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Monday  March 22, 2010

The Abelard site seems to have permission to publish the work:

"Copyright © 1951, by Street and Smith Publications. Copyright renewed 1979, by the Estate of E.F.Russell; posted by permission of the author’s Estate and its agents, Scott Meredith Literary Agency, LP."


_And Then There Were None_ was a formative influence on me when I read it in the late 1960s. However, I agree that libertarianism is, while perhaps a worthy ideal, not completely workable. (I sometimes refer to myself as a "former closet Libertarian.")


Libertarianism is a vector, and one that aims in the correct direction at this time.


A few Letters on the health care debate.

You were right

Dr. Pournelle --

Some weeks ago I reminded you of the hurdles facing the House and Senate bills before passage could occur and that despair was a sin. Your legislative assessment was correct and the Lords on the Hill have just passed their "reform".

I am reminded of Horace: "Nunc est bibendum." But despair is a sin and we have a long, hard fight ahead to bring us back to the Republic.



'Democracies, says Aristotle, tend to be pulled in one direction: toward a vilification of everything involving merit, hierarchy, inequality, proportion, and worth.'


- Roland Dobbins


How to fight

American's will now have to fight for their freedoms.

The question is how to do so?

The answer seems so stunningly simple and obvious; massive civil disobedience against government healthcare. Do the ruling elites have the ability to function if two million TEA partiers refuse to pay income tax or buy "mandated" insurance? How about five million or so FOX viewers? How about 20 million Rush Limbaugh listeners? Courts would be paralyzed, all government functions would be shut down and there are not enough ACORN and SEIU brownshirts to enforce obedience (I doubt they are more than fair weather friends who would melt away at the first serious sign of opposition anyway).

Keep up the good fight. As America goes so do we in Canada (and the rest of the world), so we need to see that light of freedom.

God Bless

Arthur Majoor

We have not quite yet come to street fighting, castor oil, colored shirts, and the like. I understand that is not what you advocate; it is a likely accompaniment to civil disobedience on that scale. We are still allowed to vote and organize, although the opposition will in some places use street fighting techniques to counter it.


The Future After Health Care


"If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don't complain that it's not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard."

I've said for years that the great thing about being a Progressive is that every day you wake up in a new world, with no past or future to consider. I'm more convinced of that than ever.

The real problem with our government sowing the wind is that we all get to reap.


We have sown the wind.


What would you have done?

Dr. Pournelle:

Many things you and I agree on. Many things we do not. I’m a card carrying liberal…you, I suspect, are something else.

With that in mind, I have several questions. I know that you now have Kaiser Health Insurance, which I assume you pay for yourself. Do you also have Medicare? After your recent bout with that thing in your head, did your Kaiser rates go up? Had you been, say, 58 or 59, and still working at a “real job” and your company decided to outsource your job to India…just after that thing in your head was detected, would you have been able to buy your own health insurance? At any price? Or, would the “pre-existing condition” have forced you to mortgage your home and raid your 401k (assuming you had one) to pay for your treatment? Or, would you have just decided to let it go untreated and take your chances on living a few more years, while your intellect slowly disappeared?

Being a liberal does not make me blind to fact that “Obama Care” is not a perfect solution, nor to a fail to realize its going to cost us money. Lots of money. (Which we might have, had we not been giving it to Blackwater and Haliburton and subsidizing the poppy growers so they won’t tell the Taliban we’re in the area.)

What I do see is that this first version of what is certainly a flawed program does correct some wrongs of sufficient magnitude to justify its existence. No more rejection of people for “pre-existing conditions”. No more caps on “life time benefits”. I was lucky enough to be re-employed, with a very nice medical plan when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but, if the diagnosis’ would have been 3 years earlier, when I was un-employed (and uninsured), I’d be on welfare today. And, yes, I realize that In four more years I will be covered under the new arrangement, but without treatment in the meantime, I would be practically immobile by then.

What I see as the greatest good that could come from all of this debate over health care is to remove the health insurance mechanism from a “for profit” business, to a “non profit” service. Pay health care providers for the same thing you propose for teachers…results, not volume. Figure out a way to reward the drug companies and medical equipment providers for innovation without forcing them (allowing them?) to charge me and my insurance $1000 a month for 30 pills that allow me to walk.

In short, instead of knocking that which we do not yet have evidence of what will work and what will not (can you say “global warming”?), lets try this and see what actually happens. The current situation is so thoroughly fubared that movement in any direction has got to result in some improvement.

Don Etling

What I would have done is not entirely relevant. I am not a highly paid employee of the Congress nor yet a member of that organization. I have for a long time said what I would advocate, but apparently you missed that part of my writings over the past thirty years and more.

First principles: the demand for a free good is limitless. Everything should cost SOMETHING, and the beneficiary should be the payer. Even those in deepest poverty have something, if only an hour or so of their time. (And yes, many have to wait in waiting rooms: what I'd advocate is public service, crossing guard, picking up trash, something explicit, not just sitting in a waiting room, thus reducing waiting time for those needing the service and exacting an explicit fee).

 For those not in abject poverty there should be some control over both benefits and payments. the people who get the service ought to be paying for it, at least in part: it is not your obligation to pay for my health care. Coupling health care to employment was not my idea. I had to buy my own at a time when it wasn't deductible -- even though those whose health care was paid for by employers didn't pay income tax on the premiums their employers paid. Simply making health care payments taxable income would have changed the system a bit. Decoupling payment for heath care from those who benefit from it has not kept costs down.

Next principle: entitlements are not insurance. But what you are entitled to would work better if it were a savings account from which you can eventually draw personal money if you don't use it up in health care.

I could continue, but I have written on this for many years. Your views are based on assumptions I do not find attractive. For example, I do not find any great moral preference over "non-profit" organizations that run for the benefit of their employees all that preferable to profit making organizations that work for profits. I note Michelle Obama was employed at a mid 6 figure salary by a non-profit. I suspect they could have hired someone else for less, but they didn't have to. No stock holders to complain. I have seen no evidence that government employees are either more efficient or less extravagantly paid (including pensions and perks) that those in profit making companies. But then I pretty well believe in the Iron Law.

I do not agree that the current system is so awful. I don't see people dying in the streets, even if the emergency rooms are used more than they should be. I have heard the horror stories, but none that argue that the system we have is so horrid that it must be placed under bureaucratic control, and even fewer that argue that bureaucratic control will make everything better.

When I was growing up, few were "on welfare" because we didn't have the concept that everyone was entitled to welfare and compensation for not being employed. When we got sick we did not expect you to pay the doctor. Insurance can make a large difference in people's lives, but insurance is not entitlement.

Enough. I have been writing about this for many years.


Eating the seed corn...


"A sure-fire sign of a business enterprise in decline is when it begins using its invested capital to pay operating expenses. Such signs of ill-health are not confined to the world of commerce and industry, but can exhibit themselves in the life of any system. We are witnessing the practice in the collapse of Western Civilization, as we scurry to meet short-term demands by sacrificing the foundations upon which our culture has long been grounded."

