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Monday  July 20, 2009

The difference

Barack Obama has said that the only difference between him and Sarah Palin in the last campaign was that he devoted four months to studying for the task of campaigning for the specific office.

The exact quote is buried in the recent Vanity Fair hit piece: "At least one savvy politician-Barack Obama-believed Palin would never have time to get up to speed. He told his aides that it had taken him four months to learn how to be a national candidate, and added, "I don't care how talented she is, this is really a leap." "

Note that these were four months during which he was supposed to be a US Senator, a role he promised he wouldn't abandon to run for higher office. Apparently he abandoned it a lot earlier than his constituents realized.



Palin and the Obamessiah

What bugs me the most about current politics is the politicial/cultural monoculture to be found in almost all news media. At least in the old days, papers were openly and honestly partisan---nobody expected Thomas Nast or his publishers to be in favor of anything any Democrat came up with. These days, they're _supposed to_ be neutral, to be watchdogs---but of what use is any watchdog if, when the Bad Guys come calling, your watchdog is their best friend?

I don't know if you've ever read Robert Novak's _Prince of Darkness,_ but in that book (his memoir of decades in the journalism biz) he tells about how, in the 1960 election, about 95% or more of the media was staffed by people who were fanatically for "Jack." One man he talked to said that while he was covering Nixon, "he could do more for Jack where he was." Think about it---what chance would a "Woodward" or a "Bernstein" who uncovered campaign-destroying facts about "Jack" have of getting them published? And, if by some wild chance, the story had gone out, and "Jack" had gone down to (well-deserved) defeat as a direct result, what would our intrepid reporter's career prospects look like? If Nixon had been as popular with the press as JFK, I imagine that if Woodward and Bernstein had managed to do what they did, they'd have been lucky to finish their careers in the Nome, Alaska bureau.

Fast-forward to the last election. Given the atmosphere in most (heck, let's say all) newsrooms, what reporter would have dared throw tough questions at Obama? Between the very strong Democrat-to-farther-left bias prevalent in those organizations, the downward trend in available employment in journalism, and their own prejudices, no reporter would ever want to be known as the one who sank the prospects of this "charismatic," "well-spoken," _black_ candidate. That continues to apply, which worries me a lot---Obama could easily get away with shenanigans that made the left's most paranoid fantasies about Nixon-the-Antichrist's-black-sheep-brother look like nothing much, and the press would be busily wagging their tails, terrified of the consequences to their careers and social lives should they impede or, worse, bring him down.

As far as solutions go---I'm at a loss. Massive purges of the news media and academia back in the 1950s might have done it, but by now I fear the rot's too entrenched. Aye, well...the United States was a nice country, while it lasted.

Eric O

-- "I have existed from the morning of the world, and I shall continue to exist until the last star falls from the sky. Although I have taken the form of Thomas Riddle, I am all wizards as I am no wizard, and thus...I am Lord Voldemort!"

Not only is despair a sin, but the analysis is flawed. Facts are hard things, and the American people are not so stupid as you might imagine. I recall the despair of the 1964 election, when it looked as if we were forever locked into a Great Society and a land war in Asia. And the Carter Era.

I recall a Library of Congress seminar on Science and Science Fiction: I was the only one in the room who had voted for Reagan, and the fact that I had horrified many of the participants. They literally had not met anyone who would vote for Reagan!

Take hope. The Press is losing its grip.


We mentioned this last week, but it's worth a reminder:

Feynman Messenger Lectures At Last!


Bill Gates, bless him for this, bought the rights to the Feynman Messenger Lectures from the BBC. The BBC filmed these at Cornell in 1964 and has never released them in a format widely accessible to the public until now.

I used to go to Friday evening showings of the original films at the Society of Physics Students meetings in the early 80's at the University of Washington. I was so exhausted from a week of hard course work that I didn't see all of these, or even most of these.

This is as close as most of us will ever get to seeing Feynman at the height of his powers, and these lectures are just magical. Anyone with any interest in Physics should watch these, and then you might think about reading the Feynman Lectures on Physics. Great stuff.




Regarding commercial space:

The relevant (current) regulations are available through
office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/  .

As you can see, it's doable. Maybe not for a mom-and-pop startup launch company a la Billy Bob Thornton's movie The Astronaut Farmer, but for a reasonably funded space endeavor, the costs are not insurmountable. And the Mojave site-based licensing (which the commercial office at WSMR is also pursuing) is also helpful in this regard.

The one thing I will add (and as you know I have some relevant expertise) is that large capacity launch vehicles will eventually have to find lower population density coastal launch spots to meet these requirements. (The recent headlines regarding the Ares-1 test launch risk are indicative). That is not undoable, and as your other correspondents have noted, these sites do not have to be in CONUS. Of course, such an approach will eventually render NASA obsolete, at least as a launching organization.



Letter From England and Western Ireland

We spent two weeks travelling around Western Ireland <http://tinyurl.com/n4ecdn  > (warning: many pictures!) and just got back.

