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Monday  October 6, 2008

 There was much mail including Joel Rosenberg on Biden's understanding of Hezbollah yesterday, and some good stuff on Saturday as well


Large dose of radiation to head


Here is your radiation experience amped up a few notches.


John Gadbois



Harry Erwin's Letter From England

Freedom of speech is limited in Europe:

Guardian (liberal) perspective <http://tinyurl.com/3w38vc> Daily Mail story <http://tinyurl.com/3lcgy4> Telegraph (more or less conservative) perspective <http://tinyurl.com/4g7joj  > Times Higher Education story <http://tinyurl.com/3nwndr> Another Times Higher Education story <http://tinyurl.com/3jq3oe>


Chinese spying on Skype:

BBC story <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7649761.stm>

Register story <http://tinyurl.com/4eew6j>


BT wiretapping its users:

Register story <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/03/phorm_tandc/>


UK recession hits:

Times story <http://tinyurl.com/4jou39>

Guardian story <http://tinyurl.com/3ph6t9>


Less installed generating capacity results in more funding. “It’s a licence to print money.”

Times story <http://tinyurl.com/4vs9hx>


As far as I can tell, the UK one-year masters basically brings graduates up to the level of a graduate of a four year college elsewhere. It doesn't prepare them for a real PhD--but I suppose it's fine for the UK 3-year mini-PhD.

Times Higher Education story <http://tinyurl.com/3ee79a>


Royal Navy stands down:

Telegraph story <http://tinyurl.com/4z5c5d>



"If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"

Harry Erwin, PhD



Subject: Space Elevator

Dr. Pournelle,

It would seem that people are beginning to remember space. The Japanese and Europeans are looking at it, so NASA has even decided to throw $4M at a design challenge. See the link below:


This is something I’d like to live long enough to see in operation…

Paul Freed




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Tuesday,  October 7, 2008

Opening with something different:

The Battle that Saved the Christian West

Americans know that in 1492 Christopher Columbus "sailed the ocean blue," but how many know that in the same year the heroic Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the Moors in Grenada? Americans would also probably recognize 1588 as the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Francis Drake and the rest of Queen Elizabeth’s pirates. It was a tragedy for the Catholic kingdom of Spain and a triumph for the Protestant British Empire, and the defeat determined the kind of history that would one day be taught in American schools: Protestant British history.

As a result, 1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval contest in human history, is not well known to Americans. October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrates the victory at Lepanto, the battle that saved the Christian West from defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

That this military triumph is also a Marian feast underscores our image of the Blessed Virgin prefigured in the Canticle of Canticles: "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?" In October of 1564, the Viziers of the Divan of the Ottoman Empire assembled to urge their sultan to prepare for war with Malta. "Many more difficult victories have fallen to your scimitar than the capture of a handful of men on a tiny little island that is not well fortified," they told him. Their words were flattering but true. During the five-decade reign of Soleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire grew to its fullest glory, encompassing the Caucuses, the Balkans, Anatolia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Soleiman had conquered Aden, Algiers, Baghdad, Belgrade, Budapest, Rhodes, and Temesvar. His war galleys terrorized not only the Mediterranean Sea, but the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf as well. His one defeat was at the gates of Vienna in 1529. The Divine Breath

It was. At dawn on October 7, 1571, the Holy League rowed down the west coast of Greece and turned east into the Gulf of Patras. When the morning mist cleared, the Christians, rowing directly against the wind, saw the squadrons of the larger Ottoman fleet arrayed like a crescent from shore to shore, bearing down on them under full sail.

As the fleets grew closer, the Christians could hear the gongs and cymbals, drums and cries of the Turks. The men of the Holy League quietly pulled at their oars, the soldiers stood on the decks in silent prayer. Priests holding large crucifixes marched up and down the decks exhorting the men to be brave and hearing final confessions.

Then the Blessed Virgin intervened.

The wind shifted 180 degrees. The sails of the Holy League were filled with the Divine breath, driving them into battle. Now heading directly into the wind, the Turks were forced to strike their sails. The tens of thousands of Christian galley slaves who rowed the Turkish vessels felt the sharp sting of the lash summoning them up from under their benches and demanding they take hold of their oars and pull against the wind.

Don John knelt on the prow of Real and said a final prayer. Then he stood and gave the order for the Holy League’s battle standard, a gift from Pius V, to be unfurled. Christians up and down the battle line cheered as they saw the giant blue banner bearing an image of our crucified Lord.

The fleets engaged at midday. The first fighting began along the Holy League’s left flank, where many of the smaller, swifter Turkish galleys were able to maneuver around Agostin Barbarigo’s inshore flank. The Venetian admiral responded with a near impossibility: He pivoted his entire squadron, fifty-four ships, counterclockwise and began to pin the Turkish right flank, commanded by Mehemet Sirrocco, against the north shore of the Gulf of Patras. Gaps formed in Barbarigo’s line and Ottoman galleys broke into the intervals. As galley pulled up along galley, the slaughter brought on by cannon, musket ball, and arrow was horrific, but the Venetians in time prevailed. Barbarigo took an arrow to the eye, but before he died he learned of the death of Sirrocco and the crushing defeat of the Turkish right line.

In the center of the battle, breaking a convention of naval warfare, the opposing flagships engaged—Don John’s Real with Muezzinzade Ali Pasha’s Sultana. Twice Spanish infantry boarded and drove the Sultana’s Janissaries back to the mast, and twice they were driven back to the Real by Ottoman reinforcements. Don John led the third charge across Sultana’s bloodied deck. He was wounded in the leg, but Ali Pasha took a musketball to the forehead. One of Real’s freed convicts lopped off the Turkish admiral’s head and held it aloft on a pike. The Muslims’ sacred banner, with the name of Allah stitched in gold calligraphy 28,900 times, which Islamic tradition held was carried in battle by the Prophet, was captured by the Christians. Terror struck the Turks, but the fight was far from won.

On the Holy League’s right flank, Doria was forced to increase the intervals between his galleys to keep his line from being flanked on the south by the larger Ottoman squadron under the command of the Algerian Uluch Ali. When the space between Doria’s squadron and Don John’s grew large enough, Uluch Ali sent his corsairs through the gap to envelop the galleys of Don John’s squadron from behind. Don Alvaro de Bazan, commanding the Holy League’s reserve squadron of thirty-five galleys, had carefully kept his ships out of the fray until the moment came when he was most needed. Now he entered the fight, rescuing the center of the Holy League from the Turkish vessels that had surrounded them before turning his squadron south to aid the outmanned Doria.

The fighting lasted for five hours. The sides were evenly matched and well led, but the Divine favored the Christians, and once the battle turned in their favor it became a rout. All but thirteen of the nearly 300 Turkish vessels were captured or sunk and over 30,000 Turks were slain. Not until the First World War would the world again witness such carnage in a single day’s fighting. In the aftermath of the battle, the Christians gave no quarter, making sure to kill the helmsmen, galley captains, archers, and Janissaries. The sultan could rebuild ships, but without these men, it would be years before he would be able to use them.

