found in Iraq when U.S. soldiers searched Iraq for WMD's? Doesn't this prove -- once and for all -- that President Bush is right about Saddam Hussein's plans to restart his nuclear-weapons program as soon as he was clear of UN sanctions ... and which Saddam was corrupting the Oil for Food program to bribe French, Russian, and Chinese officials to get lifted?

You don't believe this? My source is The New York Times. The article is attached below:

J. Neil Schulman

U.S. Announces It Intends to Move Tons of Uranium From Baghdad

May 22, 2004 By JAMES GLANZ

VIENNA, May 21 - The United States has informed an international agency that oversees nuclear materials that it intends to move hundreds of tons of uranium from a sealed repository south of Baghdad to a more secure place outside Iraq, Western diplomats close to the agency say.

But the organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has taken the position that the uranium is Iraqi property and that the agency cannot give permission to remove it, a diplomat said. The diplomat said that the United States was unlikely to be deterred by that position and that American officials had contacted the agency on the matter this year, before the Iraq insurgency flared last month.

"I think that if the stuff had not gone up in intensity," the diplomat said, "they would already have moved on this."

An official with the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad confirmed that moving the uranium was under consideration.

"The story I've heard is that no decision has been made as yet," the official said. "That was some months ago. When it was discussed, the view was that it was just too expensive to ship. I doubt that anything has changed."

The official added that keeping the material in storage, even amid the instability in Iraq, could be safer than trying to move it. Nuclear experts outside the government said that if the material was moved, it would probably be airlifted and placed in a repository in the United States.

And see also

Jerry P:

The article is typical of most news media. Yellowcake is Uranium Oxide. It is not fissile. It contains approximately 0.72% fissile U-235 by weight and needs to be refined to bring the level of U-235 to a high enough level for a weapon. Also, yellowcake, depending upon the process used, may contain impurities so that the 500 tons is not a good number for anyone to use. Uranium oxides are fairly common in dilute quantities, orange coloration in common clays and bricks is often Uranium. A big todo about nothing.


Wasn't me making it a big to do. That would be Kerry, who was concerned, or expressed concern, about Iran's 37 tons. Saddam kept the stuff around, presumably so that one day he could use it for something, although he might have just been crap farming.

As I have said from the beginning, a significant nuclear capability in Saddam's hands would have been a threat. He didn't have one. He would have liked to have one, but that's a different story. He bought his ores, stocked them, and wanted to refine them (actually isotope separation is a great deal more difficult than simple refinement). The Israeli raid put paid to that, and this stuff was probably left over from those times. However, it was there.

I have seen no official mentions of this from Bush supporters.


And now an important letter from Iraq:

Subject: The Sheraton Ishtar attack 9-Oct-2004

Dear Jerry,

My brother, Dan, works for Perini Corporation and is one of the contractors working in Baghdad. Dan was in the Sheraton Ishtar when it was hit by rocket fire Thursday. Here is the e-mail he sent to all his relatives early yesterday morning:

Dear All,

You may have seen on the news that the Ishtar Sheraton was hit by rockets last night, and I just wanted to allay any fears you may have.  I would like to give personal thanks to the fellow who invented reinforced concrete.  Both rockets hit solid structure instead of windows or doors, and while there was serious damage, it could have been far worse.  The Army destroyed the truck that launched the rockets within minutes of them being launched.  No one in the hotel suffered even a scratch or a bruise.  Our security team (all former British SAS and Royal Marines, with an ex-French Foreign Legionaire thrown in) were brave, quick, coordinated and competent.  A couple of our guys had their rooms completely ruined, but they were able to double up with others.  My A/C still works, I have hot water, and the internet is back up and running just fine.  We all stayed up late and had beer.

Thank-you for your love and concern.  Please stay in touch.

Love, Dan

I wrote back to him to urge him to keep his head down. He's a former Marine, so I'm pretty sure he knows how to do that. I also included a New York Times article about the rocket attack. Of course, that was buried under the coverage of the attack on that hotel in the Sinai. But the Sheraton Ishtar article contained the phrase: "indications of growing anger at the American occupation." I asked Dan to comment on that:

Dear Steve,

You are, of course, aware that it is absolutely obligatory that the media "build a case", so to speak, of "growing resentment" and "increasing vulnerability" and all the rest.  Their only option is for us to pull out and hang our heads in shame, admitting how bad all Americans are, and how embarrassed the rest of the world is about us.  The media makes me gag.  Why would anyone actually be in favor of succeeding here?  What a concept.  