 Swine flu has finally hit here <http://tinyurl.com/mmddb8> <http://tinyurl.com/l9rlay  > <http://tinyurl.com/mm5uwa>

 Why UK private schools are so successful: <http://tinyurl.com/n2onyg> <http://tinyurl.com/nowt85  >

 UK 'eco-towns' under fire <http://tinyurl.com/n3j3y8>

 Consider this story when proposing UK-style universal health care in America <http://tinyurl.com/mpu7ra>

 You want it bad--you get it bad... UK university policy: <http://tinyurl.com/m7ghm5  > <http://tinyurl.com/l3jbel> <http://tinyurl.com/m2u33d> <http://tinyurl.com/lnparv  >. It's what you get when your typical government minister has never managed anything as big as a whelk stall.

-- Harry Erwin


On Law and Precedent

Regarding Rush Limbaugh's statement about "ignoring precedents in favor of justice", I haven't listened to him very much lately since my work schedule interferes, but one thing I noticed a lot with him was that he'd say a lot of things that I could see where he was trying to go, and agreed with that, but the way he expressed it was ... sub-optimal.

I didn't hear that show, either, but I suspect what he was trying to get at was that judges should favor the law and the Constitution over precedent. A whole lot of the problems with our current legal environment are due to decades of encrustation of arbitrary dictatorial decrees by five out of nine black-robed oligarchs. The left gets what they want -- changes which overturn centuries of prior precedent, which they could never get from an actual vote. Once decreed, this overturning of prior precedent becomes a new precedent which is somehow supposed to be forever inviolable. But only if it's a "liberal" precedent.

It's sort of like the old Brezhnev Doctrine, "What's ours is ours, what's yours is negotiable."

Regarding the Kindle, it's always seemed a bit too pricey for me, but the fact that they have shown that they can reach out and delete documents from your Kindle makes it completely undesirable as far as I am concerned. Promises that they won't do this again, even if they're completely sincere about that, don't help. They've proved that they *can*. That means that they could be compelled to by a court, if some book was deemed "criminally politically incorrect", or "information that it is against the interests of the State for subjects to have." The book-burners used to have to actually track down individual physical copies of "undesirable" books. The Kindle (ironic name, in this context) makes virtual book-burning automatic at the push of a button.

I will have more to say on the Kindle incident. Note that they did refund the money, and the property was sold illegally. Note also that this would not give them the right to break into your house, remove a book they had illegally sold you, and leave money in its place on the bookshelf.

It was a major error on Amazon's part and they already regret every part of it. There's more to be said here.

Regarding stare decisis: courts should not lightly overturn precedents. Of course if they make decisions based on written law, they don't have a problem: the Congress can change the law, or the people can change the Constitution as with the 13th Amendment. It is when the Court has found fresh new rights in emanations from penumbras of the Constitution that one finds rulings that need to be overturned, but there is no legislative mechanism for doing it. Roe v. Wade is one of those: there was no federal issue in the first place. Had the courts found this to be a state matter and made it clear that those who favor abortion should look to the states for their remedies, the matter would have been settled within a few years, with some states continuing to make abortion illegal, others making it a right, and so forth.

Now it becomes a political matter and depends on who gets to appoint the Supreme Court justices. This is not Constitutional rule of law.


Amazing Apollo 11 landing pictures





NASA just released the image of the Apollo 11 Landing Site.

 We've enhanced it and provided comparisons with the onboard film.

 Go to the main page of our website to see these long- awaited pictures!

 40 years and counting!

From all of us at

Apogee Books


email: richard@cgpublishing.com

web: http://www.cgpublishing.com




Space and thrown-away money


Something brought up in Charles Krauthammer's latest piece

As long as we're all set to throw away most of a trillion dollars in "stimulus" money, why not throw a hundred billion or so at a real space program?

I think it's a good idea -- even if the money is all given to NASA, it won't be any more of a waste than the current plans.

Karl Lembke

Roosevelt built the TVA. Whether that was a good thing to do or not, it did generate power. It was an investment. Obama could invest in a program to get the first 10 Megawatts of power beamed down from space for a year. It would do more for the economy than many of the bridges and other pork projects. The money isn't spent in space...


Dancing Hamsters

You've probably been flooded with links already, but just in case you haven't: http://www.hampsterdance.com/

Jeff Cohen

Thank you.


Subject: Worm breeds botnet from home routers, modems

More than 100,000 hosts invaded

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco

Posted in Security <http://www.theregister.co.uk/security/>  , 24th March 2009 00:20 GMT

Security researchers have identified a sophisticated piece of malware that corrals consumer routers and DSL modems into a lethal botnet.

The "psyb0t" worm is believed to be the first piece of malware to target home networking gear, according to researchers from DroneBL <http://www.dronebl.org/>  , which bills itself as a real-time monitor of abusable internet addresses. It has already infiltrated an estimated 100,000 hosts. It has been used to carry out DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attacks and is also believed to use deep-packet inspection to harvest user names and passwords.

Full story:


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Forty years ago today....