The news of the victory made its way back to Rome, but the Pope was already rejoicing. On the day of the battle, Pius had been consulting with his cardinals at the Dominican Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. He paused in the midst of their deliberations to look out the window. Up in the sky, the Blessed Mother favored him with a vision of the victory. Turning to his cardinals he said, "Let us set aside business and fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God, for he has given our fleet a great victory."


John Monaghan

One need not be a Roman Catholic, nor believe in Divine intervention, to appreciate the importance of Lepanto and the heroic competence of Don John of Austria, acknowledged bastard son of Emperor Charles V and an Austrian court lady. Don John at 26 was able to hold together a coalition of Venetian, Spanish, and Papal forces long enough to force a decisive battle, and tactician enough to win it.

The battle was the subject of one of Chesterton's best poems. Few can read it without extreme emotional reaction. I certainly can't.

Charles the Hammer at Tours, Niklas Graf Salm at Vienna, and Don John at Lepanto  certainly changed history and saved Christianity.


Subject: Firefox Updates??

Not to be too direct, but:

Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> Update -> uncheck "Firefox" and it will never ask again. Uncheck "Installed Addons" to stop extensions updating.

It recently updated mine to which was unusable on one machine; Firefox keeps older versions on their server for that reason, I downloaded (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/download.html?product=firefox- and reinstalled with no problems.

I hated Firefox 3 so I have never downloaded that version.

All the best,

Michael Walters

I have it set to download and notify; that doesn't work properly and ends up interrupting things when I don't want it to, It also pops up dialogue windows that don't take focus, so you don't know they are open, but all Firefox operations are frozen until you close them. I have had Firefox freeze my Core 2 Quad 6600 system and keep it frozen while I search out what Firefox thinks it is doing. Eventually was able to close all the Firefox windows including updating add-ons and other hidden windows, and get back to control of my machine; but it sure wasn't easy.

I am sure they'll come up with a fix.


Subject: Re: Google Chrome

I use IE7 at work on a Vista platform. Much better than any previous version, but Firefox had me spoiled for several features. Most notably the ability to open a a URL in a new tab from the favorites drop down. In IE you have to open an empty tab first then go to your favorites.

Google Chrome has a feature that chronicles your (9?) most visited URLs and saves those thumbnailed in a tab when you open the program. The annoying part is that you can't delete any of those unless you visit another URL often enough to push one off. However, the best thing about Chrome is that each tab is a browser unto itself! If a tab hangs up, it doesn't crash the other tabs.


On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 11:19 AM, David Couvillon  wrote:

I've been a dedicated user of Firefox for quite a while. Tried Google Chrome several weeks ago. Firefox/IE is done on my personal PCs.

-- David Couvillon Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work

Once I get a bit more caught up I intend to try Chrome. That may be my solution. I tend to be driven by inertia, more so after the radiation treatment -- a rather severe side effect, actually -- so I don't try as many new things as I used to. Fortunately I am recovering nicely.


Subject: IE slow

Of course Internet Explorer is slow trying to find that article. It's on MSNBC and perhaps the server is busy.

I have had huge problems with IE7 in loading websites. It takes almost a minute in some cases to load the whole page, and often after it's been loaded, scrolling is excruciatingly slow to respond. Amazon is one that takes a long time to load, although scrolling is pretty good after that. Many news sites like MSNBC, Wikepedia, Huffington Post, and others fall into this category. Some of my favorite bloggers, like "Captain's Quarters," have "gone legit" on major websites and now I have to twiddle my thumbs waiting for them to load, too.

I resigned myself to my computer being years old (dual Pentium II, Windows XP), but really, should this require this much processing power? My connection is a fast DSL, funneled through a new AirPort Extreme. Maybe it's the firewall, Norton, and Ad-Watch trying to filter all this stuff for me. Who knows?

I am so tired of websites with animations, Hi-Def displays selling me soap, and gimmicks galore. Please, please don't ever change your website style. It loads quickly, and I can just READ it.

Tom Brosz


A Dead Language That’s Very Much Alive.


-- Roland Dobbins

Latin returns...


"I don't think the Army should transform itself into a light-infantry- based constabulary force."


--- Roland Dobbins

Of course it shouldn't. That's what auxiliaries and constabulary are for. Empires need such forces; republic seldom do, and when they do they have no notion of how to manage it. France tried with the Foreign Legion (under the Third Republic). Having imperial forces that never are allowed to come home is one possibility; but one must also have Legions, as France was reminded in 1914.

If we are going to continue "nation building" we will need to develop auxiliaries and constabulary forces, many recruited from the nations we are building; we will also need to extract revenue from those places we are liberating and building. The older name for this is colonization, but we don't do that any more.  But once the Legions destroy a nation's structure, someone has to keep down looting, see that the garbage is collected, get water and electricity flowing, and in general function as a security force. Legions are not suited to that task -- as the Romans learned before the Christian Era.

Empires are expensive.


Macbook Pro drive replacement 

Hi Jerry,

Great column this month - one of the best summaries of the derivatives I've seen.

Regarding the drive replacement in the Macbook Pro:

The official policy is that Apple techs will only replace the drive with another Apple-provided/authorized part. Any third-party replacement drive voids the warranty, and thus the Geniuses won't replace it.

Some third-party Mac repair stores will replace the drive, and then provide (usually for purchase) a warranty valid in that store.

That's the official policy - I've also heard stories that some Geniuses will do the replacement anyway. Your mileage may vary.

I know a number of folks who have replaced the drive, kept the original disk around, and if the machine ever needs service (even for something other than the hard drive), replaced the original drive, and been able to receive service.

If you do decide to replace the drive yourself (or have one of your advisors do it), one important word of caution: Be very very careful not to put a screw into the DVI connector by mistake. Both I and a colleague have done that, and it's a real bear to get it out - more than an hours work. I now recommend putting tape over the connector and screw holes prior to beginning the replacement process. It's not hard (there's good instructions on the internet), but very fiddly and has north of 30 screws involved, including some strange torx bit sizes.

For what it's worth, the new machines (due next Tuesday) are rumored to have user-replaceable drives.

Good luck


Thanks for the advice. I have looked at the extensive instruction packages and I don't think I am up to doing the job myself; I certainly wouldn't recommend it for most readers. What I really want is a way to get the WS 500 GB drive I have installed in the Mac Book Pro and just pay for the labor without voiding the warranty. I'll go out to the Apple Store and ask for their advice.


The Bolide Strike

Subject: Asteroid impact update from spaceweather.com

Hi Jerry,

There is new data available from www.spaceweather.com:

'Asteroid 2008 TC3 hit Earth this morning, Oct. 7th, and exploded in the atmosphere over northern Sudan. An infrasound array in Kenya recorded the impact. Dr. Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario has inspected the data and he estimates that the asteroid hit at 0243 UTC with an energy between 1.1 and 2.1 kilotons of TNT. Most of the 3-meter-wide space rock should have been vaporized in the atmosphere with only small pieces reaching the ground as meteorites.