I stand on my previous statements.  Are there fellows in this city that would have a party if they could lop off my silly head?  Certainly.  Is there a solid core of citizens who regularly rat out these filthy dogs, who volunteer for the desperately dangerous jobs of police and national guard, who know that despite some very bad errors, the Americans really want to hand back over a real country that can stand on its own?  Uh-huh.  Why do you think the Army and Marines are able to make arrests, uncover weapons caches, target safe houses, and all the rest?  Because Iraqi citizens are telling them where to go, and an awful lot of the info is clean.  Yes, even in Fallujah.  Remember reading about the doctor in the Fallujah hospital who keeps accusing the Americans of killing innocents when they strike Zarqawi's people? Remember the Iraqi Ministry of Information guy who claimed there were no Americans in Baghdad when there were tanks racing down the street, back in April of last year?  Hmmmm.  Let me tell you a little story about said doctor:

On October 25th of last year, we had an American contruction manager, a British engineer, and a 3 SUV convoy traveling back to Baghdad from Rifles Base out near Ramadi.  Up ahead, as they were passing Fallujah, an Army convoy got hit by 2 IEDs and an RPG.  The soldiers started shooting at anything that moved. Because they were traveling at a high rate of speed, our convoy closed within a minute of the attack.  The soldiers suddenly see civilian vehicles, driven by Iraqis, see AK-47s in the SUVs.  They turn and riddle all three with M-16s and .50 caliber machine guns.  An Iraqi driver, a female translator, and two local guards were killed.  The two British team leaders were wounded, as was the engineer, he very severely in both legs.  One of our guards, a former palace guard for Saddam, had leaped out of the ruined car and down an embankment.  Hearing the cries of the engineer, he crawled back up with bullets flying past him.  He dragged the man from the vehicle and down the embankment, covering him with his own body (by the way, I got this from an eye-witness, the American manager, my friend Dick Loy).  Dick was untouched, but the 4 Iraqis in his car were all dead.  They had shoved him to the floorboards before they died.  When everything settled down, they hitched a ride with a local Fallujan INTO Fallujah to the hospital, where the dear doctor was head of the ER.  He refused to treat our engineer, not even for cash up front.  The palace guard put his pistol to the doctor's head and ordered him to treat the Brit, which he then did (and did a good job of it, according to the doctors at Victory Base when they got there).  A nice follow up to this story is about 4 months later, Perini Corporation gave a nearly new car, worth over $10,000, to the heroic guard.  A high class move, to be sure.

Now tell me these people hate us.

Love, Dan

P.S.  And yes, I will keep my head down, if for no other reason than that Lee would be SO ticked at me if I got hurt.

(Lee is Dan's wife.) Thought you might be interested in this.


Steve Erbach Neenah, WI








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, October 9, 2004

Subject: My Professor must not

Have read C.S. Lewis or heard of this concept, "At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks." I remember my first exam distinctly, while attending a CSU (I guess I won't say which one, although I would guess the others are the same or worse), in Math 45, Differential Equations for Engineers. I had the third highest score in the class with a 59. And he did not grade on a curve. When I used his office hours to talk with him about the grade he told me that my work showed promise, but I needed to strengthen my problem solving skills and recommended one of his grad students as a tutor.

I was a Computer Engineering major and many of the students in this class were also in my engineering and computer science classes. The class had about 45 students, plus 10 or so on the waiting list on the first day of the semester. The first exam was at the end of the second week and the following Monday we only had 25 students, including the waiting list, still in the class. We lost another five or six after the second exam. The rest of us finished the semester and all of us passed the class, with help from the grad students tutoring us and a lot of hard work. I managed to pull off a B without the benefit of grading on a curve. The students who dropped the class threw themselves completely off track in their engineering of computer science program and many of them ended up transferring to the MIS program in the school of business. There's very little in the way of higher math requirements in an MIS program, calculus for business majors, or some such.