Dear Jerry:

Forty years ago today, I was a NSA soldier in West Germany and learning the newspaper business. The HQ was undermanned because of that noisy sideshow in Vietnam and the natives were restless because they didn't approve of our presence there. Vietnam, I mean. West Germany feared the Soviet Bear and clung to us like a child to its mother politically. In the interest of Democracy the Radicals were allowed their own noisy sideshow. Most Americans stationed there never left the American Ghetto where they had the PX, the NCO and officers' clubs and the theaters that showed only American movies. We exported ourselves and ignored the rich resources of German culture within our grasp. (Well, not us in the Intelligence business, of course; we liked to mingle. It was "career enhancing".)

But on July 20th, 1969 every American became a hero and could no longer buy his own beer at any German Gasthaus. The Germans were far more excited than we were. We'd expected it all along. So it was nice And it lasted about two weeks. Truth to tell, most of us were too busy to follow it and there were no televisions in the barracks. The ones we watched while drinking those free German beers showed us doing something so extraordinary and we were cool about it. Part of it was West German excitement at having chosen the winning side in the space race. "What did you expect? "we said, "We're Americans." When we tried to reciprocate by buying the next round, we found our money declared to be no good.

Part of that confidence had to do with a rumor (and nothing more) that the Soviet space program had gotten one of their Cosmonauts into a fatal jam, trapped in orbit with no return possible and that a weeping Nikita Khrushchev was intercepted saying goodbye. It might have been true or just a clever disinformation lie. Either way, not something to be shared with our West German bar buddies.

But the moment passed and social relations returned to normal. That's the problem with free beer; it never lasts.


Francis Hamit




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Tuesday,  July 21, 2009

Subj: The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

That's the title of an excellent chapter in an excellent book (_Beautiful Evidence_) by excellent author Edward Tufte.

It's not available online, but this excerpt is:


Maybe "[i]t's a bad craftsman who blames his tools", and "ritualistic slideware" (Tufte's phrase) is certainly older than PowerPoint, but do we not pray, "lead us not into temptation"? The error made by the craftsman who chooses a defective tool is subtly but importantly different from the error of using a good tool improperly. The grandmaster may be able to evade the tool's defects and produce excellent work anyway, but most of us would be better off without the extra impediment, and even the grandmaster will not *choose* the defective tool if there's a better alternative available.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


College perversity?

Dr. Pournelle;

I am surprised that you seem somewhat unbelieving that they aren't using phonics everywhere. But you yourself are a product of the American school system. I was lucky enough to go through school at the moment they were teaching phonics. My six year older brother had another systems and he has never been able to spell properly despite the fact that he is an avid reader, reading a book every couple of days for most of his 70 years. My twelve year younger brother was taught new math and still cannot handle calculations easily despite trying to get around it for his 52 years.

Think about it: college students going for higher degrees invent something to study. They then study it, publish a paper in order to obtain their higher degree and for reasons unbeknown to thinking people, those papers somehow gain value despite the fact that they were never meant to do anything but supply a required amount of work from the student.

Doesn't it occur to elected officials that 90% of those papers are written only to obtain that degree? And the paper itself has received almost no real thought beyond putting words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into a paper whose only aim is to obtain enough approval to pass? As a research engineer for many years I've worked for many clients who believed their fortunes to be made just by using some "new" invention taken from such papers.

While some of these university papers are breathtaking in their scope, accuracy and thought, most of them are not. And perhaps it's time for people in positions of power to understand that. Having a degree does not lend one authenticity and shouldn't lend authority either.

Such is the case with many of the various learning experiments. If you read the papers behind a great many of these attempts (such as "new math") they plainly do not have the scope nor range to have converted entire school systems into places where students are passed through who cannot balance a checkbook nor understand simple interest calculations. I still plainly remember a college senior working in the local gas station who could not make change. When I showed him how to count change he picked it up almost instantly. I've been informed that it was because of that failure in the basic math education that led to cash registers telling the operator what change was to be handed back to the customer.

However, it isn't as if this is something new. These same idiotic "experiments" have been going on forever. Apparently there are enough people who can get around the poor teaching methods so that there has been advancement among the majority despite the latest improved teaching methods. Yet - perhaps a better way would be to rely just a little more on experience?

Regards, Tom Kunich

The sure things a Ph.D. demonstrates are stamina and determination. The Ph.D. dissertation is mostly an endurance test. It tests the willingness of the candidate to finish the damned thing, and even more demonstrates the spouse's determination not to give up.

As to reading instruction, the colleges of education, with few exceptions, no longer contain people with actual experience at teaching someone to read among those who teach how to teach people to read.



There is a link in this article to the pictures of the ice. You may be interested.

R, Rose


The Day Space Opened to the Rest of Us.


--- Roland Dobbins


Tom Wolfe: 'In hindsight, the answer is obvious. NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers.'


--- Roland Dobbins

Of course those were the days when I was one of the philosophers. We did well at one time. God knows we tried.


40 years ago

Dr. Pournelle,

As I have mentioned before, I live in Huntsville AL. We take pride in the role that Huntsville and Marshall played in the Apollo program. We have the Von Braun Civic Center.

Every day when I drive to work, I pass the Space and Rocket Center. I drive past the Saturn V rising hundreds of feet into the sky. I have stood next to it, surrounded by a ring of plaques commemorating the Apollo missions. Next to it is the Davidson Center, which fully encloses a Saturn V in sections resting horizontally. Walking the length of the vehicle was a moving experience, bringing back memories of the child who saw man first set foot on the moon. I was and am in awe of the incredible feat of engineering, combined with amazing human skill and courage.