Charles Brumbelow


Stupak and the Executive Order

People are talking about how Stupak "sold" his vote for a "meaningless, unenforceable executive order", and they're asking why he would do that. Isn't it obvious? Now, when he goes in for re-election, he can tell those Bittersy McClingerson types that he "fought to keep abortion funding out of the health care bill", but he can also tell the Dem/Left voters that he "was willing to do the right thing when it really counted".

If voters had longer attention spans than a few months, then this wouldn't work; but it will. Take Back Your Government, etc.

-- Mike T. Powers


Letter From England

I'm chairing a bat conservation workers conference on Saturday, so I'm sending this early.

 UK Politics:

 Kenneth Clark debates Lord Mandelson on business: <http://tinyurl.com/ycsvvt7> <http://tinyurl.com/y957ucb>. The two parties are close in their positions.

 Press criticism of non-doms: <http://tinyurl.com/yb2xajw> <http://tinyurl.com/y9uyykd> <http://tinyurl.com/ygrojqq>.

 BA strike chaos. Note the UK Government is providing funds to the union, which in turn funds Labour. <http://tinyurl.com/yz55w95> <http://tinyurl.com/ykjfxyj>

 Labour ends with a pension scandal: <http://tinyurl.com/yll7r9l>

 Can Gordon Brown live in the real world? <http://tinyurl.com/ycclgzr> Whatever goes on in Parliament, Aristotelean virtues apply in the real world (see below).

 Dancing on a pin--opaque data privacy definitions: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/19/privacy_data_controller/>

 UK higher education:

 Bishop Tom Wright spoke at the University of Sunderland Tuesday evening on the academic virtues. He bases them on the Aristotelean virtues, and suggested "honesty; care and accuracy; patience; and determination to see the larger picture". (Here, I'm quoting from Stephen Fagbemi's notes of the talk.) Aristotle believed that one became happy by being 'good' and that came from practising (in the same sense as you practise for a sport) practical virtues. His list of virtues included courage, justice, temperance, generosity, truthfulness.

 Let me suggest my list four practical virtues based on Bishop Tom's list:

* Honesty--an academic is no better than the truthfulness of his word.

* Care--an academic is careful in what he does and claims.

* Patience--an academic respects the time and tempo of teaching and working.

* Faith in the lawfulness of the universe--an academic trusts that the universe is understandable and strives for that understanding.

 When we hear employers complaining about the quality of university graduates, we rarely hear complaints about knowledge and skills; instead the complaints seem to be about practical virtues. That suggests where the educational system is failing is in the development of virtues.

 Will the UK's ranking in higher education fall? <http://tinyurl.com/yb4cobc>

 Universities as businesses: <http://tinyurl.com/yznxz4b> <http://tinyurl.com/ydcr5po>

 Criticism of the student loan system in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/yeko4xc> <http://tinyurl.com/ybjj9vh>

 They estimate that more than 50,000 well-qualified students will miss out on university this coming year: <http://tinyurl.com/y9mnd25>

 Perhaps this is just a continuation of the past pattern: <http://tinyurl.com/y9l5bxs>


Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


artificial photosynthesis

Hello Jerry,

I thought you might be interested in this:


A lot of possible ramifications here.




 News for Gamers

Nafziger OOB collection released

CAPT Nafgizer has released his ORDER OF BATTLE collection, believed be the largest in the world, to the public. It is poster at the ARMY CGSC site: http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/nafziger/ <http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/nafziger/

Gentlemen (and ladies),

I have donated the notorious Nafziger Collection of orders of battle to the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Research Library (CARL). It is online and free to the world. I'm afraid I do not have the URL and I understand that it is still in a "teething" process, but it is there.

You may be wondering why. There are several reasons. First, technology was killing me. The collection was in WordStar, a DOS-based program, and Windows XP and Vista would not allow me to print the documents, so I found myself having to maintain a Windows 98 machine (and a spare, just in case). Sooner or later, I would no longer be able to get to the data. Technological changes would lose it to me (and you).

Second, I'm 60. Sadly, I'm not going to live forever. I imagined, not unrealistically, that since my wife and kids know nothing about the collection, could care less about it, would see a Windows 98 machine and think "junk" and place the computer, its hard drive and all the collection on the curb for the garbage collector, that my death would result in the disappearance of something that meant a lot to me as a hobby and a labor of love. Soooo, when approached by a friend two to three years ago, I realized this was the best solution. Besides, there is some sweet irony about a Navy Captain having his stuff figure so prominently on a U.S. Army website. :-) And, in some sense, maybe I will achieve a modicum of immortality, leaving a legacy that will haunt you all long after I've shed this mortal shell.

And with that, if any of you are silly enough to want to order something on the old website (which is still functional), I will take your money, but pretty soon I'm going to take it down and leave a link to the army's website.

Enjoy, make use of it, and consider it my gift to the wargaming community.

Original PDFs are available at the U.S. Army's CARL Website:


There are a total of about 7,985 files taking up 596 MB of space; and downloading them all for most people is a bit difficult (imagine clicking on 7,985 links!!!); plus the fact that CARL's server isn't that fast.

Using a website ripper program, I downloaded all of them last night (it took me six hours of waiting); and I've organized them into ZIPs based upon their rough time period.

1600s (12.6 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/1600s.zip>  )

1700s (43.2 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/1700s.zip>  )

1800s (61 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/1800s.zip>  )

Napoleonics (1792-1815) (107.5 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/Napoleonics_(1792-1815).zip>  )

US Civil War (1860-1865) (4.1 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/US_Civil_War_(1860-1865).zip>  )

Early 1900s (1900-1913) (9 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/Early_1900s_(1900-1913).zip>  )

World War I (1914-1918) (35.2 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_I_(1914-1918).zip>  )

Interwar (1919-1938) (12.2 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/Interwar_(1919-1938).zip>  )

World War II (1939) (19 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1939).zip>  )

World War II (1940) (20.8 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1940).zip>  )

World War II (1941) (45.5 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1941).zip>  )

World War II (1942) (49 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1942).zip>  )

World War II (1943) (30.5 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1943).zip>  )

World War II (1944) (48.9 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1944).zip>  )

World War II (1945) (14.4 MB ZIP <http://www.alternatewars.com/CARL/World_War_II_(1945).zip> )

John Monahan

Good news for simulations and games designers.


“We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience. Our team had some fun with it.”


-- Roland Dobbins


Kindle Apps for Tablets, including iPad.


-- Roland Dobbins


Kindle for iPad


I don't know whether you've seen the following on the Register:


This sounds like a clear expansion beyond the Kindle for Amazon's ebooks. One of the things that sounds interesting and useful is:

If you've read to a particular page on your iPad, for instance, that page will appear when you power up your physical Kindle or launch Kindle software on your iPhone, PC, or other device. You can also synchronize notes, bookmarks, and highlighted text.

It really does look like Amazon is moving well beyond the hardware Kindle in their ebook program.