No pictures of the fireball have been submitted; the impact occurred in a remote area with few and possibly no onlookers capable of recording the event. So far, the only report of a visual sighting comes from Jacob Kuiper, General Aviation meteorologist at the National Weather Service in the Netherlands:

"Half an hour before the predicted impact of asteroid 2008 TC3, I informed an official of Air-France-KLM at Amsterdam airport about the possibility that crews of their airliners in the vicinity of impact would have a chance to see a fireball. And it was a success! I have received confirmation that a KLM airliner, roughly 750 nautical miles southwest of the predicted atmospheric impact position, has observed a short flash just before the expected impact time 0246 UTC. Because of the distance it was not a very large phenomenon, but still a confirmation that some bright meteor has been seen in the predicted direction. Projected on an infrared satellite-image of Meteosat-7 of 0300 UTC, I have indicated the position of the plane (+) and the predicted impact area in Sudan (0)."

2008 TC3 was discovered on Oct. 6th by astronomers using the Mt. Lemmon telescope in Arizona as part of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey for near-Earth objects. Asteroids the size of 2008 TC3 hit Earth 5 to 10 times a year, but this is the first time one has been discovered before it hit.'

Eric Krug




For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So much for Sarbanes-Oxley.


-- Roland Dobbins

Sarbanes-Oxley was a hastily considered law written without much thought; its effect has been to hamper US investors and startup companies and move a lot of capital off shore. Regulation is not automatically a good thing; usually it's pretty bad.


Stepping farther out! Uranium Hydride reactor



If only it be true. I have no data on this, but I make not doubt that a number of physicists including some who have practical experience with nuclear power will respond. I make no doubt that once nuclear research resumes there will be many improvements in nuclear power generation systems -- practical systems such as this one appears to be.

Nuclear waste remains a non-problem. The simplest solution is to fuse it into glass and stack the bricks out in the Mojave Desert with fences and a Legion in training (there is always a need to train Legions in desert warfare) to guard it. That way it's retrievable. If we never want it back drop the glass bricks into the Mindanao Trench and let it be subducted into the magma.


The Ongoing Organlegging Non-Story

I thought you might be amused & should be proud that when I Googled for an image of "Kosovo organlegging" your imperial picture came 4th.


This is because you posted an email I had sent you. An investigation driven by Serbs & Russians is going on & they have a witness who says that President Thaci whom we set up got 4 milliion marks personally from selling body organs. It is difficult to think of a descriptive term to cover the journalists & broadcasters who have decided that this is something we should not be allowed to hear about.


Neil Craig

One expects to see a great deal more organlegging. I can even see naming someone a recipient for an organ as a condition of obtaining a loan...

The problem is coming up with a non-religiously based argument for forbidding it. Should not people be allowed to sell what is theirs? What good is my property if I cannot sell it? But if that be true of property, what about life and liberty?


Overcapacity & Unemployment 

If the standard for unemployment is excess capacity in economic sectors, then I see no reason unemployment rates can't soon equal or exceed the previous Great Depression as "overcapacity" is slashed in the "Consumer & Services" sector that is 70% or so of the "economy"..

Is it really necessary to daily life to have a bank on every corner of an intersection? Plus three more thrifts, two stock brokerages, two finance companies, three mortgage brokers, five real estate brokers and four insurance agencies on the following block?

Then there's the rapid growth of internet tranasction processing in all these fields.

When I was a child the Prudential life insurance man came to my parents home once a month or quarter (I don't remember which) to collect premiums. Now he has an executive office, an assistant and a secretary with their own offices, two leased vehicles and a janitorial service.

Another example. At the height of the real estate construction bubble in 2005 this area had a Home Depot in Port Charlotte and another in Venice. Since that time two more Home Depots and two Lowes have opened up in the same area while construction and remodeling activity plummeted.

Restaurants. Will all life end if, say, 50% of the restaurants and burger joints close?


I have said for years that an economy based on servicing each other is fragile as is an economy based on making luxury goods. I am in the story telling business -- I sing for my supper as did the bards of old who went from camp to camp telling the story of Ulysses and Achilles and Agamemnon. Fill my cup with wine and slice me off a chunk of that stag, and I'll tell you a story of a virgin and a bull...  Making things; doing things that others need; this all seems safer than singing for one's supper, and I never get anyone's food and rent money (nor do I want it); but when one has a bit left over, many will remember the story teller.

Perhaps there is justice and those who couldn't wait to ship other people's jobs overseas will find themselves surplussed? But always remember, Das Buros steht immer!


Dear Mr. Pournelle:

I have been reading your work now for many years; and, like many I am sure, I am particularly devoted to your character, John Christian Falkenberg. I have begun rereading, selectively, your CoDominium & Empire of Man work. While there are clear references to Falkenberg and Glenda Ruth in "The Mote in God's Eye" & "The Gripping Hand", i.e., the names of a number of the characters, I don't recall any specific exposition as to what happened to Falkenberg or New Washington in the decades & centuries after the conclusion of "West of Honor". What can you tell me? What will you tell me? Have I missed a publication containing this information? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Daniel C. O'Rourke

All of the existing Falkenberg stories plus some material published nowhere else are in the Baen Book THE PRINCE. I had planned a number of other stories in the Spartan Hegemony era, with one key intervention by Falkenberg himself. Alas, although the CoDominium series was intended to be both predictive and a warning, the end of the USSR moved the CoDominium into the realm of alternate history, not straightforward science fiction.

I am aware that subsequent events in Russia make the CoDominium less unlikely than it appeared to be in 1995 - 2000, but it will still not be the same universe that I created. I find it remarkable that the stories were current for more than a generation before the collapse of the USSR. It's a bit of a pity because I also have several stories in mind set in the First Empire, the previous Formation Period, and the period of Spartan Hegemony that follows the end of The Prince. I would like some way to save them because I am fond of the CoDominium and what happened on its breakup. (Fond as a story teller; the CoDominium was a warning, not an inducement or recruitment tale.)

When I finish the Janissaries series I will reconsider what to do about Colonel (now Protector) Falkenberg. He is an older man married to a younger woman, with a planet to be concerned with. He's also still the colonel of the regiment and has the allegiance/obedience of most of the Legion. And Grace remains on Kennecott...


Here's what happened to the meteor-meteorite-bolide. Morrison is my favorite expert on these matters. He's also an old friend:

NEO News (10/07/08) First reports on Sudan bolide, 


Thought you'd like to read it from a semi-official source.


-----Original Message----- From: David Morrison [mailto:david.morrison@nasa.gov] Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2008 6:07 PM To: David Morrison Subject: NEO News (10/07/08) First reports on Sudan bolide

NEO News (10/07/08) First reports on Sudan bolide

While I have not yet seen any eyewitness accounts from ground observers in Africa, here are two early reports that the bolide (now designated as asteroid 2008 TC3, surely the shortest-lived asteroid name, since it was destroyed a few hours after the name was given) did explode in the atmosphere above Sudan early this morning.