Driving to work today, it seemed like a mean and petty world.

Steve Chu


"There were police outside with riot shields and batons."

A couple of gunshots fired into the air would've done the trick, I think. Of course, that would get the homeowners locked up as 'terrorists' in today's Cool Brittania:


-- Roland Dobbins

I guess they no longer read the Riot Act...


Derb: Chinese Imperialism and Its Discontents.


- Roland Dobbins

China is a colonizing empire, not an imperialist empire. There's a difference. Few Brits went to India to live. Most wanted to retire back in Old Blighty. The Chinese are serious about colonization of their imperial outposts.


For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"With the shuttle, we found out that it wasn't cheaper at all. It was just as expensive as the Saturn V."


-- Roland Dobbins

The Shuttle was designed to employ about 18,000 development scientists; which it did splendidly. It was performance driven design, not operations driven. And it was nowhere near an optimum design. If everything had worked as they hoped, it would have been a good thing, but the design was compromised from the beginning, starting with the notion of recoverable solid rockets.

The cheapest thing would have been x projects to develop true reusables; but that would be cheap over a long time. If we simply wanted to put infrastructures into space, assembly line Saturn would have been the easiest. The research was done. We knew how to build them...


The new model of recording artist commerce?

"It’s an extremely empowering position, but one hell of an undertaking.”


-- Roland Dobbins

Certainly new models emerge. As with publishing. This site with its public radio subscription model survives only by voluntary subscriptions.


“The model we are using throughout the United States in kindergarten- to-12th-grade education is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago."

If only that were true, we wouldn't be experiencing many of the woes we face today. It's telling that the Chancellor of the New York City school system doesn't seem to understand this.

These children may not be able to write a coherent paragraph, but at least they're having heavily-subsidized fun:


-- Roland Dobbins

The education establishment is seriously broken. Few of the professors of education seem to understand this, nor do they seem to want to.


NASA & Privatization

Dr. Pournelle --

Interesting development with NASA -- seems they are going to outsource the design and building of rockets and capsules.

NASA Approves Partial Privatization of the Space Program http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519609,00.html 

To a certain extent they have done this, it seems, but since NASA was the only buyer it didn't make much of a difference. It will be interesting to see what the changes really mean.

One potential problem that I can see is ensuring the compatibility of different components. I'm remembering the situation with Apollo 13 when they discovered that the CO2 scrubber canisters on the LM (built by Grumman) and the CM (built by North American Aviation) weren't the same. I'm willing to bet that there are other examples of this as well.

The article does mention the DC-X program as an example of NASA's past hostility towards other American space programs.


From some time ago.


Subj: Private space launch: Elon Musk's presentation to the Augustine Commission

Video: http://spacex.com/20090617

Audio: http://spacex.com/20090617

Slides: http://spacex.com/20090617

I guess he couldn't really come right out and say he thinks NASA's offspring-of-Shuttle boondoggle ought to be shut down, since he has a NASA contract.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com










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Thursday, July 23, 2009

U.S., Vietnam air force officials meet in Hanoi - USATODAY.com


Dear Jerry:

I've said for several years that we would be going back to Vietnam and that they would invite us. Cam Rahm Bay is a natural basing point for our fleet in the South China Sea and the Vietnamese are experts at manipulating opposing superpowers to maintain their own independence. This time it's USA vs. China rather than the old USSR. There will be protests in Orange County, of course, but as a Vietnamese General said to an American one at the Paris Peace Talks long ago on another point, "That is irrelevant".


Francis Hamit


"What he really got fired for was attacking waste and abuse in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”


--- Roland Dobbins


'The force of monopolistic funding works like a ratchet mechanism on science. Results can move in both directions, but the funding means that only results from one side of the equation get “traction.”'

climate_money.pdf >

- Roland Dobbins


To the Moon - with extreme engineering, 


A mind-blowing story of our Moon missions:


"it was really down to 400 engineers - a fraction of what Google devotes to inserting advertisements into web pages - being given the freedom to put Heath Robinson [UK version of Rube Goldberg] designs into practice."

"The Lunar Orbiter astonishes even today. It had to take pictures, scan and develop the film on board, and broadcast it successfully back to earth. Naturally, the orbiter had to provide its own power, orient itself without intervention from ground control, and maintain precise temperature conditions and air pressure for the film processing, and protect itself from solar radiation and cosmic rays - all within severe size and weight constraints. This was far beyond the capabilities of the newest spy satellites, which back then returned the film to earth in a canister, retrieved by a specially kitted-out plane. The Orbiter challenge was the Apollo challenge in miniature."

Oh, man, the story of the Lunar orbiter, in some detail, is amazing. The story then covers heroic NASA archivist Nancy Evans, who saved the tapes (the management at NASA never thought of preserving the data, even from Apollo 11).