First Things article on religion in science fiction

Dr. Pournelle,

You and Larry Niven receive favorable mention in this article from the April 2010 issue of First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/03/science-friction  , about religious themes in science fiction. Inferno and Inferno II are both mentioned, and Inferno is quoted as well. A number of good authors are featured in the article, including Michael Flynn, but I find it a bit surprising that Tim Powers does not get a nod.

-- Benjamin I. Espen


First Things


You and Larry are prominently mentioned in "Science Friction," an article by Robert Chase in First Things. The topic is the treatment of religion in science fiction, and of course _Inferno_ and _Escape from Hell_ come in for notice. (As does _Eifelheim,_ I blush to add.)


Mike Flynn


Copyright, irony and "And Then There Were None!"

You wrote of Ken Mitchell's link, "That is the classic libertarian story, of course. It was expanded to a larger novel, but the original is readable and thought provoking. I don't know this abelard web site, nor if they have the actual right to publish the story. Russell died in the 1970's so his copyright is clearly valid under the Geneva Convention and thus under US Law. Of course law and copyright are antithetical to the strict anarchism of Russell's story."

That isn't quite a link to that story, i.e. the original novella, but to its reworking to be the last third or so of the novel, "The Great Explosion". In particular, some parts are different as their substance was moved into the rest of the book and expanded - for instance, some stuff about Hygeia, the planet of nudists. Like the chief bureaucrat's final report, the other parts of the book do show an understanding of other ways no rule can work out, with the nudists squeezing out the first settlers (Doukhobors) and a convict dumping planet's society racing to the bottom. The whole novel used to be available at the Memory Hole ( http://tmh.floonet.net ) , but it no longer is. Perhaps someone requested that it be taken down, but it's still rather ironic.


Yours sincerely,


Thanks. It has been long since I read (and reprinted in a collection on liberty) the original novelette.


: Ghandi 


It's been said before that Ghandi could only be Ghandi because he stood up to an Empire founded on principles of Christian morality. Had he stood up to, e.g. Stalin, Hitler, or Hussein, he would most likely have been a nameless and unknown political prisoner of short- to negligible longevity. If he were extremely lucky, and already well-known before his arrest, he might have been a Solzhenitsyn.


I would far rather lie down in front of a tank run by a British Tommy or a US GI than a Red Army man. Or an SS non-com. As to Hussein, his sons fed people into wood chippers. Feet first.


Why Canada Avoided a Mortgage Meltdown 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The view advocated by Garth Turner is about a small part of Canada. Are there markets in Canada that are inflated in price? Sure they are. I lived in Vancouver for 20 years, and could never afford to buy a house there. Ten years ago I moved to Kelowna BC to get away from the insane real estate market, only to have it follow me. Luckily I managed to buy before prices doubled in value. Is it going to ‘pop’? Not anytime soon! Certainly with a smaller explosion than the US experienced. The vast majority of mortgage holders in Canada have jobs that will support any reasonable rise in inflation and interest rates.

Garth Turner’s website ( www.greaterfool.ca ) is a place to hold a grain of salt while reading. I wonder who is the greater fool? Garth, for what he says, or us, for believing him.

Are there people who have over-extended themselves in real estate and home equity loans? Sure there are! Just like there are people who buy too much on their credit card, or gamble away their earning at the slots. Canada doesn’t have the same mortgages as the US does, and our banking is far more conservative than the US.

Stay well,

Bill Grigg

Kelowna BC





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Tuesday,  March 23, 2010

Eagle scout earns every merit badge

The Kansas City Star claims an area eagle scout earned every available merit badge. http://www.kansascity.com/2010/03/22/

As always, good health to you and yours,
Tim Harness.

When I was Hikemaster for our local Scouting Troop, I met a Scouter who had apparently earned every merit badge back in World War II days. Blacksmithing was the hardest, he said. I have forgotten his name; he was a bit older than I am, although not much. I think I made Star Scout when I was a Boy Scout, also back in World War II. The toughest part for me was First Class, which had more requirements in those days.


Maxine sums up the health care bill

Let me get this straight. We're going to be gifted with a health care plan written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, to be signed by a president who also hasn't read it and who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke.

What the hell could possibly go wrong?

Joe Z


Reviving Nuclear Power

The good, Dr. Chu is behind nuclear and is getting Obama to back it. The bad, more global warming crap is used as the justification especially taxing carbon.

Notice the timeline, 10 years to develop. Ten years is the minimum time line any government type can conceive of. After all, it's the minimum time the government can do things, that must be as fast as it can be done, right?



More good news.


Counter health-care reform theory...

Upon watching how the health care reform bill went from almost-a-goner to passed in the past month or two, I can't help but think that it's the sort of thing covered in The Art Of War: Never encircle your opponent without giving them a direction to retreat to. By turning the bill into a Waterloo sort of moment for the dems, one that Obama already staked his presidency on, that meant that the Democrats were highly motivated to support their party line because not passing their bill would be a full-fledged rout.

- Ken

I can't agree. I don't think the Republicans had any golden bridges to build. The Democrats own this one, largely due to the 2008 repudiation of the Creeps and the beliefe in Hope and Change that Obama inspired. I think many of those who voted for him now wish they had not. How many will admit it is questionable, but irrelevant: they need not publicly confess. Go and sin no more...



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I choose to be neither a slave nor a slave owner, but what choice have I been given?

The missing ingredient in all the arguments in favor of the reform passed by congress is the fact that the government does not own and cannot regulate the time, education, talent and dedication of health care professionals. The type of person who would relish the title "Medical Doctor" under a single-payer system is not the type person I want performing tree surgery in my front yard. Most medical professionals (I'd like to say doctors and nurses, but that leaves out so many deserving individuals) have gone into their field because they want to heal people and defeat disease. The money that comes with the practice of medicine is only a minor reward for the years of school and struggle.

Although I have tried in all my conversations, with people both pro and con health care reform, to stay away from the abortion issue, I will make this one observation: a vocal portion of the populace has spoken for years of "back-alley abortions." Since we will soon be forbidden to purchase any medical care privately, I foresee doctors who want to practice medicine but refuse to be slaves forced into those back alleys. I will be a "back-alley patient."

With much admiration,

A.S. Clifton

And then there will be lipid legging...


“It’s like after all the years it’s flown, the U-2 is in its prime again. It can do things that nothing else can do.”


Some remarkable U-2 photographs:


- Roland Dobbins


Krugman: 'At this point, it’s hard to see China changing its policies unless faced with the threat of similar action — except that this time the surcharge would have to be much larger, say 25 percent.'

I'd make it 20% and permanent, but at least Krugman's on the right side of an issue, for once:


- Roland Dobbins

Free Trade has costs. So do other policies. Given our unemployment free trade and open borders don't make a great deal of sense.


