THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 325 August 30 - September 5, 2004
Highlights this week:
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. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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August 30, 2004
In DC. I should catch up tomorrow or Wednesday. Stay with me, and keep pre-ordering Burning Tower. And I'll try to have some good mail.
Back after a strenuous day. The execrable Homestead is working except that it can't connect to its "RADIUS SERVER" and of course the desk people have no idea of what to do. They can take care of that tomorrow, as if that will be any use. Dialup still works, but never rely on Homestead to provide high speed connectivity. Ah well.
Limited or No connectivity,
I do have electrons. The News is on, mostly Republican stuff. the handwriting recognition works. I Would not want to write an essay this Way but it would be possible. As I use the Tablet system more It becomes easier.
Mission accomplished or mission impossible? that I Suppose s the real issue of the election. Is There an axis of evil and are the armies of darkness gathering? Must we go after them first? From the TSA and lines at this airport we ad Losing this war: I see The victories of the enemy in tee time wasted and the humiliation of our citizens.
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Homestead still can't connect to its RADIUS server, so this will be on when I find a connection. One bit of advice: do not rely on high speed wireless connections at hotels and motels because no one knows how to fix them if something stops working. "The server needs to be reset" said the desk clerk. But he didn't know how to do that.
Can not connect remote RADIUS server, Please check internet administrator. : ()
Ah Well. There may be wireless at the airport.
No wireless working at the airport. We are safely home. On JetBlue they have TV screens for each seat. There was a black and white movie about nurses and doctors kidnapped in Viet Nam about 1950 to 1960; not sure precisely when. They are kidnapped by a would-be warlord. Eventually the nurses escape but the doctors have been killed. They are still in the jungle when the airplane landed. I have no idea of the title of the movie, and while one of the doctors had a familiar voice I cannot recall his name. I'd like to know the title of the movie if anyone remembers.
We are home, the house is fine, the dog was glad to see us, and all is well.
Googling around I find the movie was James Clavell's: written and directed and produced by. FIVE GATES TO HELL ; alas it doesn't seem to exist as a video. I have no idea how it came out. Apparently I saw the last showing for a while on the Fox Channel.
September 1, 2004
Home. Piles of stuff to clean up and get done. Bills to pay. And it's coming on to column time.
September 2, 2004
The World SF Convention is in Boston and many are headed that way. I have the column to do, and I hate travel since the TSA has taken it as its mission to make us all humble and thankful to the Good Government.
I am building an AMD 64-bit system. I need to go to Fry's for some incidental parts. Still not decided on the video board to put in it.
On the rat front: we never had rats while Samantha the cat was alive. Alas, Roberta has developed a severe allergy to cats -- she had it while we had the cat, and I had to teach Samantha to enjoy baths (she learned to if done right and the temperatures were kept right and she was fussed over enough afterwards) and that alleviated the problem but did not eliminate it.
I am getting desperate enough to contemplate a cat and frequent washings, but I am not sure Sable would tolerate a kitten just now, or that a grown cat would put up with the dog. Samantha and Sasha got along fine: he thought the cat was his big sister and would chase other cats away at her request and I am not making that up. But teaching Sable to tolerate a kitten might be a bit much, and I would definitely have to bathe the cat at least weekly and probably more often.
We are talking to contractors about lining the dishwasher cupboard with hardware cloth. And other drastic measures.
Everyone seems to be assuming that it is a trivial matter to get in where the dishwasher is. It is not. Removing the old one will give us a chance to do some serious work sealing the under-counter compartment where the dishwasher resides. This is an old house, in Southern California, with ivy fields and palm trees very near; like all Southern California communities we learn to live with rats, most of whom do not come into houses. They live outside and we live inside. But sometimes they come in, and establish themselves, and getting rid of them is difficult since one female can repopulate the area rather quickly. And once in if you seal the place they can't get out...
Do we now expect Russian troops in Iraq? And possible in Syria as well?
I think the terrorists may have started something they will regret this time.
