THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
May 10 - 16, 1999
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. For more on what this place is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE.
|Previous Weeks of The View:||For an index
of previous pages of view, see VIEWDEX.
See also the New Order page, which tries to make order of chaos. These will be useful.
For the rest, see What is this place? for some details on where you have got to.
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The LINUX pages are organized as the log, my queries, and your responses and advice parts one, two, three, and four. There's four pages because I try to keep download times well under a minute. There are new updates to four.
Highlights this week:
May 10, 1999
The snake oil may be helping. In fact I am sure it is. Clears your head something wonderful. Problem is I only had 3 days' worth and don't know where to get more. Someone else suggested spicy foods (clear out your sinuses...) and by accident today the soup I ordered at lunch with Niven today turned out to be heavily curried. I don't think that does a lot of good. The only real symptom I have now is a sore throat in the mornings, but that shouldn't be normal, and I don't want to get used to it. We are in the allergy season with lots of mustard stalks in the hills, and that may have some effect.
Niven and I are working on The Burning City to finalize it. There's some chance it will be a real best seller. We sure hope so. Simon and Schuster next spring; save up for it.
NATO is saying that we used an old map and that is what caused the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The only problem is that 3 year old maps show that as a VACANT LOT. Now if the pilot thought he was bombing a vacant lot (presumably because we thought a bunker was hidden under it, not a terribly likely thing for downtown Belgrade, but concede it is possible) then any kind of observation, visual or radar can distinguish between a VACANT LOT and a TWO STORY BUILDING. Any damn fool can tell the difference. So the explanation makes less sense than damn foolishness. The cover story is more suspicious than the event. Are they TRYING to make the Chinese angry by telling what have to be obvious lies as a cover story? A vacant lot doesn't look like a building to radar, and when you illuminate a target with a laser, presumably you have either radar or visual observation or both. And for that matter, surely we have ONE humint resource in Belgrade?
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence, but there are depths of incompetence that are close to malice; one should not have incompetent people playing with bombs, either atomic or convention. We owe it to the world to have resonably competent people dropping bombs. Or not drop them at all. Letting morons who can't tell the difference between a vacant lot and the Chinese Embassy play with billion dollar B2 bombers (either as pilots or as mission planners) is so incompetent as to be indistinguishable from malice. Or am I being too harsh?
For all the subscribers, and particularly the new ones: I've been under pressure (literally: sinus pressure) and I haven't done much in the last month, not even acknowledge the new subscribers. I have the list, safe, and I promise, I'll do something for all of you. I will have electronic pictures of our Day In EPCOT and the Orlando, Florida OASIS convention at which I am Guest of Honor this week, and I will try hard to do a proper report with pictures for you. You aren't forgotten: this place couldn't exist with the subscribers. Thank you.
Regarding culpability in war: it is strenuously asserted by some that the actual instruments of death, the pilot and bombardier, cannot be liable nor culpable nor incompetent: the President approved the targets, therefore those targets are legitimate.
"I was only following orders." We hanged people at Nuremberg despite that defense. Now sure: in the heat of battle, in a genuine war with danger to both sides, when the safety of your nation is at stake, one is prepared to excuse a very great deal on the part of those pulling triggers, less but still a good bit on the part of those commanding them, and on up the chain. But that' not the case here.
Here we have a situation in which only a fool believes there is not a very great deal of chance for error. "The target, Major, is in downtown Belgrade, about 100 yards from Embassy Row, no more than that from a hospital, and near some apartment complexes. It is a government ministry, in which most of the workers are civilians."
Now I suppose the military expects the pilot and bombardier to say "Sir!" and rush out to fly the mission; but the question is, should they? It is not a war. There is no declaration of war and we have insisted we are not at war, and the only danger to Americans not over the target area is from random attacks by Serbian sympathizers; and so far there haven't been many of those. It is a one sided affair so far as the dying is concerned. (The Albanians have a different view, but it is not the Albanians who are paying for the B2.)
The question is, then, is it legitimate, when there is no war, to blindly accept target lists and kill whomsoever the general say should die? If there were an actual International Court of Justice, would "I obeyed my orders and hit the target I was told to hit" be a valid defense? And should it be? In English law, the King can't be held liable for the actions of the government (although Charles I was so held, of course): but the king's ministers can, and they cannot plead royal command as justification for unconstitutional and unlawful acts. And they can be and have been fined, paupered, jailed, and beheaded for blindly following the orders of a crowned and undoubtedly legitimate king.