I will repeat the following letter from time to time:

ref: I am going to have to look into ways to make more of the Wall Street Journal articles available

Here is how:

1. Copy the title of the article from your reference text

2. Paste into search box in Google and do a search

3. Select the first returned source in the list: from WSJ

4. Read article in full


If the article title is common, add the last name of the author after the title. If the first source doesn't work, one of those returned will.

This works and it is legal. I do encourage those who can to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal on line because if they don't make money they won't keep it going. It's one newspaper that hasn't cut its editorial staff.



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hello Dr, Pournelle:

Every once and a while you see a brief glimmer of hope. I suppose that desperate times require desperate measures. The school system in Milwaukee, where I live, is a mess. Graduation rates and academics are dismal. Sadly, this is hardly unique among our metro areas. Presently there is a program which is looking for math or science majors to be fast tracked into becoming teachers. A 3.0 GPA is required, as is satisfactory completion of an assessment test. What makes this stand out, at least to my mind, is that applicants with teaching certificates are specifically disqualified. Applicants with education degrees are specifically barred from teaching math or science. According to the site:

You cannot be a current district or fully-licensed teacher. Current district teachers, as well as teachers already in possession of their teaching licensure/certification from Wisconsin or any other state, are not eligible for the Fellows program. Additionally, candidates who have completed or participated in another alternate-route certification program are not eligible for the Fellows program. No previous coursework in education or teaching experience is required.

Further, the site states:

Eligibility requirements vary by subject; however, candidates who wish to teach math or science typically must have completed a major in their content area.

So it has finally occurred to them that the best people to be teaching math are math experts, and the best people to be teaching science are science experts. Its a shame that we had to sacrifice a generation or two at the altar of the so called professional educationists, who claimed to be experts at teaching anybody anything. Now if only we could do something about the sham of the MBA - people who claim that they can run any business that does anything. I have been saying for years that if we really want to destroy the lead that China seems to be taking, we need only invite all of their teachers to our schools of education and all of their business leaders to our schools of business.


Neal Pritchett


SA'10 Conference Info Update, 03/23/10

Space Access '10 starts two weeks from this Thursday. Book your flights and rooms NOW - early April is still winter sunshine tourist season in Phoenix, so good airfares can be hard to come by at the last second. Also, our conference hotel is filling up fast - remaining rooms in the hotel are now on a first-come, first-served basis. Our discount room rate will remain available through the conference - if rooms are available. Reserve now and be sure! (For conference hotel details scroll down past the SA'10 Program Schedule.)

SA'10, our upcoming annual conference on the technology, politics, and business of radically cheaper access to space, featuring a cross-section of leading players in the field, will once again be the place to hear the latest on the fast-moving entrepreneurial new-space industry. Space Access conferences are set up to maximize opportunities for trading information and making deals. No rubber-chicken banquets, just an intensive single-track presentations schedule in a setting with plenty of comfortable places in the hotel and nearby to go off during the breaks, grab a drink or a bite, and talk.

For more, see http://www.space-access.org/


More on the Health-Care Bill

Walter Russel Mead added some balanced thoughts to the discussion of our new health-care system today.

wrm/2010/03/23/the-shadows-grow/  He opens:

"The blue social model posted a big win today as President Obama signed the Senate’s health care bill into law . I think it’s a bad bill that locks the United States more tightly into a medical system that is unsustainable in the medium term, and it is grossly unfair to the young. But extending health insurance to tens of millions of Americans is not the worst thing in the world, and while doing the right thing in the wrong way isn’t always helpful (look at George W. Bush’s efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East, for example), the bill could have been a lot worse than it is.

However, extending the old blue social model further into health care is not going to help matters. On the contrary, it advances the very painful day of reckoning this country faces when the bill for the unsustainable promises we’ve made comes due. Even as the House-passed health bill was making its way to the Senate, the financial system was flashing warning signs."

He follows on that last thought with a sobering perspective that supersedes party or movement the way that gravity supersedes style:

"This is not, I fear, the beginning of a new era of expansive government programs and extended benefits. It’s the start of something darker as our dysfunctional political system grapples with unsustainable deficits."


I don't know if the bill could have been worse, because I don't know what's in it. Now that they have passed it, perhaps we will learn.


"We were taking an image of Himalia to test the instrument. It was completely unexpected that something else was there."


-- Roland Dobbins


“We don’t trample the livelihood of those we’re trying to win over.”

It only took us nine years to figure this out, apparently:


-- Roland Dobbins

Oh what a tangled web we weave...


Feynman on Climate Science


One of the blogs I follow has a link to this piece <http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/cargo-cult-climate-science> comparing and contrasting climate science with what Richard Feynman had to say about "Cargo-Cult Science".

First, his definition of "Cargo-Cult Science":

(quote) In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he's the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land. (end)

Then, how it relates to "Climate-gate" or "CRUd-gate":

(quote) In this age where climate scientists are embroiled in public scandal, it is instructive to compare the actions of the CRU crew and others so recently in the news with Feynman's ethical standards. For those not following the Climategate <http://www.climategate.com/> scandal, a number of prominent climate change alarmists were caught out withholding and ultimately destroying climate data rather than letting critics review the data themselves. Here is what Feynman said about such shenanigans:

[T]here is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards.


There's more, and it's worth reading.

Also linked from the piece is Feynman's original piece on Cargo Cult Science. Also, strangely enough, worth reading.







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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Exiles to Glory...

Dr. Pournelle-

I'm in the middle of reading Exiles to Glory (after finishing Escape From Hell - Excellent follow up to Inferno, by the way), and I came across a passage where you explain how American society of the late 20th Century collapsed into a super-Nanny State - the "right" to free higher education, printing more money to "pay" for expanded welfare programs, halting the space program to pay for more entitlements, etc. With the exception of the lack of a commercial space mining program, you were close to predicting the path we are surely now on - everything is a "right" rather than a privilege.

My question to you: Can you send me your crystal ball? It's obviously a good one. I just bought season tickets to the New York Jets, and I want to see if it was a wise investment. :)

My wife and I enjoy your work greatly, so please do keep it up.

Andy Orlando


As I understand it, the new Health Care Act makes it federal law that restaurants have to include calorie counts on their menus. More of the nanny state. Lipid leggin' comin' up... Tanning salons are also taxed. Ah well.


Concerning Kaiser and Dark Ages

Dr. Pournelle:

I began my Kaiser experience when I was 12 when Kaiser coverage was offered to my UAW-member father, some 46 years ago. I was covered under except for the three years I spent in the army. After that I had Kaiser coverage under either my or my wife's employers.

As you know, Kaiser prides itself on preventive medicine: regular check-ups and almost annoyingly-often follow-ups. I had about 40 years of subscription to Kaiser when I changed jobs five years ago. I liked it and wished to continue as an independent subscriber. I was refused. Besides being refused for preexisting conditions, another reason for their refusal was they wrote that we had too many visits. Except for illnesses we couldn't treat through over-the-counter meds, we only used their facilities at their doctor's prompting. Then again, the Ohio Kaiser foundation was in financial straights because of the aging NE Ohio population of retired auto workers.