SPENGLER When Grozny comes to Fallujah
Do not be surprised to see three or four divisions of the Russian army in the Sunni triangle before year-end, with an announcement just prior to the US presidential election in November. Long rumored (or under negotiation), a Russian deployment of 40,000 soldiers was predicted on July 16 by the US intelligence site www.stratfor.com, and denied by the Russian Foreign Ministry on July 20. Nonetheless, the logic is compelling. Russian support for US occupation forces would make scorched earth of Senator John Kerry's attack on the Bush administration's foreign policy, namely its failure to form effective alliances. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the chance to make scorched earth of Fallujah is even more tempting.
In exchange for a troop presence in Iraq, Russia would obtain a free hand in dealings with the countries of the former Soviet Union. It would gain leverage against a weakening Turkey in the Caucasus and Central Asia. And it would vastly enhance its leverage in negotiations over the placement of oil pipelines. Most important, perhaps, it would assert its old status as a global military power against the feckless Europeans. In short, the arrangement would benefit everyone, except of course the population of Fallujah.
September 3, 2004
A reading guru told me that "dyslexia" is just
the term used for "reading troubles" and doesn't indicate one particular
cause -- it's more like "fever"
All true. Like lumbago means ache in the lumbar regions and says nothing about causes, dyslexia describes the symptom "has problems reading" and says nothing about why.
There is a cross wiring difficulty in something like 3% of kids which causes them to confuse p and q and b and d. You might call this "true neurological dyslexia." The right kind of neurological cross training takes care of most of that. Roberta taught in schools for the gifted as well as regular schools, but eventually became the reading teacher of last resort for the Los Angeles County Juvenile Justice System. Because my wife got illiterate kids, many were diagnosed as "dyslexic" which really meant "It isn't MY fault I couldn't teach this poor protoplasm to read! Pass the problem to someone else or I call the CTA shop steward oops professional representative." So the kids were moved elsewhere, unable to read; some were lucky enough to become criminals sent to Kirby Center where they fell into Roberta's capable hands.
Of the ones Roberta got, 6,000, she taught all but one to read. It took about 6 months on average although I gather some caught on faster. These ranged in age from about 10 to 15 or 16. They mostly insisted they didn't want to learn (translation: "I can't do it so I will no longer try") and all did learn: the learning itself is rewarding once the kid realizes it is possible. Some of them went on to junior college. These were not particularly bright kids, but they were not stupid, either. We see some of them to this day. One is an usher at the Music Center; reads tickets and finds seats for people....
True neurological dyslexia is extremely rare, and even that can be overcome with TRAINING AND SKILLS such as tracing the letters with your fingers, "writing in the air" and other such multi-sensory training methods. I leave the methodology to people who know: which turns out to be a rare skill because most professors of education have never tried, and thus don't know about it.
One test for "dyslexia": can the kid look at a word and say the letters (the names of the letters) one at a time in the right order? If so that ain't dyslexia. If not, is it letter recognition problems (drill, drill, drill and learn skill)? Or needs spectacles (a surprising number of Roberta's dyslexic kids had seen a psychologist but not an optometrist).
And there are those who are partly deaf, but that wasn't diagnosed.
In Roberta's reform school when she found they needed glasses or hearing aids the County provided them (once the need was known) and that cured the "dyslexia" in those cases.
Dyslexia is mostly maestragenic: the teacher caused the disorder, and once that diagnosis was pronounced, no one tried to teach the kid, so the prophecy is self-fulfilling.
If you want to help the US, start by insisting that Head Start be changed to teach the kids to READ before the regular NEA bureaucracy gets hold of them and ruins them. If they can read they have a chance. If they get to school and are called dyslexic their only hope is to get put into a reform school where there is a teacher like Roberta Pournelle; and there are not many like that.
At the moment, Head Start is forbidden to teach children to read. It is not, says the NEA, "developmentally appropriate". Newt Gingrich tried to change the Head Start law to insert the words "nothing in this act shall be construed as prohibiting the teaching of reading and reading skills" but he was unable to do so; there was considerable opposition. I leave it to you to figure out why.