David Morrison


From Peter Brown (pbrown@uwo.ca): A very preliminary examination of several infrasound stations proximal to the predicted impact point for the NEO 2008 TC3 has yielded one definite airwave detection from the impact. The airwave was detected at the Kenyian Infrasonic Array, (IMS station IS32), beginning near 05:10 UT on Oct 7, 2008 and lasting for several minutes. The signal correlation was highest at very low frequencies - the dominant period of the waveform was 5-6 seconds. The backazimuth of the signal over the entire 7 element array is shown in the attached map - it clearly points to within a few degrees of the expected arrival direction. Moreover, assuming a stratospheric mean signal speed of 0.28 km/s, the arrival time corresponds to an origin time near 02:43 UT, which is consistent with the expected impact time near 02:45:40 UT given expected variations in stratospheric arrival speeds. The dominant period of 5-6 seconds corresponds to an estimated energy (using the AFTAC period at maximum amplitude relationship from ReVelle, 1997) of 1.1 - 2.1 kilotons of TNT. The five other closest infrasound stations were briefly examined for obvious signals and showed none - more detailed signal processing of these additional data are ongoing in the search for additional signals.

Peter Brown Canada Research Chair in Meteor Science University of Western Ontario, London, ON


From Spaceweather.com: ASTEROID IMPACT--UPDATE: Asteroid 2008 TC3 hit Earth this morning, Oct. 7th, and exploded in the atmosphere over northern Sudan. An infrasound array in Kenya recorded the impact. Dr. Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario has inspected the data and he estimates that the asteroid hit at 0243 UTC with an energy between 1.1 and 2.1 kilotons of TNT. Most of the 3-meter-wide space rock should have been vaporized in the atmosphere with only small pieces reaching the ground as meteorites.

No pictures of the fireball have been submitted; the impact occurred in a remote area with few and possibly no onlookers capable of recording the event. So far, the only report of a visual sighting comes from Jacob Kuiper, General Aviation meteorologist at the National Weather Service in the Netherlands:

"Half an hour before the predicted impact of asteroid 2008 TC3, I informed an official of Air-France-KLM at Amsterdam airport about the possibility that crews of their airliners in the vicinity of impact would have a chance to see a fireball. And it was a success! I have received confirmation that a KLM airliner, roughly 750 nautical miles southwest of the predicted atmospheric impact position, has observed a short flash just before the expected impact time 0246 UTC. Because of the distance it was not a very large phenomenon, but still a confirmation that some bright meteor has been seen in the predicted direction.


Erik Asphaug of University of California, Santa Cruz, asks rhetorically: How would the US respond if the identical impact was forecast over, say, Bozeman? On the one hand we expect that the public would behave themselves, but some in the discussion felt that the public would freak out entirely out of proportion.

David Morrison comments: This issue of public response to a very small impact has been discussed previously, including mention in three of my papers (see below), but in fact no one knows the answer. The issue is important because impacts this small are relatively common:

Morrison, D., R. Binzel, C.R. Chapman, and D. Steel, "Impacts and the Public: Communicating the Nature of the Impact Hazard." In Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids (M. Belton, T. Morgan, N. Samarasinha & D. Yeomans, eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2004).

Morrison, D. "Defending the Earth against Asteroids: The Case for a Global Response," Science and Global Security 13:105-116 (2005).

Morrison, D. "The Impact Hazard: Advanced NEO Surveys and Societal responses," In Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society (P. Bobrowsky & H. Rickman, eds.) Springer, New York (2007)


NEO News (now in its fourteenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.


online game time waster 

Dr. Pournelle,

If you know someone you want to play a dirty trick on, send them to this site. The game is hideously addicting. Trivial to learn, complex to win.



My answer to him was "I hate you." Timewaster indeed.


How allies of George Soros helped bring down Wachovia Bank

Here is a MUST READ article...the world has really come to a bad pass when one has to look out for billionaires under one's bed...



I have no data; the article is interesting. Given that I have assets at Wachovia I probably ought not comment.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Observations on the collapse 


While I don't often comment, I am always glad to hear that you continue your recovery from cancer and from the consequences, and are now working through the aftermath to full recovery and production as a writer.

There may not be much new here, but I'm trying to build a summary from my perspective.

Observations on the collapse:

1. Anyone who believes that this collapse was a surprise hasn't been watching. There have been news stories for years about sub-prime mortgages and interest-only mortgages throughout the housing bubble, and warnings that the house of cards was headed for collapse. This was only possible by collusion between "Wall Street" -- which is being used as a convenient shorthand for the financial community, not without precedent -- and the government.

2. Wall Street is not in the business of losing money, and Wall Street managers know when they are playing a shell game -- and if they didn't, see point one above; they don't ignore the financial news. Wall Street managers -- at least most of them -- realize that the negative consequences of losing money start with losing their jobs and proceed on a short path therefrom either to jail or to one-way trips through upper-story Manhattan windows. These are powerful counter-incentives against greed as a short-term motivator. They don't always work, but

3. Consequently, if decisions were made that were assured of losing money -- that is, of taking risks that were not compensated by the obvious rewards -- it is because there was false information in the system.

4. The obvious sources of false information are: (a) "community organizations" such as ACORN which demanded risky mortgage investments as one of the costs of allowing banks to expand into their communities, using the strength of the Carter / Clinton era Community Reinvestment Acts as their motivators; (b) "signals" from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the government would insure the risk; and most of all (c) Congress and the Senate refusing several requests to investigate the practices of FM2, lead by members who received substantial contributions from FM2. Conversely, the Administration does have oversight responsibility -- why did they refuse to exercise it despite Congressional inaction. It sounds like there is plenty of bipartisan blame to go around.

5. The "rescue" or "bailout" bill has become a necessity precisely because nothing has been done for years despite warnings. Democratic obstruction has been a major factor in that delay. But again, where was the Administration; the current financial crisis is much bigger than the money spent in Iraq; was the "Bush brand" was so damaged in pursuing the war (which I still believe was a good decision based on what was known at the time, though perhaps not the best possible decision in retrospect) that the Administration couldn't provide a proper level of financial oversight and had to look the other way?

7. Last, but not least, our economic system has come to rely on short selling, hedge funds, investment reinsurance, and other "schemes" which are designed to "spread" risk and to profit from failure. We've just had a massive failure; who profited?

Note this current NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/

Then this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/

"Alarmed by the unfolding crisis in the financial markets, (George Soros) once again began trading for his giant hedge fund — and won big while so many others lost."

The August story ignores that Soros was instrumental in fomenting -- and profited immensely from -- the British financial crisis of the early 1990's that it blames on Thatcher's policies. Note which party Soros is publicly and expensively backing. It's much easier to see him as a representative of the Wall Street fraud that politicians are railing against, than as the magnanimous figure he is portrayed by the NYT.



Confidence For Life Essential Utilities

Dear Jerry,

Duke Energy is now reported to be having trouble rolling over its short term debt. Here indeed is cause for panic.

Perhaps some passing politician, bureaucrat or coup plotter will take note of the priority need to ensure continuous functioning of the electricity, natural gas, water and sewage utilities. Other life essential services like fire departments, police, ambulances, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and food distribution networks should get a nod.