As for the a Dark Age caused by solar flairs, some business as of 30 years ago, took the loss of electronic records into account. Many forsook the use of electronic media for physical media such as microfilm and microfiche, thinking that in a collapse where electricity wasn't available, records could be recovered use just a magnifying glass.

-- Pete Nofel

I only have experience with Southern California. It was difficult to enroll, but once I was in, it has been a pleasant experience. I have no idea what the new Act will do to change it, but I am a bit fearful.


History's Most Destructive Volcanos...


"Deccan Traps – Deccan Plateau, India – about 60 million years ago

"The Deccan Traps are a set of lava beds in the Deccan Plateau region of what is now India that cover an area of about 580,000 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers), or more than twice the area of Texas. The lava beds were laid down in a series of colossal volcanic eruptions that occurred between 63 million and 67 million years ago.

"The timing of the eruptions roughly coincides with the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the so-called K-T mass extinction (the shorthand given to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction). Evidence for the volcanic extinction of the dinosaurs has mounted in recent years, though many scientists still support the idea that an asteroid impact did the dinosaurs in."

Charles Brumbelow

I continue to believe it was Lucifer's Hammer, of course....


'According to multiple intelligence sources, no single, disinterested unit exists to vet the bona fides of potential recruits and challenge managers about the suitability of their targets.'

Translated: CIA no longer have even the most basic counterintelligence capability.


--- Roland Dobbins


Acting Schools--Art Supplies 

Dr. Pournelle,

Pell grants and other similar federal funds ALREADY pay for acting schools, art supplies, etc. People can get the Federal financial aid for art majors, acting majors, dance majors, etc both in the community and state colleges and universities, as well as private trade-type schools in these and related subjects. Just the same as, say, engineering majors can.


John B. Andrews

Your tax dollars at work.


Equal Protection of Unequal People

"You shall not commit a perversion of justice; You shall not favour the poor nor shall you honour the great but with righteousness shall you judge your fellow." Leviticus 19:15

The recognition that individuals may be unequal but that all should stand before the law on an equal level is very old indeed.

But maybe I'm wrong to make such a reference when discussing the Constitution.



You said...

"I.E. we already live in an educational Dark Age, and it's getting worse, as we forget that we once could do things in schools that we now believe are impossible."

Reminds me of one of Mr. Heinlein's pithy observations:

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck."

Charles Brumbelow

Bad luck. We drove all the smart people out, and now we are broke. Bad Luck.


re: Dark Ages

Dr Pournelle

You mentioned Dark Ages and how the monasteries kept records. And you asked about who would be able to provide the equivalent functionality.

I think that there are many hobbyist that are even now collecting ebooks, movies, TV series, and music. With modern electronics, it's become easier, Computers, scanners, recording equipment, etc., all make the compiling of electronic recordings even easier than it was two years ago. I have no doubt, that as soon as a method of storage that would be able to stand up to a solar flare becomes available, that many of those self same hobbyists will be getting those.

Actually the biggest roadblocks to my collection expanding, is my respect for author's rights, and indexing of what I have. I suspect there are plenty of people that have their own substantive collections, but because of copyright aren't sharing their collection out.

As for indexing, I have contacted the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress, on possible solutions, and the only solution they really talked about was making webpages. I told them that my science fiction section alone was well over 35,000 ebooks (even a short story can be a independent ebook) and to implement their solution would take many years. (I'm only one person. <g>) My reference section is much, much bigger. (6000+ volumes of medical tomes, alone)

Though I have to admit, I now have that solution, with the combination of iBookstore portion of iTunes, and Spotlight Server portion of Snow Leopard Server, it will still be much later in the year before I fully implement that solution. (transferring the data is gonna be time consuming, my Library Computer has 20TB of storage -3X dups - might just pull and transfer some of the drives) But still, brute computing power isn't as elegant as a better form of classification. e-version of Thomas Dewey, anyone?

As for solar flares, as a former 33S (electronic warfare systems repairman) I can tell you the Military, NSA, CIA, etc have well-grounded TEMPEST protected buildings. SOMEONE will have a copy of their collection in something like that. (or am I expecting too much?)

--Ken Uecker







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Friday,  May 26, 2010

Great Quote in the Globe and Mail today!

This is the best quote I have heard in a long time on how to re-energize the Republican party, and get people like me active in it again. It will totally tick off "the creeps" though, because they are not interested in the party, the U.S., or anything other than regaining power.

I do think that there is a great "silent majority" out there that would buy into this kind of thing, but who will not buy into the Republican party as it exists today.


"A winning Republican coalition will remain anti-abortion, but accept that society is mostly pro-choice. It will oppose gay marriage, but affirm equal benefits for homosexuals. It will propose market-based reforms to fight global warming. It will recognize that the middle class has not benefited from years of unbridled deregulation and tax cuts."


Well, perhaps I wouldn't quite say that. I would differ on just how increased regulation and tax increases would benefit anyone but government employees, and while I am all for increases in science to determine whether we have to fight global warming. I would be open to technological measures to reduce CO2 increases, but I don' concede that CO2 causes global warming; the evidence is at best ambiguous, and spending lots of money to remedy problems that may not exist is not as good a strategy as spending less to determine whether we have such a problem.

What I want to see is a party of transparency and subsidiarity. Fractioning some of the great power that has been accumulated in Washington is a matter of primary importance.


Re: Dark Ages

Ken Uecker wrote to you: “… Computers, scanners, recording equipment, etc., all make the compiling of electronic recordings even easier than it was two years ago. I have no doubt, that as soon as a method of storage that would be able to stand up to a solar flare becomes available, that many of those self same hobbyists will be getting those.”

I guess that’s true, but surviving a flare is one thing; losing the grid for good, that’s another.

Is it a coincidence that I recently showed my stepson how to play a vinyl record with an X-acto knife? I hope not to be around when our “On The Beach” moment comes, but I don’t expect my C:/Movies to survive. If I had the funds and storage space, I’d be a serious paper and vinyl collector. Movies? They used to be naturally 3-D. They were called ‘plays.’ {grin}

Best regards,

Richard Brown


Keeping and storing vast amounts of data electronically, or only electronically readable, is problematical for at least three reasons:

1) Compared to ink on parchment or papyrus, or cuneiform on baked clay, electronic records are exceedingly perishable.

2) In any lengthy collapse of technological civilization, the ability to transfer information from the disc or other storage media to the human brain will vanish.

3) In the interval between the creation of the electronic library and the collapse, data storage technology is likely to change enough to render the data irretrievable. We are already generations into this process.

 As for the issue of protecting electronics against solar electromagnetic events, the problem and solutions are similar to that of coping with EMP effects. There is actually a body of non-classified literature addressing this topic, built up over the years within the amateur radio community (e.g., International Amateur Radio Union's publication "QST"

November 2009 issue, page 38, 'Electromagnetic Pulse an Its Implications for EmComm'). Basically, have a set of equipment in shielded storage and don't bring it out until the all-clear. Or, have a complete set of equipment in a shielded location with only data and power connections to the outside world, and have choke filters and really, really good surge protectors on those lines. And cross your fingers.