I don't know. I have considerable sympathy for the pilot and bombardier in this case. Not a lot for those who gave the orders. But apparently the view is that "I was only following orders" and "Yes, I intended to blow up buildings and kill people without a declaration of war, but not THOSE buildings and people" are acceptable defenses. Perhaps they have to be. And perhaps we see more clearly why the Framer put the question of war in the hands of the Congress.
I have greatly mixed emotions here. But I sense an important constitutional question.
Incidentally, the Chinese are demanding punishment of those responsible. In the Boxer Rebellion we demanded and got the punishment of many of those Chinese patriots involved in the attempt to throw off European interference with Chinese sovreignty and ended up sacking embassies and killing embassy people. The Chinese appear to have learned the lesson of the 55 days at Peking...
NT must be reset weekly. Even using MemTurbo, NT gets slower and slower, until eventually it is as if there were glue in the machine. Closing all windows doesn't do a bit of good. It stays slow.
The remedy is to shut down and start up again. It gives the system new life. If there is any discoverable reason for this, I haven't discovered it. I look at resources and memory, defrag memory, defrag pagefile, and invoke evil and potent magic, but it does no good: the machine is slow and getting slower, and the remedy is to shut down. The good news is that the remedy works, almost infallibly. Ah. Well. Things could be a lot worse.
THERE IS information on NT registry in Mail; an as yet unpublished part of that letter also speaks to the above problem.
May 11, 1999
Of course I don't really want to prosecute the pilot and bombardier of that B2 that hit the Chinese Embassy. What I want to do is open up the question of what the pilot should have done. Forget that it was the wrong target; suppose the building were exactly what the new Map agency (and we see here some CIA turf war going on, I think) thought it was. It is an agency of newbies, mostly, carved out of the Agency's turf and handed over to a brand new group of uncertain abilities with little experience, but the pilot can't assume incompetence (Or malice). Assume the target was what we thought, a civilian ministry building in Belgrade.
The chances of collateral damage in attacking a downtown building in a major city are enormous; you have to assume there will be some. There is no declared war.
It would not be ethical or moral for a private citizen to take a truck bomb to Belgrade and park it outside that building and detonate it, even though that would be a more certain way to determine that it was the right target. That would be called terrorism.
Now put the truck driver in uniform and order him to do it. Is it all right now? No war is declared, and while the Department of Defense says this is "combat" it really isn't: the pilot is far more likely to be injured in a bad landing than by enemy action. This isn't combat it's bombardment, and not appreciably different from the days when gunboats stood off the coast of some minor power and lobbed shells in the general direction of the customs house to teach the wogs a lesson about paying their bills. All the Powers did it, and the United States used regularly to denounce them for doing it and forbid them from doing it in this hemisphere.
So: you are put in uniform and told to take a truck bomb to downtown Belgrade (or Toronto, if we decide that the Canadians are mistreating the Quebecois): is this an order blindly to be obeyed, and is it right that you plead "I was only following orders" if you are apprehended after the act and turned over to, say, the International Court of Justice?
That is really the question I am raising. The Constitution of the United States incorporates treaties into the supreme law of the land. The US, whether wisely or not, joined the United Nations, with appropriate treaties duly ratified by the Senate. One of the provisions of the UN Charter is that you do not go bombard other states, and threats to the peace are to go to the Security Council: that was the authority that sent my generation to Korea, for example. Whether or not the Korean War was a Civil War, defense of South Korea was duly authorized by the UN (not merely SEATO).
Under the Constitution, are you authorized to drop bombs on civilian cities absent either a Declaration of War or some UN Security Council Order (which we might argue has become co-equal with the Congress in being able to commit US troops to combat? Is that a good idea?) -- but are you, personally, now ethically, morally, or legally allowed to take to Belgrade a truck full of nitrocellulose or ANFO or whatever your bang-bang of choice will be, leave it outside a government ministry building, and blow it off in the middle of the night: simply because you are now a soldier in the US Army and you are only following orders?
That's the debate I'd like to open. It's a serious one. Just what IS the enforcement mechanism of the Constitution? In England Parliament regularly executed Royal Ministers for following the orders of the King. That was known to the Framers, who put the war power of the US, not in the executive, but in the Congress.
Does the Constitution apply to the armed forces of the United States? We aren't speaking here of a crisis situation, US citizens in trouble in a foreign port and the Marines sent in to rescue them. We're talking about the slow and deliberate destruction of a government building in a sovereign nation with whom we are not at war, but which the President has decided is mistreating its citizens.