I realize these are trivial items compared to restoring the confidence of Goldman Sachs, Warren Buffett and George Soros. None the less, it deserves 10-15 minutes attention from the beak wetters in between catering to the whims of multi-billionaires and shopping for Gulfstream Vs.

Best Wishes,



Retirement Accounts Have Lost Two Trillion Dollars

Doctor Pournelle,

For those who chant the Mantra "Don't Worry, All The Factories And Farms And Other Stuff Is Still There, The Houses Aren't Shrinking!"

"Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion in the past 15 months, Congress' top budget analyst estimated Tuesday. The upheaval that has engulfed the financial industry and sent the stock market plummeting is devastating workers' savings, forcing people to hold off on major purchases and consider delaying their retirement, said Peter Orszag, the head of the Congressional Budget Office."


Sure, all that stuff is still there. It's just now owned by Sovereign Investment Funds, George Soros, the Federal Government and other "enemies" of those people of the United States who built and maintained all "That Stuff" over the past half century, and now seek to enjoy the fruits of that labor. Said fruits having been stolen by the above laundry list of malefactors working in a loose, ad hoc coalition to keep the Ponzi Scheme AKA.Housing Bubble going.

If you pull a fast one, and buy my house from the bank out from under me, and I am thrown out on the street by the sheriff, do I feel better because my house is still there, and not shrinking?



There is more to it than that, of course. Incidentally, during the Depression there were sheriff auctions in Iowa on foreclosed properties; there would typically be on very low bid, no more, and when it was concluded the winner sold the property back to the original owner who was about to be evicted. Anyone else attempting to bid was suppressed by the crowd while the sheriff's people looked the other way. I do not suppose it will come to that now.


Obama's Tax increase - 

Hi Jerry,

There's a dirty little secret to Obama's tax plan (one that McCain tries to make, but not very well). While it's true that income tax won't go up if you make less than $250K, he doesn't consider Social Security or Medicare to be 'taxes'. He plans to eliminate the cap on Social Security Tax. That means that everyone who makes more than $102,000 (in 2008) will see a 7.65% tax increase on every dollar above that limit. Plus businesses will also see their 'share' of the tax rise as well. That impacts far more people than the $250K benchmark he talks about.

If you make $125,000 a year, your income taxes will increase $1759.50. Your employer will also have to pay the same additional amount in taxes (which will be passed on as an increase in the price of their goods). I don't know about you, but that's real money to me - and the lower threshold blows a hole in Obama's argument that most small businesses don't make $250K. They sure as heck make $100K.

Your benefits won't increase, just your tax. Soak the rich, redistribute wealth, etc, etc.

And that doesn't even address the Medicare tax, which must increase to pay for his healthcare plans. But again, that's not a tax. He's very good at dancing on the edge of an outright lie.



The only way I know of to give a tax cut to those who at the moment pay no income taxes would be to send them a check; and nothing I have seen from Obama denies that this is his intention, while some of his followers have told meetings that is is exactly what will happen. I don't have time to follow this up.

The Obama scheme is to soak the rich. California has pretty well showed that this is a great way to drive the rich out of the state.


Some Blunt talk on Truth Squads, economic growth


"With the crisis, many states have found themselves in trouble. California, for instance, needs a $7 billion loan to make payroll, and its estimated $15 billion deficit will undoubtedly skyrocket as revenues decline. Missouri, though, doesn't have those problems. I asked Blunt why, and he said, "By and large, states are in trouble because they spent too much money." During his term, Blunt cut spending, lowered taxes and promoted economic growth, reformed workers-comp laws, and built an environment for business so attractive that Missouri now leads the nation in manufacturing. Had other states shown the same discipline and put money aside as Missouri did, they wouldn't need short-term credit at all and would be able to ride out the storm. Common-sense governing put Missouri in a position of strength."

Now there's an interesting prescription.



Criminals targeted in U.S. kidnap capital, 


Criminals who deal in drugs have money, right? So in Phoenix other criminals are kidnapping them:


You hardly know who to root for . . .



Leif Erikson Day From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Viking_at_MN_Capitol.jpg> Picture (Metafile)

A statue of Leif Erikson near the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul dedicated on October 9, 1949. Leif Erikson Day is an American observance occurring on October 9. It honors Leif Ericson, who brought the first Europeans known to have set foot on North American soil. In 1964, Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson and each President since have done so. Presidents have used the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery.

In addition to the federal observance, some states officially commemorate Leif Erikson Day, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where large numbers of people from the Nordic countries settled. In 1930, Wisconsin became the first state to officially adopt this holiday, thanks to efforts by the Norwegian-American initiator, Rasmus B. Anderson. A year later Minnesota followed suit. In 1963, the U.S. Representative from Duluth, John Blatnik, introduced a bill to observe it nationwide. The following year Congress adopted this unanimously.

October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. The date was chosen because the ship Restauration <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restauration_(ship)>  coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.


"America was discovered accidentally by a great seaman who was looking for something else; when discovered it was not wanted; and most of the exploration for the next fifty years was done in the hope of getting through or around it. America was named after a man who discovered no part of the New World. History is like that, very chancy."

Samuel Elliot Morrison


Leif the Lucky also founded the Greenland colonies. That was in the Medieval Warm period. Now they are coming out from under the ice.


Subject: Teaching for Social Justice


"Misunderstanding" the Ayers connection: the coverup of the coverup

"Ayers's philosophy can be encapsulated in the phrase "teaching for social justice." One of his books, for example, is entitled Teaching for Social Justice

 According to a review in Library Journal:

"Teaching for social justice" is teaching what one believes ought to be in terms of material arrangements for people in all spheres of society, i.e., reflective experiential responses leading to action."

Silly me, I thought education was about teaching the students what they needed to know in order to figure out the universe and their place in it, rather than teaching them what their place in the universe was and what they should do to make the universe more like they were taught it should be. So much for free will in the modern education system.


=This is what becomes of "professional" education; when local school boards hired a local school marm and set the conditions for employment, parents had some control over what was taught to their children. They also paid for it. This is as it should be.

Now the gatekeepers are Professors of Education, few of whom have actually taught any children, but all of whom are graduates of pretty liberal course work that has the Ayers attitude. Indeed, Ayers himself is one of those who teach professors of education.

The intellectual class thinks it know what is best for everyone; and parents are clearly not qualified to decide for their children. This attitude is spreading. After all, we're the smartest people around, aren't we? Why shouldn't we decide these things? So we do. You will see more of that.

The answer in my judgment is to abolish the Department of Education, entirely; and abolish the State departments of Education as well. Leave it to parents and local school boards. Yes, some will muck things up entirely. Some will do things that horrify others (and vice versa). But by and large this is better than "professionalism" which study after study doesn't improve education at all.


Unintended Consequences

Nebraska's safe-haven law works — too well


"All 50 states now have safe-haven laws, but only the Nebraska legislature didn't put an age limit on the mechanism. Now, the law intended to save infants has never been used for that purpose. Instead, most of the children abandoned are troubled teenagers, and the state has a big problem on its hands."