 Greg Hemsath

 One of these days I need to write an article on modern survivalism.




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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Here’s a prayer sent to me from a deeply spiritual friend. Even I thought it was very touching.

  “Heavenly Father, within the past year, you have taken away my favorite dancer, Michael Jackson, my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite comedian, Soupy Sales, my favorite pitchman, Billy Mays and my favorite sidekick, Ed McMahon. Just so you know, my favorite politicians are Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I like Barney Frank too.

Thank you and Amen!”

One wants to be careful with jokes like this. I don't suppose it is illegal to make such a prayer. Not yet...


Parade's end


"Last week the British Embassy announced that British, French and American troops would march with Russian soldiers on Red Square to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The Brits said in a statement that the parade may mark the first time British troops have marched in Red Square; I believe the same observation applies to the American troops that will join the parade."

Thus Putin can tell anyone who opposes his rule in Russia that American and Britain won't help you, they came here to march with us the same year we returned the Stalin posters to the walls. Smart Diplomacy.



Long Term Electronic Storage

When I worked at a large commercial bank in San Antonio FDIC and the auditors required that we keep backup tapes after year end processing of all the accounts and balances. These were written to 9 track ½ wide tape at 1600 BPI and later and 6250 BPI. The tapes were kept in a relatively secure vault in the basement of the building. These tapes had to have a 100 year retention. I thought that absurd. This was only 25 years ago. So now there are hundreds of year end tapes sitting in storage.

But does anyone have a 9 track tape drive that can read GCR (6250 bpi) EBCDIC formatted tapes in Unisys LOADMP or System/Copy format with data files created by Florida Software? I didn’t think so. Does anyone even know the format of the data, fields on the tapes? The tapes are essentially worthless. Some of the older ones are probably so brittle by now they would shatter on first use. The archive Microfiche is the only viable source of account information.

Raymond H Thompson

Tau Beta Pi

The Engineering Honor Society


Saving knowledge: Shipping containers as Faraday cages?

Dr. Pournelle:

Sun Microsystems deployed the data-center-in-a-container idea in 2009, the "internet" since has been "saved" to a container:


These devices need power and cooling to operate at maximum capacity.

If the dark ages were to happen, perhaps this could be used as a future "oracle." I'm not sure, but wouldn't the shipping container might act as a Faraday cage, hardened against natural or man-made EMP? Pretty survivable, and certainly capable of additional hardening (concrete shell, etc.) The power problem could be solved by welding the data center to another container with a long-lived nuclear power source. The device would operate at minimum capacity using natural cooling (heat exchanger to the container skin?) until additional cooling (a nearby water stream?) was provided. Deploy copies worldwide for redundancy and hope at least one survives.

My mind is already reeling out several post-apocalyptic novel plots....too bad I'm not a writer....

Take care, Joe




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Sunday,   March 28, 2010    

No Fetus Left Behind.

Some 'pro-life advocate':


- Roland Dobbins

Whatever one's view of abortion this is a shocking story.


Many Doctors do it for the Money - buffy willow


I was a chemistry instructor at the University level in 1985. Many of my premed students were very obviously motivated by the money. Those of us working on PhD's in chemistry and biology viewed them with disdain. The most prolific cheaters on campus were premed students - many of which got into medical school. Most were much more concerned with making an A than with learning the material. That is not to say that there were not many who wanted to become doctors out of a desire to help people as well. However, a very small percentage of our current doctors takes the time to volunteer at a free clinic. They have about the same percentage of altruism as the general population, no more and no less in my observations. They'll tell you about providing free services to people who can't pay ... and that is true. However, they almost always attempt to bill their poor clients and Doctors provide "free" when they realize they are not going to get paid. "Not taking new patients" is the standard answer when a poor person walks in the door.

With the same amount of education and intelligence you can be a chemical or biomedical researcher and make $150,000 a year, or you can be a M.D. and make $250,000+. Both jobs are equally challenging, and both provide a chance to make a real improvement in the lives of many.

People choose biomedical research because they love the science. Many doctors choose medicine because they love to help people, but there are also many who go to med school for the money and prestige.

I've always felt that you could solve the health care crisis for the poor by simply mandating each medical professional spend xx% of each month volunteering at a free clinic. Anyone could go to the clinic, wait in line, and receive quality care from the same doctors that you and I pay for. Since we require pro-bono work from attorneys this should pass the constitutionality test. Just make it part of the licensing fee. Doctors would raise their rates for the rest of us and we would not require a huge bureaucracy. But alas, the ravening wolves would not be able to create civil service jobs with such a simple system. -- -------------------- Jim Coffey

The "professions" (traditionally law and medicine) were defined as those who worked more for the love of the profession than for the money; that is, they were midway between being upper class (not working at all, or working for government or the military) and working f0r money (being in trade.) In the real world the problem with underpaying doctors is not that you don't get the very best, but that you don't get the best of those who work for the money. The same is true (although the pay is less) for teachers. Money does count.

Isn't what you advocate close to either slavery or involuntary servitude? That is, I'd hate to be the patient in a free clinic served by a doctor who is there for fear of losing his license.


Turkey and Ergenekon

Dr. Pournelle,

Given your periodic (and often timely) comments on the relationship between the Turkish state and its military, I thought you would find this interesting. The moderator of this group is a former British ambassador to Libya. I am unfamiliar with Frank Rettenberg.


---------- Forwarded message ----------


MEC Analytical Group

24 March 2010

Turkey and Ergenekon (2)

The various trials connected with the Ergenekon affair continue to make the headlines in Turkey. On 22 March the government announced a package of proposed constitutional reforms, described as necessary to bring Turkey closer to democratic norms required by the bid for EU membership. Key proposals about the judicial system were immediately attacked by senior judges as unconstitutional.

We are grateful to Frank Rettenberg for the following comment:

The Agence France Presse article in the Beirut Star makes the common error of assuming the Ergenekon investigation is targeted at one single network. This false belief is largely attributable to sloppy Turkish press reporting, but official statements by the Turkish government have helped to muddy the waters.

But there could be no single network, with an overall command structure, involved here. The “Sledgehammer” and “Cage” plans, as well as two similar coup plots recently exposed (“Moonlight” and “Blonde Girl”) appear to have been generated by different groups of active and retired senior officers at different points in time, and it is far from clear that any of them proceeded much beyond the planning phase or that the armed forces were united behind one or the other. “Ergenekon,” however, in its original formulation, was the code name of a pretty nasty group of by-and-large junior and field grade officers (probably more in the gendarmerie than in the army), members of police “special teams,” and elements of the Turkish mafia. This clandestine outfit operated largely in Turkey’s southeast against Kurdish targets, but also reportedly, well in the past, against Armenian nationalists as well. A semi-secret organization with the acronym JITEM (Gendarmerie Counter-Terror Intelligence), appears to have been its major element, responsible for a large number of extra-judicial killings. A key question in the investigation is, of course, at what level in the legitimate military command structure were Ergenekon’s activities sanctioned.