Note this isn't "teacher bashing." Most teachers have never learned that nearly all kids can learn to read. They are taught that "dyslexia" is common, and can be diagnosed; and of course it is a self-fulfilling diagnosis. Most professors of education and instructors in teacher colleges don't know any of this either. As Jane Jacobs says, we are entering a Dark Age in which we not only have forgotten much we once knew, but we have forgotten that we ever knew it: this despite printing presses and the Internet.
Reading is a SKILL. It has little to do with "education". The President last night talked about education as the key to success. He's wrong. This is not Lake Woebegone, and all the children are not above average. Those below average are not stupid, but they do not need "education" -- training in learning how to learn -- but SKILLS: actual hands on useful skills, things that can be learned by rote and drills and then that knowledge can be expanded. Plumbing. Electrical wiring. Carpentry. Fixing automobiles. There are many useful skills, for which people are deservedly paid more than most intellectuals; but our entire system of education, to the extent that it works at all, is aimed at producing educated people, intellectuals, as if all the children are above average.
No child left behind is a silly concept: carried to extreme, are we left behind if we are unable to attend California Institute of Technology or get a Ph.D. in Astronautical Engineering from MIT? Of course NASA restricts entry into space to intellectuals, rather than allowing skilled young riggers to go up and do a real day's work; but that's just part of the silly notion we have about the superiority of intellectuals over people who do actual skilled labor. Or unskilled labor for that matter.
Our school system is designed to keep the jails full and produce lots of people unable to do anything but cheap day labor. If that is not their purpose, tell me what you would change to make it more likely that the prison guards will have work and there will be a supply of unskilled labor?
Enough. I have expanded a lot on the answer I wrote for the other conference; this has become pretty near the essay I promised on education and skills. More another time. I have a column to do.
While we are at it, in another conference there was a discussion of "neo-conservatives", with one well known writer insisting that he had never heard anyone call himself a neo-con. Exchanges (in which I didn't take part) went on for a while until finally this was said of the term "neoconservative""
The rise of a faction who believe that all America's troubles are the fault of a cabal of sinister Jews manipulating our nation's foreign policy to serve the cause of Israeli fanatics?
Now that is a silly way to put it, probably done deliberately, but it may not serve a useful purpose this time.
The neo-conservatives were formerly liberals, and some were Trotskyites; many were disciples of Leo Strauss. This isn't condemnatory it's merely descriptive. Over time Commentary Magazine, edited by Norman Podhoretz, became one of the influential anti-communist magazines; and over time liberal anti-communism as personified by Scoop Jackson and for that matter at one time the Americans for Democratic Action got absorbed and destroyed: the liberal establishment resented those people, and marginalized them. Commentary, published by the American Jewish Committee, saw that the USSR was a real threat to Jews and Israel, and seeing what happened to liberal anticommunists, began to move to the right. Being intellectuals, they also had considerable cultural affinity with the intellectual conservatives like Kirk. Buckley established National Review as a nominally Catholic Conservative magazine with people like Kendall and Possony and Kirk, but there was also Meyer and Burnham who were men of the right, and Burnham was an ex-communist and in some ways a neo-con.
Podhoretz and his magazine formed a powerful intellectual weapon for anti-communism, and neo-conservatives were people who didn't want so much to be associated with the Old Right, and weren't libertarians, and drifted toward Commentary. Meyer had his "fusionism" which was an attempt mostly to bridge the gap between old line Conservatism of the Burkean variety as exemplified by Kirk and Cole (Kirk and Cole founded Modern Age, as an example) and the Libertarian wing. Straussians, meanwhile, played a Machiavellian role and I don't mean that as insult: it stems from their drift toward power and their belief that they have some secrets of statecraft.
So long as the USSR was the common enemy all was well. The neo-cons were willing to play along with the notions of limited government as long as the end result was anti-communism and the defense of Israel. The Catholic Conservatives were all for defending Israel as a steady ally in the Cold War, even when things like the Liberty Incident very much strained that alliance. This continued even to the First Gulf War -- when the neocons found that the old line conservatives weren't interested in conquest in the Middle East, didn't want an empire there, weren't interested in On To Baghdad and On To Damascus, and really thought there might be some conflicts between American objectives and Israeli objectives. The despicable way that the State of Israel treated Christians in the occupied territories didn't help as the stories filtered back: Eastern Rite Roman Catholics got more of a voice in the Vatican with the present Pope and their stories began to come out.