It seemed reasonable, a law intended to allow babies that might be left to die to be turned over, no questions asked, to hospitals for the state to care for. Funny what happens when you don't put an upper limit on the age of the baby though.


The surprise to me is that parents will abandon their teen age children. There are incorrigibility laws in most states, aren't there? But think of this as a way to build an army of Janissaries. Take the best of those abandoned and put them into training camps to become Legionnaires. Take the worst for training in the Auxiliaries.... Let the training sergeants decide which is which.


Subject: ACORN


Rachel Lucas has some interesting info on Acorn:




Privately-funded SETI message


The link headline to this was "First Interstellar Spam"




TaxPayers who don't pay tax?

> His "tax cuts" involve sending checks to the 40% of the taxpayers who don't pay any income taxes

Eh? Something about that just does not parse well in my head. How can you have a taxpayer who doesn't pay any taxes?

The current administration has been known to favor sending checks to the segment of the population that, at least in proportion, pays the least taxes. :)


It is my understanding that anyone who files income tax returns is a "taxpayer" even if the tax "paid" is negative. Potentially it might be positive.


In re: "How allies of George Soros helped bring down Wachovia Bank" 

So what is new?

"You don't understand the class structure of American society," said X [a European dining with Henry Luce], "or you would not ask such a question. In the United States, the working class are Democrats. The middle class are Republicans. The upper class are Communists."

-Whittaker Chambers, "Witness"



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

My congratulations on your son's promotion. And on the USNI Proceedings article.

V/R: Mike McDaniel

We are rather proud of Commander Phillip Pournelle. And his article was on operations of super fast ships.






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This week:


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Friday,  October 10, 2008

Subject: Google Chrome EULA


This is pretty interesting ... you agree that for any content you post using Google Chrome that you give them an irrevocable right to do ANYTHING they want with, including resell, modify or give it away.

In addition, you agree that any new updates or changes they make to the service, that you agree to accept them, no matter what they are.


Great heavens. If this is accurate, I certainly can't use their services. In fact, I'd call that EULA evil.



Subject: stock prices

Hi Jerry,

Probably several of your members will point this out, but it hasn't been 25 years since the Dow was under 9000, but only 5 years. In early 2003 it dipped under 8000.

What I still fail to understand are the so-called "professionals" who trade on Wall Street. The fundamentals of non-banking stocks have not changes significantly - after all, they just went through the crisis of 2001-2003. They ought to understand the nature of crises and be smart enough to just sit on their holdings and wait it out. And yet, in order for the stock prices to be down this far, someone must be panicked enough to sell at fire-sale prices.

Who let these people out of kindergarten?




: Making my argument.


You wrote:

"The intellectual class thinks it knows what is best for everyone; and parents are clearly not qualified to decide for their children. This attitude is spreading. After all, we're the smartest people around, aren't we? Why shouldn't we decide these things? So we do. You will see more of that."

What if the students are IQ minuses? They'll go to plumber's school no matter what their parents think?

I know that the quote is out of context but isn't that what you've been saying all along?

Regards, Ephraim F. Moya

First: the context of the quote was education in civics and morality. That is IQ independent. Second, the facts don't change: half the children are below average, and aren't going to benefit from a world class college prep education. They'd do far better to be taught the essentials for learning a trade, and that's a lot different from prep school for college.

If the intellectuals were as smart as they think they are it would still remain for them to show why that makes them more qualified to decide for kids than their parents.

The real problem here is that the facts are pretty clear: no more than a third of the population will get anything like a return on investment in higher education if the higher education is done well. About a third would likely do better with a structured introduction on how to manage skills leaving open the possibility of higher level trade schools such as community colleges and what most state colleges have become; unfortunately they lose time doing that, since much of what is learned in those institutions could be learned in high school. The lower third should definitely be taught skills and techniques for learning skills. They can almost all be taught to read, and should be. They need to be taught basic arithmetic by rote learning of the addition and multiplication tables up at least to 12's. Incidentally everyone ought to be taught the plus and times tables by rote: knowing them makes arithmetic much easier, and if arithmetic is automatic, then algebra becomes a lot easier. Just about everyone can, given a year to do it, learn one plus one is two, up through twelve plus twelve is twenty-four. Some will learn it fast, some will take quite a while, but all can learn and should.

The problem here is that tracking is anathema to most of the education establishment, and to militant egalitarians; and the result is the no child is left behind, simply because no child can get ahead. And yes, I know that's an oversimplification, and that many teachers get around the silly theories and rules and laws, but they shouldn't have to do it that way.

As to plumber's school, I hate to tell you this, but that takes more skill than most of the lower third will have; which doesn't mean there are not jobs they can do that are valuable to society.

My point in what you quoted is that we ought to be teaching is still better decided by local school boards than by professors of education.


Fukuyama: The End of America Inc | Newsweek Business | Newsweek.com /

Dear Jerry,


Here's the most optimistic news I've heard all week. Francis Fukuyama is back announcing more Ends. He previously prophesied the End of History and later supported the invasion of Iraq. So he's a contrariarian indicator with an olympic class track record.

Now he's prophesying the End of Capitalism and of Reaganism.

Best Wishes,


Hmmm.  Thanks.


Wonderful outline of reasons for the market crash/need for bailout. 

Plenty of blame for all:

Jerry, this has been talked about on multiple sites on the net.

It really is a very well done discussion of WHY the bailout is needed and what happened. I'm not sure mere mortals can understand the details of all of this, but this is an excellent non-partisan review. It is, in a way, a follow on to your brief discussion of the sub-prime mortgage discussion.

Well, well worth the hour to listen to it.


My cousin is a banker involved in the the commercial paper market overseas and he listened to it and says its very accurate.


I have to confess that I haven't listened to this yet. I'll try but things FLOW here so...


Please, more CoDominium!

Dear Mr. Pournelle, concerning the mail sent to you from Mr. O’Rourke about Falkenberg and the CoDominium I’d like to offer a loud, hearty and supportive ME TOO!

Although I’ve enjoyed Janissaries, I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the whole CoDominium series of books and would dearly love to read more of its fall and the struggles that took place afterwards.

Among many other readings, the underlying themes of your books all too often rang a subconscious alert in the back of my mind as I served in the military, walked the halls of government and worked for the lobby. Now I make ends meet far from DC’s toxic nature doing my utmost to help my family and friends avoid being like all the clueless, impoverished deer caught in the onrushing subprime/change™ headlights.

May your health continue to improve sir!

Hal Bunch

Tallahassee, FL

I have to finish Mamelukes; I'll then think about Spartan Hegemony and see if I can fool myself into believing it given no USSR.


Google Chrome EULA

Dr. Pournelle,

The article on the Google Chrome EULA is a month out of date. A week or so after that article (and a hundred more on other sites) came out, Google responded to the outcry by removing the offending terms. They stated that the EULA was a blanket EULA that covers other products and that certain parts would not apply, but of course that’s not good enough. The last I heard, Google was going to tighten up the EULA for all of their products to ensure that the EULA scare does not happen again.