That said, there is a link between “Sledgehammer,” “Cage,” et al and “Ergenekon,” and it is ideological. Every one of these groups assumed it was, or might in future be, legitimate for the Turkish Armed Forces to clandestinely create the chaotic social conditions that could justify a coup d’etat. The exposure of their activities, and the ideology which spawned them, has diminished Turkish military prestige to the extent that most observers believe that a coup will not be possible for many years to come.

MEC Analytical Group

21 March 2010

Turkey and Ergenekon

Opinion in Turkey has been divided for many months over the spectacular Ergenekon affair, in which many senior military and other personalities have been charged with a range of violent actions undertaken or planned against the state. The division has been broadly between those who believe that the present AK party government, with its history of links to Islam, was democratically elected and properly represents modern Turkey, and those who believe that it represents a mortal threat to Turkey's secularist tradition, traditionally defended by the military.

We circulate below two articles from the Beirut Daily Star, the first on developments over the Ergenekon trial itself, and the second on related moves to amend the Turkish constitution.

Admirals, others face trial over Turkey 'plot': report By Agence France Presse (AFP) Saturday, March 20, 2010

ISTANBUL: Thirty-three suspects, among them three admirals, will stand trial in Turkey over alleged plans to carry out attacks against non-Muslim minorities in a bid to discredit the government, the Anatolia news agency reported Friday.

The charges were laid out in the latest indictments to emerge from an investigation into the alleged Ergenekon network, accused of plans to plunge Turkey into chaos and prompt a military coup against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the offshoot of a now-banned Islamist movement.

The 33 suspects, who include several navy officers, risk up to 15 years in jail for “membership of a terrorist organization” in the trial that will start on June 15, Anatolia said.

They are blamed for an alleged plot, codenamed “Cage Action Plan,” detailing a series of attacks against Christian, Jewish and Armenian minorities.

Under the March 2009 plan – first published by the daily Taraf newspaper in November – the suspects planned to carry out bomb attacks in minority-populated neighborhoods in Istanbul and the western city of Izmir, and to kidnap and assassinate prominent members of the communities.

They planned to blame Islamist militants for the attacks, thus increasing pressure on the Islamist-rooted government and paving the way for its overthrow, according to Taraf.

Media reports said the case could be merged two other cases in which 31 suspects, most of them navy officers, stand accused of an alleged plot to kill two admirals and blow up a submarine displayed in an Istanbul museum in a bid to destabilize Turkey.

Dozens of defendants, including several military figures, are already on trial as part of the investigation into the Ergenekon network.

Last month, prosecutors also charged 40 military figures in a separate probe into a 2003 army plot to topple the AKP.

The scale of the operation against the military was unprecedented and increased the tension between the government and the armed forces.

Dozens of current or former members of the military have been arrested in the past few years over similar allegations, and some have been charged.

The charged men were arrested over the so-called “sledgehammer” plot, which reportedly dates back to 2003.

Reports of the alleged plot first surfaced in the liberal Taraf newspaper, which said it had discovered documents detailing plans to bomb two Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea. – AFP

Erdogan to meet rivals on charter reform AK Party say changes part of EU bid Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pinar Aydinli


ANKARA: Turkey’s prime minister said on Friday his party would hold talks with the opposition next week on proposed changes to the Constitution, which secularists see as a direct challenge by the Islamic-leaning government.

The ruling AK Party has said it will seek to win parliamentary approval for the changes – a requirement for Turkey’s European Union membership bid – but has warned opponents it could hold a referendum to push through reforms.

“Parliament has the authority, the will and the strength to pass these reforms. I want to believe the opposition will behave with common sense. This is a very urgent need for Turkey,” Tayyip Erdogan told AK Party officials in a speech.

“Our colleagues will ask for appointments from opposition parties and will share the contents of the reforms next week,” he added.

The AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam, says changes are needed to curb powers of a conservative judiciary opposed to reforms and to bring Turkey closer to EU standards.

Critics accuse the AK Party, which has a huge majority in parliament, of using liberal reform as a cover for the encroachment of religious rule, and have threatened to take any changes to the charter to the Constitutional Court. The AK Party denies it has an Islamist agenda.

Investors are closely monitoring how hard the government wants to push the changes, which could pit it against a secular elite with strongholds in the judiciary and the military.

Any attempt at constitutional reforms could precipitate a snap election at a time the emerging economy is pulling out of a steep recession but Erdogan has ruled out an early vote.

A general election is due by July next year, and AK is widely expected to win a third term, but there remain doubts over whether it will be able to govern alone again.

Changes to Turkey’s constitution, a charter ratified in 1982 following a military coup two years earlier, are a key requirement for Turkey’s EU membership bid.

The government has not unveiled its proposed reforms, but the justice minister has said they would include changing the way judges are appointed and making it harder to ban political parties, along with possible reform of the Constitutional Court.

Turkish media has reported the government plans to include changes to allow leaders of a 1980 coup to be put on trial.

Investors, who favor the AK’s market-friendly policies, fear that the government’s push to reform the judiciary could provoke a fresh attempt to ban the party.

In 2008 the AK narrowly avoided closure by the Constitutional Court after a case was brought against it by the chief prosecutor. It brought months of political paralysis and wiped out billions of dollars from Turkish markets.

The situation in Turkey is both grave and serious, and of far more importance to the US than the attention we are giving it.


Top US Psychiatrist Calls for Ethics Cleanup


A matter of interest but I don't know enough to have a valid comment.




Jerry P:

Going back to the nuclear past, what the original idea was to centralize the storage of nuclear waste. Several sites were studied and due to its remoteness, Yucca Mountain was chosen. Now as we are not storing the waste there, it is being stored at the generating sites. Actually for several sites, that will not be a problem for some time. But the objections to Yucca Mountain or any other location arose when the states realized that that material would be transported through their states, and they panicked; "Not in MY Back Yard" they said. And Nevada has all the casino money pouring in and didn't really care. Of course now they might think again but they know that the gamblers will eventually return, maybe. But the French were less prone to panic of the press and decided to go their own way, as they usually do. Now we must realize that reprocessing has a cost associated with it, but the utilities have been paying for something that they have not been able to use, a waste storage facility. The basic problem with Yucca Mountain is that the concept was file and forget, bury it and never have to think about it again. But how long is forever, and what does geology tell us about the potential of upset? Not much, but you can sell the danger of depleted uranium, and the scare mongers have done that. If you have a brick fireplace there is uranium in the bricks, thank you, and you are getting radiation from that. So the public can't get past the fear of uranium and wants the power and doesn't want to know about anything else, it just scares the stuffing out of them.