Then Weekly Standard discovered "National Greatness" as a goal, and explicitly said so; and that put the fat in the fire and the cat among the pigeons, because national greatness is precisely not in the old conservative agenda. In the US there has been an imperial strain, but it was populist not conservative: Daniel Webster was afraid of taking the West and Manifest Destiny precisely because it would upset the balance between the States and the Union (Webster from New Hampshire: Live Free or Die!) and so were many of the Old Right. Conservatives in England tended to be Imperial; but not in the US, where the balance between the Feds and the States was considered more important.
The Neocons tend to put international interests first, and believe, I am sure sincerely, that the fate of the US is bound up with the fate of the Middle East; that salvation for the US can come only by saving Israel.
One can believe that without supporting the national greatness that the neocons have also espoused; and without supporting Sharon's Greater Israel. There was an uneasy peace for a long time between Israel and the Arab world, until the occupation; and Israel has always had the option of building a fence along the Green Line (with modifications for security) and unilaterally withdrawing. They could have given the land back to Jordan in exchange for a peace treaty. But the settlers and internal Israeli politics have prevented that and it will not happen.
But I cannot think that the US has a vital stake in that any longer. For the price of the Iraqi War I could have built 100 1000 megawatt nuclear fission plants fueled with the fissionables recovered from the dismantled weapons (fuel grade is 10% enriched; weapons grade is 90%; you get a Lot of Fuel from a bomb) as well as gone a long way to cheap access to orbit: energy independence. The neocons are terrified of US energy independence because they see rightly that the US not dependent on Middle East Oil will not keep troops over there.
Now there is a cultural affinity between Israel and the US. It would be stronger if the Israelis had made friends with the Christian Arabs particularly in Bethlehem and made advocates and friends of the Vatican instead of being universally disliked by nearly every Vatican official I know, not for being Jewish but for being oppressors of the Church.
The neocons reached a high water mark when they inveigled National Review to allow the egregious Frum to denounce many anti-war conservatives as anti-semites, and then allowed him to flip off Stephen Tonsor in his answer to his critics. Tonsor may be an irascible old SOB but he is a well known and admirable man, perhaps a bit personally sensitive to his rank, but it's deserved.
But that was a high water mark. Among other things it took much of the sting out of the charge of anti-semitism because it was so patently absurd when applied to many of those he smeared with it.
The identification of neo-cons with Jewish interests is as much theirs as anyone's; it comes with wanting to use the anti-semitism weapon.
We in the US hope that our Moslem citizens are Americans who go to mosque rather than a church, and that our Jewish citizens are Americans who go to Temple rather than a church. We have always insisted that all ties other than sentiment to "The Old Country" are severed when becoming an American. But then, until recently, it was possible to study to be an American, and to understand what that means. In today's culture wars "diversity" is antithetical to that notion. But that is another story for another time.
Neoconservatives, at least those who adhere to The Weekly Standard, may or may not be mostly Jewish, but that is not the reason for their divergence from the old Conservative Movement, which to this day retains many Jewish adherents; it is their adoption of the "national greatness" position and their abandonment of the notion of limited government. There might be compromises on foreign policy: after all, no one in the Old Right would be unhappy if Iraq became a law abiding member of the liberal democratic family of nations. Astonished, yes, but not unhappy. I'll be the first to cheer if we can bring that off.
Neo and old conservatives can agree that the War on Terror needs to be won; we can disagree on tactics, and whether pre-emption is a good idea, and if it is, where (I'd have put the effort into Afghanistan to finish that war before invading Iraq, I would, I would). These are matters for discussion.
But compromises on the notion of limited government are something else again. I'm all for national greatness if that means the Congress builds Shakespeare Theater and an Opera House in the District of Columbia (it has the undoubted Constitutional power to do such things) and returns us to a 500+ ship Navy; I am not for National Greatness if it means idiocies like "No Child Left Behind" and the Americans with Disabilities Act and thousands of other intrusions of Washington into the lives of the citizens. From what I read in Weekly Standard, there is no act of "National Greatness" its editors won't agree to.