Chrome should still not be used for “secure” browsing however, since it indexes all pages including pages that are encrypted during transport (https). That index is then fully searchable (terms like account number, balance, etc. may all show results if you use chrome to access online banking), PLUS chrome phones home with usage stats and might even send details on your index home if you opted to participate in the beta process by allowing Chrome to send back browser and browsing info. Since we can’t see exactly what chrome sends home (part of the beta install process is an opt-in invitation to send home usage data), chrome is unsuitable for “secure” browsing even if you fully encrypt the transport via https/ssh.


Thanks for setting that straight. I think I will wait for the actual EULA before I try this...







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This week:


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

To: The Editor; Daily Telegraph; London

From: Mr C. R. Brand [address and phone supplied]

27 ix 2008

Dear Editor,

In setting out the steps from 'toxic mortgages' to the likely part-nationalization of U.S. banking (Daily Telegraph, 27th September, pp.4-5) you arguably omitted one step. 'The first black President of the U.S.A.," as Bill Clinton called himself, had regulated tough penalties for banks that failed to provide 'affordable homes' for minorities;* President George W. Bush continued this encouragement of 'sub-prime mortgages' and even extended such help for people with no incomes, jobs or assets ('NINJAS') to Mexican illegal immigrants.** It was this which yielded the steady inflation of house prices on which both financiers and mortgagees came to gamble; but the sorry circumstances and lifestyles of the new lenders meant that many had to sell. The 2007/8 slump in the housing market was simply the eventual correction for the enforcement of multicultural optimism by politicians.

I am yours truly,

-- Chris Brand.


Drew Zahn: Guess again who's to blame for U.S. mortgage meltdown

Posted: September 19, 2008 6:19 pm Eastern

While many pundits are pointing to corporate greed and a lack of government regulation as the cause for the American mortgage and financial crisis, some analysts are saying it wasn't too little government intervention that cased the mortgage meltdown, but too much, in the form of activists compelling the government to pressure Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into unsound - though politically correct - lending practices.

"Home mortgages have been a political pińata for many decades," writes Stan J. Liebowitz, economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, in a chapter of his forthcoming book, Housing America: Building out of a Crisis.

Liebowitz puts forward an explanation that he admits is "not consistent with the nasty-subprime-lender hypothesis currently considered to be the cause of the mortgage meltdown."

In a nutshell, Liebowitz contends that the federal government over the last 20 years pushed the mortgage industry so hard to get minority homeownership up, that it undermined the country's financial foundation to achieve its goal.

"In an attempt to increase homeownership, particularly by minorities and the less affluent, an attack on underwriting standards was undertaken by virtually every branch of the government since the early 1990s," Liebowitz writes. "The decline in mortgage underwriting standards was universally praised as 'innovation' in mortgage lending by regulators, academic specialists, (government-sponsored enterprises) and housing activists."

He continues, "Although a seemingly noble goal, the tool chosen to achieve this goal was one that endangered the entire mortgage enterprise."

"As homeownership rates increased there was self-congratulation all around," Liebowitz writes. "The community of regulators, academic specialists, and housing activists all reveled in the increase in homeownership."

An article in the Los Angeles Times from the late '90s praised the sudden surge in homeownership among minorities, calling it "one of the hidden success stories of the Clinton era."

John Lott, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, however, claimed in a Fox News article yesterday that the success came at a great price.

According to Lott, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston produced a manual in the early '90s that warned mortgage lenders to no longer deny urban and lower-income minority applicants on such "outdated" criteria as credit history, down payment or employment income.

Furthermore, claims Lott, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac encouraged and praised lenders - like Countrywide and Bear Stearns - for adopting the slackened policies toward minority applicants.

"Given these lending practices mandated by the Fed and encouraged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," writes Lott, "the resulting financial problems for financial institutions such as Countrywide and Bear Stearns are not too surprising."

Liebowitz' contention that lenders were under pressure to loosen their standards for racial and political goals was confirmed years ago by the companies at the heart of today's crisis: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A New York Times article from Sept. 1999 states that Fannie Mae had been under increasing pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans among low- and moderate-income people and that the corporation loosened its lending requirements to comply.

An ominous paragraph of the article reads, "In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s."

Liebowitz likewise predicted in a 1998 paper the risk of sacrificing sound financial policy for social activism.

"After the warm fuzzy glow of 'flexible underwriting standards' has worn off," Liebowitz wrote, "we may discover that they are nothing more than standards that led to bad loans. ... It will be ironic and unfortunate if minority applicants wind up paying a very heavy price for a misguided policy based on a badly mangled idea."

And though some have speculated that lenders in the '90s dove into sub-prime mortgages in an effort to gouge new markets, the president and chief operating officer of Freddie Mac in 1999, David Glenn, confessed his company was pushed by a federal agenda.

"The mortgage industry intends to pursue minorities with greater intensity as federal regulators turn up the heat to increase home ownership," Glenn said in his remarks at the annual convention of the Mortgage Banker Association of America.

"The federal government in the meantime has increased pressure on lenders to seek out minorities, as well as low-income groups and borrowers with poor credit histories," Glenn said. "Fannie Mae recently reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to commit half its business to low- and moderate-income borrowers. That means half the mortgages bought by Fannie Mae would be from those income brackets."

In that same year, Freddie Mac warned of the logical pitfalls of pursuing loans on the basis of skin color and not credit history.

The Washington Post reported that the company conducted a study in which it was found that far more black people have bad credit than white people, even when both have the same incomes. In fact, the study showed a higher percentage of African Americans with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000 had bad credit than white Americans with incomes of below $25,000.

Such data demonstrated that when federal regulators demanded parity between racial groups in lending, the only way to achieve a quota would be to begin making intentionally bad lending decisions.

The study, however, came under brutal attack in the U.S. Congress and was ridiculed with charges of racism.

A few years later, when Greg Mankiw, chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, voiced a warning about weakened underwriting standards, Congress rebuffed him as well.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., in 2003 as criticizing Greg Mankiw "because he is worried about the tiny little matter of safety and soundness rather than 'concern about housing.'"

Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, rejected a Bush administration and Congressional Republican plan for regulating the mortgage industry in 2003, saying, "These two entities - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - are not facing any kind of financial crisis." According to a New York Times article, Frank added, "The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."


Post-Apartheid South Africa Enters Anxious Era



DIEPSLOOT, South Africa -- A dusty maze of concrete, sheet metal and scrap wood, Diepsloot is like so many of the enormous settlements around Johannesburg, mile after mile of feebly assembled shacks, the impromptu patchwork of the poor, the extremely poor and the hopelessly poor.

Monica Xangathi, 40, lives here in a shanty she shares with her brother's family. "This is not the way I thought my life would turn out," she said.

Her disappointment is not only with herself; she is heartsick about her country. Fourteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa -- the global pariah that became a global inspiration -- has lapsed into gloom and anxiety about its future, surely not the harmonious "rainbow nation" so celebrated by Nelson Mandela on his inauguration day.