Aside from my math professors I noticed that grade inflation was normal and habitual, even in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. One of my CompSci professors went so far as to teach an entire lab on "how to use Windows" because so many of the students didn't actually know much, if anything, about using a computer. This was the second lab of the class, which was CompSci 15, Programming Concepts and Methodology I, with a prereq of CompSci 10 or programming experience. How did they get there without learning how to use Windows, or some other OS with a GUI? This was in 1996, or so. This CSU is supposed to be a good computer science and engineering school, with a lot of support from both Intel and Hewlett Packard, both of whom have business campuses nearby.

I won't even describe what the liberal arts and education schools were like.

I'm sure you are well aware of the state of our state university system. But there are still a few professors left who don't buy into the new concepts in education, in my experience most of them teach the "tough" math classes, the ones that everyone but us crazy engineers and computer scientists and so forth avoid like the plague. I can remember reading Heinlein talking about this in his books when I was a kid in 70's and 80's and thinking it couldn't be that bad. And re-reading some of his work and reading some of yours while I was in the Army in the 80's and early 90's and thinking, again, it can't be that bad. Then, while going to school on the GI Bill, discovering that it isn't that bad, it's worse!

If you want to get a real education, you still can. But if you just want a piece of paper to hang on the wall that says you're educated, you can get that too, without a whole lot of effort on your part. Sad, to say the least.

-- Eric

Eric's Random Musings - 

"Advertisements... contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.", Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Nathaniel Macon, January 12, 1819

Despair is a sin, and certainly things are not universally bad; still, it is the duty of the writer to warn readers of trends that, "if this goes on..." can result in disaster.


And two Obituaries:


Max Faget died yesterday. Christopher Reeve died today. 

Both will be missed.

-Dan S.

Rest in peace. I met Reeves in England many years ago through Arthur Clarke, and I worked with Faget when I was in Human Factors at Boeing working on space suits. On Faget, see next week.



Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The letter you posted from Eric on Sunday about grade inflation brought back memories. Im a professor of theology and biblical languages. Back in the mid 80s I was teaching at a small private college in southern California. My last year of teaching there I had to teach freshman theology. Out of a class of about 80 students, I had four who actually passed. Most of the remaining students earned Fs, given that they couldnt write even a single coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph. Heck, they couldnt even COPY a coherent sentence in the plagiarized papers they turned in. Unfortunately, the administration was displeased with the grades I gave and behind my back changed them to Cs and Bs (something I thought was illegal, but legal concerns, let alone general ethics seemed surprisingly unimportant to what was supposedly a Christian institution). My contract was not renewed.

But they did have an obvious reason for inflating grades. If the students failed, they didnt come back. If they didnt come back, they didnt pay tuition. If they didnt pay tuition, the school wouldnt survive. This is, I suspect, a problem with many private institutions, especially smaller ones. My wife had similar experiences as an elementary teacher in a private school (it became so bad that my wife finally told her principal that shed rather be unemployed than sign another contract with them).

In many private institutions, the students have become simply stacks of dollar bills, and so the administrators will do anything to keep those stacks coming. This includes intimidating teachers and professors and getting rid of those who wont play along. After all, I was told, look at how much these students or their parents paid. They deserve to get their moneys worth.

Still, I suspect that a discerning student can find institutions that still require hard work and only give grades that are earned (as, for instance, where I teach now).


R.P. Nettelhorst

P.S. I volunteered to help with the X-prize in Mojave and worked in media relations both launches; I was one of those folks you might have seen wandering about in the bright yellow T-shirts. I recognized you and Mr. Niven and even got to talk to your colleague briefly in Shibly Hall (in answer to a question he had). I thought being hounded by a fan was probably not your idea of fun so I didnt try introducing myself or striking up a conversation. Later, I wondered if having a fan ask you for an autograph might rather have made your day. In any case, it was a wonderful experience to be there and witness history being made.

I know of few authors who are unhappy at being asked to sign autographs. Clearly there can be highly inappropriate times and places, but most authors think signing autographs comes with the territory. After all, we get to work inside and sitting down and there's not much heavy lifting.

Grade inflation is a fact; it goes hand in hand with the conversion of education intuitions from places where one is expected to learn to factories for turning out people with credentials. It is always possible to get a decent education, particularly now given the Internet. Of course it remains hard work.




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