Sorry to be so long winded.
September 4, 2004
I have a letter taking me to task for not discussing the history of the Vatican and Israel, as if that somehow were relevant to the shameful way the government of Israel has dealt with Christian Arabs. I say shameful, which it is, but I could probably with more profit have said foolishly, since an alliance between Christian Arabs and the Israeli government and people would have been beneficial to both.
In any event, the history of the Vatican's recognition of Israel is summarized at http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/DAILYF/2001/12/daily-12-30-2001.shtml . Of course the whole matter is a side issue, since the United States doesn't rank treatment of Christian minorities in foreign states very high in determining our policy toward those states, and hasn't for rather a long time.
Nor should anyone be confused: I am certainly aware of the treatment of Jews in many Arab countries, and also that it is in general better to be a Christian Arab in Israel (the old state or the post 1967 old state plus West Bank and Gaza) than in most Arab countries. What I said was that the cultural affinity between Israel and the US would be stronger had the Israelis set out to build allies among the Christian Arabs in both Old Israel and the West Bank territories, and I have seen nothing to make me rethink that view.
I note that Irving Kristol, one of the founders of neo-conservatism, has often said much the same things I have about the relationship between Christians and Jews in the United States. ( See http://www.polyconomics.com/searchbase/12-08-99.html for an example.) But then I have long been an admirer of Irving Kristol, whom I have long considered be one of the sanest men I have ever met.
Well for the same reasons that the US supported Saddam's Iraq in his war with Iran, Iran was a far more logical target of US preemption than Iraq.
I am still unsure of why Iraq was chosen: Saddam was no threat to the US, and if we had simply wanted him dead it would have been easy enough to take him out; all we needed was more of the kind of strike that started the war, with another plane load of cluster bombs every five minutes over the target area. He wouldn't have survived.
I think Iraq was chosen because it was thought to be easy. The neo-Jacobins believe that humans yearn for freedom and democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity, and will grab it if given the chance, and it looked as if it would be easy to end history in Iraq with minimum effort.
The upside would have been a stable ally in that region, and God knows that would have been a wonderful thing to have.
More cynical analysts thought that we could go in and impose a government that would be friendly to us and our allies, and while it might be costly it wouldn't be THAT costly, and we could then hang out a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner, win elections, be popular, and have our influence in the Middle East. Nothing but upside to that.
How many of the advocates of the war really believed we were restoring freedom and democracy, and how many thought this a good realipolitik play isn't clear to me. It is clear to me that the professionals at both State and in the Pentagon kept trying to tell people it would not be easy, and we should be preparing for a tough war and preparing a lot of reserves to go in and subdue the inevitable resistance.
I wrote my own paper on keeping the oil flowing, and how difficult that would be, and what high tech measures we might take to secure the area fast. Others wrote about the importance of tribalism and local government and property rights after the fighting was over.
Of course all those warnings were ignored, and here we are. We'll get through. US troops are ingenious, and most are well meaning despite the PFC England's putting them up to weird ways to show off for her. (But all that was to be expected when you put women enlisted personnel into such situations, and we needn't have been astonished or pretend to be; it's in the genes for boys to walk picket fences and make better mud pies and do stupid things to impress girls; as every army in history has known until ours).
So we chose Iraq, because it was supposed to be easy. Oddly enough, Iran probably would have been no harder, and the rewards would be greater.
September 5, 2004
Back from my trips, and I didn't flush my sinuses out; a few minutes ago I decided that I was having a bit of trouble breathing freely, and had had more trouble last night, and I had got out of the habit of doing the sinus flush.
I feel great again. If you have sinus problems or allergies, and keep waking up at night to turn over so you can clear a nostril, and all that: try this.
I get a few bucks for each one sold though this web site, but that was a voluntary thing on the part of the people who run the company: I bought mine from their web site and liked it so much that I mentioned that, and people began ordering them, and the company came to me.
I am no physician, and my medical advice is worthless; but I can say from experience that this gadget was far more than worth what I paid for it, and I wonder why I waited half a week before using it. I should have used it first thing I got home. And daily since.
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