"The Langley team's success prompted some "What went right?" analysis. Erasmus Kloman, at the National Academy of Public Administration, was given the job of finding out. NASA published a redacted version of his report, Unmanned Space Project Management: Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter, which found that bureaucracy was kept to a minimum, while keeping sharply defined goals, and inter-agency turf wars were largely absent. Over on Apollo, 60 engineers reported directly to a senior manager."

"The refugees from Apollo made up the middle management of every Silicon Valley hardware company - they gave it the management and technology backbone."

"This was before the era of "corporate re-engineering" - where innovation came to mean reshuffling the administration, rebranding, and a high turnover of management fads. It's impossible to conceive how the EU or the US could achieve such results in a short space of time today. The modest space programs today take many years to complete."

"The nature of science funding today, which has become politicised, also deters imagination and risk-taking."

Quite the story.



Crocodile tears from Blunt.


-- Roland Dobbins

Britain's Alger Hiss.








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FridayJuly 24, 2009

Steve Sailer's pocket bio of Gates

He doesn't look like a failure but has clearly made a good living out of diversity & bossing people (well his students) about.

Neil Craig

I would hardly characterize Gates as a failure, nor as a standard shakedown artist. I am told that he expected an appointment under Clinton and was disappointed that he did not get one. That was a decade ago.





It is, after all, a Cambridge local affair. I do not believe the Cambridge city police department has a reputation as a rabid right wing organization.

And those ought to be enough on this subject.


Apollo 11 manual

Thought that you might enjoy this. I found it on the Joy of Tech comic web site.


Don Scherer


Graveyard of sunken Roman ships found.

32103780/ns/technology_and_science- science/>

-- Roland Dobbins


The science is 'settled' 



A new peer-reviewed study in the July 23 edition of the Journal of Geophysical Research concludes that nature not man, is responsible for recent global warming.

Three Australasian researchers have shown that natural forces are the dominant influence on climate, in a study just published in the highly-regarded Journal of Geophysical Research. According to this study little or none of the late 20th century global warming and cooling can be attributed to human activity.

The research, by Chris de Freitas, a climate scientist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, John McLean (Melbourne) and Bob Carter (James Cook University), finds that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a key indicator of global atmospheric temperatures seven months later. As an additional influence, intermittent volcanic activity injects cooling aerosols into the atmosphere and produces significant cooling. "The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Niño conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Niña conditions less likely" says corresponding author de Freitas. "We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis.”

study: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/

The more data we get, the more interesting the story gets.


And that, I think, is the right conclusion: it's not "settled" at all, but at least we are now looking at data. Let the contenders make falsifiable hypotheses and look to the data. The matter is of enormous importance.

But that's the problem: it's of enormous importance, there are billions at stake, and what is the price of scientific integrity? What will one do for a Nobel prize?


More news from England

Count your fingers after you shake hands with this man... 

See these stories about how the extra 10,000 university places will be funded: <http://tinyurl.com/nwhl3p>  <http://tinyurl.com/n3ngow> . UK universities now planning ahead for a 20% cut in funding for next year. <http://tinyurl.com/nl9dwn

A pair of stories that seem to reflect a basic lack of common sense <http://tinyurl.com/msm5a2 >  <http://tinyurl.com/n79j4r

How practical should research be? <http://tinyurl.com/nqth8z>  The UK Government has an opinion, and it's not going down well with the research community.

UK parliamentary select committee says it's time for politicians and not scientists to determine the direction of research <http://tinyurl.com/n82zw6 >.  Reminds me of the NIH director (political appointment) who sent out a memo demanding six months warning of all research breakthroughs.

Budget 'black holes' are very common in UK government funding. The usual result is that someone has to 'suck'. See <http://tinyurl.com/kr67tx >  and <http://tinyurl.com/le8ntq>.  'Hopeless management'.

UK Government credibility gap over its support of wind power at the same time as the only wind turbine blade factory is closing. <http://tinyurl.com/mck59l

Confessions of Anthony Blunt, the MI5 traitor. <http://tinyurl.com/m9amyp

-- Harry Erwin


The Chickens Come Home to Roost

The problems of amateur government.

The Minister of Education (Balls) meddles, creates a mess, and then tries a coverup. <http://tinyurl.com/kt8gsw

Police criticised for their over-the-top use of force in dealing with peaceful demonstrations. <http://tinyurl.com/l5c973>  <http://tinyurl.com/m95s5x >  <http://tinyurl.com/mnqp32>  'The report also said the government should consider introducing new legislation to allow a senior officer to authorise stop and search where "widespread acts of criminal damage was likely". But Howarth dismissed the recommendation. "It is bizarre to suggest that the right response to excessive use of stop and search should be a change in the law to make stop and search more widely available."'

The swine flu planning turned out to be inadequate. <http://tinyurl.com/l3ok8p >  <http://tinyurl.com/nuhr8g

Chinese espionage operations in Germany and against foreign companies in China. <http://tinyurl.com/n7ggep>  <http://tinyurl.com/lmckvr

UK science now seen as a political bargaining chip. <http://tinyurl.com/n8jhx2 >.  Ditto for education <http://tinyurl.com/mzcjdh>. 