Uh -- would Mexico be justified in bombing Minnesota over the Bureau of Indian Affairs treatment of the San Carlos Apaches? Suicidal, of course, but would it be MORAL?
I suppose we are learning one thing out of the Balkans fiasco: we no longer know how to do things well. Even getting what amounts to a free ride, we weren't able to end the air defenses in Yugoslavia because we have lost most of the capability. The electronics warfare part of USAF was disbanded by Clinton's people, presumably to save money. This means we go hours to days to evaluate and destroy an air defense radar, not moments as in the Gulf War. We now have to hit them with missiles that look about 30 degrees ahead, not 360 degrees, because we shot up all the better ones, and they were not replaced.
If an Administration wanted to disarm the United States without appearing to do so, it would be hard to imagine a procedure that would do it better than what has happened since the Gulf War. In Clinton's 6 years we have become the only superpower -- and hollowed out the imperial forces, many of which have about the capabilities of Imperial Storm Troopers.
Which is frustrating for all concerned, and particularly for the professional officer corps -- many of whom are leaving in droves. One does not suppose the White House wants to disarm the US ("Those are OUR bombers now ") but it is being accomplished anyway.
Perhaps all this will wake the Congress to its Constitutional task: to raise and support Armies. In a word, to "provide for the common defense."
William Saffire today says:
He points out that all Los Alamos people have signed waivers. So why did Attorney General Reno personally prevent the counter-espionage people from searching Lee's computer in the name of some kind of Constitutional right? What is going on here? Is it time to be really paranoid yet?
I am off shortly to be Guest of Honor at OASIS, a science fiction convention in Orlando, Florida. This will likely be the last day of activity here until next Monday. I do have Outlook on my portable, and if I have any time at all I'll try to deal with the most important mail, but no promises.
I'm also taking my wife to EPCOT which she has never seen. In the 60's Mr. Disney asked some of us at Pepperdine Research to look into a way to build an experimental research community which would do real advanced planning research for Tomorrow, and pay its expenses and salaries out of income from tourists and visitors; it should be tied to DisneyWorld but not be a part of it, and would be a separate non-profit corporation. One question, for instance: could research and experiments in nuclear fusion power be made entertaining enough that people would pay to see what was going on, and thus support it? If not fusion energy, what might be? Can scientific research be made entertaining to tourists? Can you have "hamster tubes" with people-movers going through a lab, or will this drive the lab people insane? What about legal liabilities? And so forth.
We drew up some plans, but Mr. Disney didn't get to implement them, and after he died EPCOT became, so far as I can see, just another theme park, with no actual "community" (the original notion was to house the science people there -- to create a kind of Institute For Advanced Studies, but to be supported from income derived from tourism). It is thus a bit sad for me, although no doubt the stockholders are happier.
Anyway, that is where we will be for a few days. I'll be around here a few more hours.
When I get back I intend to install Windows 2000 = NT 5 which I am told does NOT get slower and slower as time goes on. We will see....
Airplane to Orlando, Florida, all day.
May 13 1999
Spent today at EPCOT. Next week I will do a special report for subscribers.
May 14, 1999
This may or may not work. I'm trying to update from a Compaq Armada in a hotel room using FTP to get the file and send it and WORD to edit. Word rather than Front Page because I did not have Front Page installed, and I grabbed a beta disk on the way out the door. That won't install: expired. So I don't have a copy of Front Page to install, and for security reasons there's no way I can connect to my home system which is shut down (hack into THAT!) So it's Word and we'll see. This may mess up the currentview page something awful.
It seems to have worked. Conditions for doing much are awkward but I will manage. Not that I have a lot of time, but there is some mail. Catching up on a bit of reading, between panels and such like. Of course E3 is going on in Los Angeles, but I had agreed to come here before I knew that. Eric and Alex like E3 more than I do anyway, so I'll get a full rundown on what's happening there. Bits is bits
May 15, 1999
Still in Orlando. Book signing with Vincent di Fate who did the cover for STARSWARM, which was neat. Fencing demonstration with Ben Bova. Nice talk with Joe Green who used to live in Seattle when I did. A long time ago A good day.
May 16, 1999
Home. Cleaning up the mess WORD 97 made of my Front Page files. It's recoverable but next time I will put Front Page on the portable. More in a bit. Home safe, got some good pictures, and given any time at all I will be able to put together some goodies for subscribers.
We may have to change servers so there is the possibility of some disruption for a day or two.