So until some brave politician says stop and think, the public will not do so. The present administration is so focused on the sky falling, CO2 is a pollutant so stop breathing right now. They don't have enough focus to look at real solutions that haven't been funded for nearly 20 years, reprocessing gets away from having to store something for a millennium or so. There are no solutions coming from the government and we cannot expect any soon. Maybe we should hire the French to take our spent fuel and reprocess it for us. But the government, which has been collecting fees from the utilities for all these many years, would have to pay for the French to do that and that would be admitting that we can't solve our own problems. Heavens to Betsy.


A matter of considerable importance...


Mike Royko


Check out the Mike Royko Section



Something worth reading...


Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men is an exciting narrative history offering fresh insights into many aspects of the Civil War. "This is a lucid, edifying account of the Civil War era. Mr. Hummel has an impressive command of the relevant contemporary literature. His interpretations are thoughtful, often provocative, always well worth considering, Civil War buffs will want this book on their shelves". -- Kenneth M. Stampp University of California, Berkeley

"Hummel presents some uncomfortable truths for both sides of the Civil War. For the South, Hummel builds a case that the war was indeed about slavery. For the North, he shows that a war to preserve the union was morally bankrupt and that freeing the slaves was the only justifiable reason for fighting. Yet Hummel demonstrates that even a war for such a noble cause was probably unnecessary, since slavery was politically doomed in an independent South. Hummel also illustrates some of the cost of the war, such as Lincoln g suppression of political opposition, the closing of dissenting newspapers, and the creation of big government under Republicans Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant". -- Library Journal

"In this insightful treatment of the Civil War (addressing the causes, the war itself and Reconstruction), Hummel's text argues against the thesis that armed confrontation was inevitable. With its insight)d analysis (not to mention the extensive bibliographical essays that elaborate each chapter), Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men will supply both the academic and Civil War buff with an added perspective on the causes and consequences of the Civil War". -- Publishers Weekly

I enjoyed it and learned from it, at any rate.

Charles Brumbelow

Slavery was certainly a doomed institution, and in fact the North's insistence on protective tariff in textile weaving machinery kept the South from industrialization and thus agricultural. Slavery was expensive: Garrison could and did dismiss his workers at age 40 as insufficiently productive. In the South, finding something for aging slaves to do was expensive: even in sharecropping times most white had far more gardeners and house workers than they had any use for and some had more than they could endure. Slavery in a Christian nation gets increasingly expensive (see Philomen's Problem). It would not have lasted in the South into the 1890's and possibly not that long.

As to what would have happened had the United States become two nations in 1860, many have speculated, but none can know. I grew up in Tennessee, a Confederate state but on the border; we learned "Good Old Rebel" as a song in 5th Grade, and learned that one reason the South, outnumbered, held on for so long was that "We had a cause." I did not grow up thinking Grant and Sherman were heroes... Had the Confederacy avoided war, what the effect on the future would be is worth a lot of discussion, but it's not obvious. Without the US to intervene, WWI would have ended in a peace of exhaustion before 1918; how that might have effected the development of Germany and the USSR is not instantly clear.


Lawfare: Terrorist Who Help Plan 9/11 Attacks Ordered Released


"A suspected al Qaeda organizer once called "the highest value detainee" at Guantánamo Bay was ordered released by a federal judge in an order issued Monday.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was accused in the 9/11 Commission report of helping recruit Mohammed Atta and other members of the al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, that took part in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

Now, was this because of lack of evidence? Not really. It was because the goal was to gain intelligence on future attacks, not to build a criminal case. The two goals are pretty much in direct contradiction in real life. So, do we want to actually do that provide for the common defense thing, or not? Since I'll be doing that exact task in a few months, I'd kind of like to know.

Weary of Caesar's leniency toward soldiers of the Senatorial army, his Legionnaires slaughtered their prisoners after one battle...


What ever happened to.....


The first Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From the yesterday's Washington Examiner http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Tea-Party-protesters-refused-entry-into-congressional-buildings-88730582.html

"...Capitol Police recently stopped allowing any of the peaceful protesters to enter into congressional buildings....to air their constituent concerns."

Hmmmmm, now what could possibly be wrong with this picture????

Warm regards,

Larry Cunningham

When Newt was Speaker, the Capitol was the people's house and you could go into it most any time. There was a metal detector, but otherwise not much security. But that was then. I think we have lost by doing as we did.


Subject: The lessons of Canada (and other places)


Paul Krugman also noticed that Canada's financial system never came close to collapsing during the recent economic crisis. His interpretation is, of course, a lot different that what was suggested by the Wall Street Journal. Krugman attributes Canada's stability to much heavier regulation of the banking system. Banks were not allowed to become dangerously overleveraged, or to engage in reckless securitization of mortgages:

---- http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/

"In times of crisis, good news is no news. Iceland’s meltdown made headlines; the remarkable stability of Canada’s banks, not so much."

First, some background. Over the past decade the United States and Canada faced the same global environment. Both were confronted with the same flood of cheap goods and cheap money from Asia. Economists in both countries cheerfully declared that the era of severe recessions was over.

But when things fell apart, the consequences were very different here and there. In the United States, mortgage defaults soared, some major financial institutions collapsed, and others survived only thanks to huge government bailouts. In Canada, none of that happened. What did the Canadians do differently?"

"More specifically, Canada has been much stricter about limiting banks’ leverage, the extent to which they can rely on borrowed funds. It has also limited the process of securitization, in which banks package and resell claims on their loans outstanding — a process that was supposed to help banks reduce their risk by spreading it, but has turned out in practice to be a way for banks to make ever-bigger wagers with other people’s money.

There’s no question that in recent years these restrictions meant fewer opportunities for bankers to come up with clever ideas than would have been available if Canada had emulated America’s deregulatory zeal. But that, it turns out, was all to the good." ----

Curiously,the New York Times just ran a piece suggesting that a housing bubble might be brewing in Canada:

---- http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/business/global/20real.html

"Some See a Real Estate Bubble Forming in Canada" ----

It should also be noted that during the early years of the past decade, the US wasn't the only place where housing bubbles occurred. In 2005, The Economist did a piece on the "global housing boom" (you can't get the full story at the Economist; it is subscriber only content):

---- http://www.markzwick.com/

"The worldwide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history. Prepare for the economic pain when it pops

NEVER before have real house prices risen so fast, for so long, in so many countries. Property markets have been frothing from America, Britain and Australia to France, Spain and China. Rising property prices helped to prop up the world economy after the stockmarket bubble burst in 2000. What if the housing boom now turns to bust?

According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP) or America's stockmarket bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history." ----

Based on that, and other reading I've done, it seems that housing bubbles occurred around the same time in the following places: US, Britain, Spain, Ireland, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, and China (yet to burst).

Obviously, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only operated in one of those countries.

So maybe there was a lot more behind our housing boom than just an out-of-control US Government housing agency.

CP, Connecticut

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac injected money into the market. Their goal was to allow more people to buy houses -- but putting in more money inevitably raised the prices. Then that was coupled with encouraging people to buy that which they could not afford, it not only raised prices but made those prices fragile. The result was predictable and predicted. I predicted it. Fat lot of good that did.





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