My department head has just asked me to restart recruiting of home and European Union students for my MSc programme in security. The problem is that it's a demanding MSc, and local students are unwilling to take a chance on it when other programmes are easier and cost no more. To encourage enough students to apply to make it worth teaching, the UK Government will need to underwrite the costs, and that isn't likely. "If something is worth doing; it's worth doing for money." See also <http://tinyurl.com/ntale4

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Apparently the United States is not alone in such problems...


'Why wasn't Congress briefed on this idea for a global squeeze on al- Qaeda, and why didn't it work?'

In retrospect, this explains a lot of Rumsfeldian DoD overreach during the last 8 years; the Company couldn't or wouldn't bring themselves do anything useful after the initial Afghanistan push, so Rumsfeld believed he had no other options than to handle things in-house, with predictable results:

AR2009072202546.html >

- Roland Dobbins

It's sure not like the old days.


Apple nabs 90% of all 'premium PC' dollars,


NPD says that over 90 percent of every dollar spent on a PC listing for over $1,000 goes to Apple:


"According to NPD, in June, average selling prices [ASPs] for all PCs sold at US retail was $701, or $690 for desktops and $703 for notebooks. But the ASPs get more interesting when comparing Macs to Windows PCs. For all Windows PCs, ASP was $515 in June. For Macs: $1,400. Desktop Windows PC ASP: $489. Mac desktops: $1,398. Windows notebook ASP was $520, or $569 when removing all those nasty, margin-sucking netbooks. Mac laptops: $1,400."


Interesting. Indeed.


Dr. Pournelle,

Sometimes it just can’t be more clear why “they” are not like “us”.


In a nutshell, an 8 year old Liberian immigrant girl is lured to a shed and raped by 4 boys, age 9 to 14 (also immigrants from the same area). During the investigation, it’s discovered that the victim’s parents and siblings don’t want her around after she’s released from the hospital because getting raped has brought shame on the victims family. Further, CNN reports that rape wasn’t even against the law in Libera until 2006, a condition making it unsurprising that anti-AIDS efforts in the region are miserably unsuccessful. Because rape is a cultural norm there, and they consider the victims to be the bad people instead of the rapists.

A quote from the victim’s 23 year old sister who was “babysitting” the victim at the time of the attack:

"When she comes back I'm going to tell her don't ever do that again because all of us, we are the same family, we are from the same place. Now she is just bringing confusion among us. Now the other people, they don't want to see her," the sister told KTVK.

Why the sister isn’t being charged with felony child endangerment is beyond me…

A quote from a Liberian who escaped the madness when he immigrated:

"The family [believes they] have been shamed by her, not a crime, but the name of the family has been degraded and news will get back to Liberia <http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Liberia>  . And they're more concerned about that than the crime," said Weedor, who is co-founder of the CenterPoint International Foundation, which aids Liberian refugees in the United States and provides aid for those still in Liberia.

This is why my sympathy knob for this particular group of “them” is turned past zero into the negative range. I simply can’t come up with a description for these people other than “savages”. Make that “dirty evil savages”. We won’t nuke them out of existence like they deserve but it escapes me why we’re not building a tall fence with one gate, manned by a psychiatrist who can separate “them” from “us”, letting only “us” out and keeping the rapists inside where they can defend their cultural equivalence to its logical end.

Letting them into the US is madness. I feel sorry for the kids who are brainwashed from birth into such an evil culture, but damned if I want these savages within 5000 miles of my family no matter how sorry I feel for them. The only thing I feel compelled to give “them” is a book on healthy living (could be a bible or any other equivalent guide on how to not be a dirty savage rapist) and a box of condoms.


What, are you not for diversity?


Evil Norks 

Dr. Pournelle,


I have a son who has some developmental disabilities. I love him and enjoy every day with him. I cannot express the horror and revulsion I felt upon reading this.

Steve Chu

Good Lord. I can't think of anything to add.


RE: Anthony Blunts' memoir:

The mea culpas of former Soviet moles, such as that of the late traitor Anthony Blunt, are amusing in their obscene lack of meaningful remorse as well as amusing for what they reveal by their lacunae.

However, further and greater merriment abounds in the reactions of their one time "Progressive" allies and apologists. The reactions of former dupes to the belated confessions of the pond scum they unwittingly abetted are akin to a roller coaster ride in their logical jumps and leaps in search of Moral High Ground .

Case in point: In September of 2008 Morton Sobell confessed in a New York Times interview that he actually had been a Soviet agent. Sobell was convicted in 1951 of espionage, serving a lengthy Federal prison sentence for his role in the Rosenberg spy ring. That ring penetrated the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, obtaining nuclear weapons information for the Soviet Union.

An acquaintance of mine, a self described "Progressive", daughter of "Progressive" parents, grew up in Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties. She had worked long hours, alongside her parents, for the old "Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell". At one time that was a very popular cause, attracting all sorts of "respectable" support. Bertrand Russell, as one example, campaigned for Sobell's release.

This woman was crushed at the realization, after Sobells confession of guilt last September, that he could have so callously used "good people" such as herself and her parents for so long, with so little remorse at such a late date (Sobell is over ninety years of age).. She just could not get over the way he had lied so coldly and calculatedly for so long just to protect his own worthless hide. She was vehement in her denunciations of him as a worthless thing. "Enraged" is not too strong a term for her reaction.