"If only I could make Nelson Mandela come back," Ms. Xangathi said. "If only I could feed him a potion and make him young again."

This longing to propel the past into the present is rooted in more than fond reminiscence. Two weeks ago, a vicious power struggle culminated in something like regicide, with the governing African National Congress deposing one of its own, President Thabo Mbeki, and replacing him with a stand-in for Mr. Mbeki's archrival, Jacob Zuma.

The actual changing of the guard was orderly enough, but months of behind-the-scenes back-stabbing have made many South Africans long for days more abundant with moral clarity, including those fretful about a figure as polarizing as Mr. Zuma.

The past year has been especially unnerving, with one bleak event after another, and it is more than acidic politics that have soured the national mood. Economic growth slowed; prices shot up. Xenophobic riots broke out in several cities, with mobs killing dozens of impoverished foreigners and chasing thousands more from their tumbledown homes.

The country's power company unfathomably ran out of electricity and rationed supply. Gone was the conceit that South Africa was the one place on the continent immune to such incompetence. The rich purchased generators; the poor muddled through with kerosene and paraffin.

Other grievances were ruefully familiar. South Africa has one of the worst crime rates. But more alarming than the quantity of lawbreaking is the cruelty. Robberies are often accompanied by appalling violence, and people here one-up each other with tales of scalding and shooting and slicing and garroting.

The poor apply padlocks in defense. The rich surround their homes with concrete and barbed wire -- and there are suggestions that more are simply fleeing the country.

"On our street alone, just that one small street, three of the husbands in families were killed in carjackings or robberies," said Antony McKechnie, an electrical engineer who a month ago moved to New Zealand. "If we had stayed and something had happened to any of our three children, we would never be able to forgive ourselves."

Rich and poor, black, white and mixed race: their complaints may differ, but the discontent is shared. Polls show a pervasive distrust of government, political parties and the police.

In great measure, the tough realities of South Africa's long haul after apartheid have simply replaced the halo of liberation's first days. Likewise, while Mr. Mandela seemed a saintly figure to many, his successors seem all too human. <snip>


The pride of the TSA.


---- Roland Dobbins

I am astonished that there aren't a lot more stories like this. It may be they just aren't detected.







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This week:


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Sunday,  October 12, 2008     

"Gardener Ordered to Remove Barbed Wire Fence on Grounds It Could 'Wound Thieves'"


"A British gardener's local council has ordered him to remove a 3-foot high barbed wire fence around his property in case thieves hurt themselves on it, the Daily Mail reported Thursday."

Always an England? There must be more to it than this, correct?


I am flabbergasted. I know that one is not allowed to use set guns as traps against thieves, so I suppose this is intended as an extension of principle? But ye flipping gods...


In Today's Iraq, the Times Are Constantly Changing


"Old Truth: Iraq is in the midst of a civil war

Ethno-sectarian violence (ESV) — defined as the deliberate targeting of victims from one ethnic or sectarian group by a different group — was at its height in late 2006 when there were as many as 2,000 sectarian killings every month. In Baghdad alone there were fifty such murders a day. Since then, ESV killings have plummeted. The surge alone was responsible for significant success in reducing these murders. From an average of about a thousand a month during the spring and summer of 2007 when the surge began, ESV killings fell to about 200 a month during late 2007 and early 2008. Since May the number of deaths has fallen again, averaging fewer than 50 a month for the last four months. The new reality is, that if Iraq was ever in a civil war between its different ethnic and sectarian factions, it isn't now."

Well, even at the time everyone who cared and wasn't blindly trusting the news knew it was more a gang fight than a civil war, but isn't it interesting how all of this vanished as soon as the news wasn't bad for the US?



Confirmation: Obama Tried to Derail Bush Deals in Iraq


"At the same time the Bush administration was negotiating a still elusive agreement to keep the U.S. military in Iraq <http://www.washingtontimes.com/themes/?Theme=Iraq>  , Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama <http://www.washingtontimes.com/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama>  tried to convince Iraqi leaders in private conversations that the president shouldn't be allowed to enact the deal without congressional approval.

Mr. Obama's conversations with the Iraqi leaders, confirmed to The Washington Times by his campaign aides, began just two weeks after he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June and stirred controversy over the appropriateness of a White House candidate's contacts with foreign governments while the sitting president is conducting a war."

I want more confirmation, but this isn't good news for the US. I keep thinking back to the fall of the Roman Empire, and there are rapidly decreasing things needed for a valid comparison.


I would want more confirmation also; the Logan Act is still law, I think.


Looks like malware, 


Looks like malware to me, especially since I received two copies of it. But there was no file attached.

I'm just lucky, I guess.


-----Original Message-----

From: Microsoft Update Center [mailto:securityassurance@microsoft.com]

Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 1:27 AM To: Subject: Security Update for OS Microsoft Windows

Dear Microsoft Customer,

Please notice that Microsoft company has recently issued a Security Update for OS Microsoft Windows. The update applies to the following OS versions: Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows Millenium, Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows Vista.

Please notice, that present update applies to high-priority updates category. In order to help protect your computer against security threats and performance problems, we strongly recommend you to install this update.

Since public distribution of this Update through the official website http://www.microsoft.com would have result in efficient creation of a malicious software, we made a decision to issue an experimental private version of an update for all Microsoft Windows OS users.

As your computer is set to receive notifications when new updates are available, you have received this notice.

In order to start the update, please follow the step-by-step instruction: 1. Run the file, that you have received along with this message. 2. Carefully follow all the instructions you see on the screen.

If nothing changes after you have run the file, probably in the settings of your OS you have an indication to run all the updates at a background routine. In that case, at this point the upgrade of your OS will be finished.

We apologize for any inconvenience this back order may be causing you.

Thank you,

Steve Lipner Director of Security Assurance Microsoft Corp.

I am certain that no Microsoft Executive would have used grammar that bad. It's clearly phishing, but they forgot to attach the payload I guess.


Regarding the above, security expert Rick Hellewell adds:

Dr. Pournelle:

That "Microsoft warning" (noted in your Sunday's mail) should have included an attached malware file. It may be that your correspondent had the malware attachment filtered by his anti-virus program. One discussion of this particular email is here:

-patch-spammed-out-before-patch-tuesday/  .

It's more common, however, to get malware via a web page, rather than an attached file in an email. The trend seems to be for the malware business (it's not just your teenage hacker anymore) to work on infecting web pages wtih SQL injection attacks and other means. Many high-profile sites, especially those that rely on third-party advertising, have seen malware links appear on their pages.

Many times, users will see a pop-up message alerting them to some sort of 'detected malware', and offering a link to a 'free scan of your computer for viruses'. That act of scanning is what will deliver the malware to your computer. Some of the pop-up screens are quite realistic looking, like the "Anti-Virus 2010' versions making the rounds.

Prevention: never running software that pops up to 'help' you. And keeping your anti-virus and operating system current. (Related: Apple has released a bunch of updates last week, and tomorrow is the monthly Microsoft updates. And the software you use needs to be updated -- manually go to the software web site and check for updates.

Regards, Rick Hellewell










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