Then she did the flip.

"Sobell is a terrible, terrible man to have done that, but at least he didn't do any real harm to the United States. After all, while he did admit he was a spy for the Russians, he also said he was always very careful to never send any nuclear secrets to them.. He swears he only sent them things they could use to defeat the Nazis."

So Sobell was a "terrible, terrible" man, capable of lying to good people for decades in pursuit of his own selfish ends; a callous, heartless manipulator of innocents, but nevertheless he would never ever lie about having stolen nuclear secrets.

Actually, she didn't even consider the possibility. It literally never occurred to her that he might still be lying.

You just cannot make this stuff up.


Then there is the Oppenheimer case. The story we tell in Escape From Hell is true -- well, at least well documented and not challenged so far as I know. Oppenheimer did not directly aid the Soviets but he permitted others to aid them when he must have known that is what they would do. In those days there was still the theoretical possibility of some kind of UN control of nuclear weapons -- you may imagine what that would have resulted in -- but Stalin rejected all such proposals, probably because he was sure he'd get his own nukes soon enough.

There were many who had flirted with the left in the 30's who did not know what to do after the defeat of Germany.


Strange! Humans Glow in Visible Light, 


It's true. We are luminous beings:


Hmm. We emit tiny amounts of visible and ultraviolet light. We literally glow in the dark. We shine.

I can't wait to see this start to show up in various bits of fiction.









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This week:


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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maybe the only place it's really getting hotter is in Al Gore's head.

Gore's Global Warming hoax is increasingly coming apart at the seams, which is making the Obama Administration frantic to steamroller Cap and Trade (= Ration and Tax) though Congress.


 You will note the stock markets surged (= reached the level it was in January before the new Administration) after Obama's Disastrous news conference on Health Care. (And also, oddly, bashing local police, interfering with an investigation, and aggravating racial tensions.) Here's a good article that helps to explain the market surge:


The market surge gives me HOPE that at least Congress will actually read the Cap and Trade and ObamaCare bills before they vote. God Bless America.


John D. Trudel,
Consultant and Professor Emeritus, Inventor, Engineer, Author, and Novelist.

It would be a good thing if someone read the bills before they were passed. At least that seems reasonable to me. And it would be well to have some scientific examination of the evidence before adopting anything as drastic as cap and trade.  Whether sanity is a change we can believe in is another matter.


The Bruise Heard Round the World


I didn't consider this remarkable, until I noticed it was in the Fashion and Style section of the NY Times and not the Science section.


Joel Upchurch


Savings to the rescue

Martin Feldstein: US saving rate & the dollar's future

Martin Feldstein, a professor of economics at Harvard, was formerly Chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors and President of the National Bureau for Economic Research.


The increase in the household saving rate reduces America’s need for foreign funds to finance its business investment and residential construction. Taken by itself, today’s $750 billion annual rate of household saving could replace that amount in capital inflows from the rest of the world. Since the peak annual rate of capital inflow was $803 billion (in 2006), the increased household saving has the potential to eliminate almost all of America’s dependence on foreign capital.


Of course the deficit is larger than that...



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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  July 26, 2009     

Subject: Warming Hoax

Warming Hoax? more Data!

High resolution ( 1m ) imagery depicting nothern polar ice. These were kept under wraps during the Bush administration.


Whatever the "this is a hoax people" think ( they have prooved), I am missing some explanation why 30% more CO2 in the atmosphere than at any time in the last million years should be deemed "just nature".

G! uwe

Thirty percent more sounds horrifying, but the actual amounts don't. We do not have a good analysis of the effects of more CO2. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere contributed by human activity is debatable, but it is very likely that most of the additional CO2 is due to human activity. Some of course is due to warming -- not caused by warming, but due to warming.

I have said for years that we do not want to run an open-ended experiment on just how much CO2 we can put into the atmosphere without causing problems; but I also pointed out, way back when, that the developing countries were not going to give up development. "Now that we get a piece of the action you want to end the game. No thanks." I said in the 1970's that this attitude would prevail and I have seen no reason to believe otherwise. China and India have built coal fired plants and they intend to use them.

If we are going to come up with sane policies we need to start with two things: Real Science, and an appreciation of political realities around the globe. So far neither our politicians nor our scientific establishment leaders seem to have either. The evidence for any global warming beyond the 1 degree per century that has been going on since 1800 is scant. The evidence for man-made global warming is not high. Arrhenius did his work essentially on the back of an old envelope and came up with at least a good a prediction as the most sophisticated models.

There are trillions at stake, meaning that the incentives for charlatans, waverers, fools, entrepreneurs, psychopaths, and nearly anyone else are very high. Grantsmanship now demands that you pay homage to the 'consensus' opinions -- and grantsmanship is about the only path to scientific prominence. As my friend Bob Bussard used to say, the easy work is pretty well all done. Things are harder now. It takes more money and larger teams to make great advances in many of the sciences and particularly in physics. Control of that money is the key to scientific prominence.

We have given little thought to this. We do not have mechanisms for funding contrarian views, and we pay a big penalty for that. We may may an enormous on some day.


Worthless Theses for Advanced Degrees


While it is true that many PhD Theses are probably less than worthless at least the holder of a PhD has to demonstrate some facility in a foreign language. Now a Doctor of Education or a Doctor of Business Administration need not demonstrate such facility.

It is way past time for a revolution to take back control of our schools from the Educrats and Teacher's Unions!

Bob Holmes


America...A New Menace.

It's not just alligators, poisonous snakes, and mountain lions that threaten the citizens any more. For the scary details go to:-


John Edwards


"We will want to ensure that the names disclosed reflect the broad range of cases and are not all Islamic extremists."


- Roland Dobbins

Will there always be an England?


Jerry, this just in from Livermore labs. - rjw

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 40 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 4 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

I get one or another variant on this several times a year, and once in a while it's worthwhile putting it up for those who may not have seen it. Thanks.


On Peggy Noonan



This may well be Ms. Noonan's best column since she became skeptical of Mr. Bush c. 2005.


The common wisdom the past week has been that whatever challenges health care faces, the president will at least get something because he has a Democratic House and Senate and they’re not going to let their guy die. <snip> But after the news conference, I found myself wondering if he’d get anything.

I think the plan is being slowed... by simple American common sense. <snip>



Speechless: Dilbert Creator's Struggle to Regain His Voice, 


Scott Adams has spasmodic dysphonia and has been working to restore his voice:


It's quite a story.


Quite a story indeed. When we were trying to get high speed connectivity here when BYTE did a Technews Broadcast, I called AT&T tech support and ended up talking to Scott Adams as the only competent person in the company... We got it working. Sort of.


NASA and space

Dr. Pournelle:

In the mainstream media, there seem to be several recurring questions:

1. Should the USA do anything more in space? 2. If the first question is answered in the affirmative, how can NASA be equipped to do it? 3. If NASA is tasked with some project, should we go back to the Moon or just go on to Mars?

The whole concept of private development of space resources just doesn't seem to come up. I like the idea of a scientific laboratory on Mars, but what we could use right now is infrastructure in orbit, space suits designed for actual work (such as the skintight suits you have described), solar power satellites--the whole list. NASA won't get it done, though. Senator Blowhard will want rocket engines built in his state, Senator Blunder will want the crew cabins built in his state, and Senator Porkulus will want his state to be NASA's control center. This way lies madness.

I certainly mean no disrespect to Mr. Aldrin, but I would first rather develop the technology to move asteroids and mine them. Going to Mars is a wonderful idea; I'd love to buy a ticket, but from a resource-development standpoint, Mars isn't going to help much--whatever we mine there has to be boosted to Mars' escape speed. We climb out of one gravity well, cross a fair chunk of the solar system, and go down into another gravity well. That's not a formula for economic success unless Mars turns out to be the mother lode of Unobtainium.

How can the idea of private development in space be introduced to the public consciousness?

The other constant in current discussions about space is that the military aspects are not mentioned. Don't militarize space is a fine concept until someone figures out that the USA is down there, we're up here in orbit, and we have some big rocks handy . . .

When Project Thor is outlawed, only outlaws will have tungsten rods.


I would build a Moon Base before attempting either asteroids or Mars. I've given the reasons before. The Moon is sort of like the Azores...




This is probably too long to print and of little interest to most of your readers. Bu, I want to set the record straight for you.

Last week –d said “Tricare is okay if you don't have to use it for more than bandaids and aspirin.”

I don’t know why some people want to trash TRICARE, it is a great program. It is ~$600 a year (yeas a Year) for TRICARE Prime for a family. I wrote you earlier about my brain tumor. The surgery is next Tuesday. So far my Dr visits/test and out of pocket expenses have been:

Primary Doctor visit $12

EKG, echo cardiogram, Doppler of arteries in neck, blood test, urine test and MRI $12

Visit to Neurologist and Neurosurgeon (DeKalb Medical Center) $12

30 day supply of anti-seizure drug $3

Second opinion with Chief of Neurosurgery Department, of Emory University Medical School (this was “out of system” but TRICARE approved it) $12

Visit to different Neurosurgeon(3rd opinion) (Gwinnett Medical Center) with CAT Scan $12

So 5 good doctors, a string of tests and my drugs for $63. All of the doctors are good and the one at Emory is arguably the best in the Atlanta area. My surgery for Kidney stones in 07 cost me $22 and my hernia surgery in 08 cost ~$25. Sorry, but –d is talking out of his hat.

I chose the Dr. at Gwinnett Medical Center (Michael T. Stechison, MD, PhD, FRCS( C ), FACS) to do the surgery.

If you do print this, feel free to edit it, please do not use my last name.


For the record I have neither data nor an opinion on TRICARE.


Nuclear's Model T

 The future of nuclear energy could lie in plants that can be factory built, shipped to a site, and operated 30 years without refueling.


There are many viable nuclear options -- viable technically at least. The hovering eagles of the law who serve the enemies of mankind are the main danger. Low cost energy and freedom inevitably produces economic growth, but neither is in the best interest of bureaucracies. Bureaucrats will ever seek to prevent them.



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