THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 338 November 29 - December 5, 2004
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November 29, 2004
Coming up for air after holidays, LOSCON, and rain in Los Angeles. Saturday it rained all day and a good part of the night. When I came home Saturday night, Sable, our red Husky, was lying down by the gate in the rain, soaked; or at least wet. Her coat is very thick and I doubt she even noticed. She followed me into the house and didn't bother to shake: what she wanted was her walk since she hadn't got one Friday or Saturday. I put on a raincoat and took her around the block. Sable sleeps outside. She has a way into the house if she wants, but unless one of the boys is home and sleeping in the back bedroom so that she thinks she has to sleep just outside the door just in case anyone wants to take a walk in the middle of the night, she sleeps outside. She has a dry place to sleep and the housekeeper worries about her, putting down towels and blankets which Sable ignores about as often as not. When it rains the housekeeper make an igloo by sheltering the dog's bed cave with a ladder draped with towels and a windbreak of cardboard: which sometimes sends Sable down by the gate for the night where there's no shelter at all.
We have tried showing Lucy pictures of Huskies bedding down in snow, but she's having none of it.
Come Sunday morning Sable was still wet but happy. Sunday was a lovely day and when I got home, here was this dry fluffy dog. And here I had been worried about taking her off for her monthly bath at the Petwash place (I am not insane enough to try to bathe a wolf; I put a muzzle on her and tip heavily). Anyway, she's fine, it's a sunny day, and this morning we got our full two miles so she's happy, although she still doesn't understand: if Richard stays here overnight so he can catch an airplane at bloody dawn, why can't he arrange it so he can take the dog for a walk?
This morning she was trying to drive the gardener out of the back yard: it's fall, the pool patio is covered with leaves, and Monday is gardener day, but Sable didn't see any point in letting a guy with a leaf blower into her yard. Let him work out there, we're just fine in here. So we had our walk then.
When I got my cell phone account it was with Pacific Bell. That became SBC who sold my mobile phone account to Cingular. When i got it I could call from my house. After it was Cingular I couldn't, but if I walked down to Ed Begly Jr's house down the street I could get 4 bars. Now when I turn on my phone it says AT&T Wireless and there's no coverage at Ed's house either; I have to walk about 3 blocks further. I guess every time they consolidate phone companies they shut down a few more relays or something. And these outfits wonder why everyone hates them? Studio City isn't, after all, out in the sticks even if we do have our 50 square mile sagebrush and scrub oak park just across the street. I used to have coverage at my house when it was Pacific Bell, and what man has done, surely man can aspire to?
I'll see what mail we have.
From another conference:
All of these state tests are
constructed to produce artificial test score Increases. As G agrees, the gap
measured in standard deviations Or fail ratios remains just the same even as
failure rates for each group improves. [This conference] is just about the
total live population that understands enough about socio-statistics to
understand this phenomenon, until one of us writes a new Bell Curve sequel
to explain this.
I hope my friend has seriously underestimated the population of people who can understand socio-statistics, but I fear he's pretty close to right. (He's a school administrator doomed to be anonymous for obvious reasons in today's education climate).
Jane Jacobs points out that a Dark Age isn't when you have forgotten how to do things. It is when you have forgotten that you ever could. French peasants in 650 AD were entirely unaware that Roman farmers could get yields of 10 bushels harvest for 1 bushel planted: they thought it a gift of God if they could get 3 bushels from each bushel planted, and generally didn't get more than 2. And American educators have apparently forgotten that there was a time when 96% of the people who finished 4th grade could read; we now have 100% attendance at schools and a literacy rate somewhat lower than Iraq's. But all will be well and No Child Will Be Left Behind, so long as we can juggle the tests and get increasing test scores. The purpose of the education system is no longer to educate but to produce people with certain credentials. Hurrah for the educational reforms of the past three decades.
|This week:||Tuesday, November
Billy James Hargis goes to his reward, which, from my experience with him will be a warm one: Hargis and the Reverend Bob Wells once got hold of a study document I was working on for North American Aviation. It had an imagined scenario in which peace breaks out in both the USSR and China (not the same firm at all in 1965) so, since we couldn't think of any way that Mao would allow such a thing, we had him commit suicide. The notion was to show under what world conditions it might make sense for the US to sign the General and Complete Disarmament Treaty.
An engineer in the company stole that off my desk one night (it was not a classified study, merely some aid to the Air Force in arguing against General and Complete Disarmament, which was taken seriously by some politicians in those days despite being a terrible idea: the devil is in the details and we were examining details). He took the document to the Reverend Bob Wells, an Orange County radio preacher, who sold copies for $25 each as "the most frightening document I have ever seen." Billy James Hargis got in the act and went national with it, also selling copies. They had, they believed, the very war plan of the vast left wing conspiracy to enslave the world, and I was its author.
Incidentally, one of my associates on this study was R. N. Clark, Rear Admiral, USN, ret. who had been Robert Heinlein's room mate at Annapolis, and best man at Robert's first wedding. Apparently he, too, was part of the leadership of the vast left wing plot to enslave the world.
We brought in Possony and Russell Kirk to try to reason with these gentlemen. Hargis was adamant. He hinted that he might stop selling the thing if we bought him out, but he was raising money and getting subscribers and after all it might be true, mightn't it? I did not come away from the meeting with a favorable impression of the Reverend Billy James Hargis. But in this day of his death we must be charitable. One way or another, he knows better now.
M. Stanton Evans later got hold of the incident and it is characteristic of his fact checking that although many of the people he wrote about and were friends with were friends and associates of mine, and Russell Kirk was a close friend, fellow Professor at Pepperdine, and godfather to one of my sons, as was Stefan Possony, Evans put the incident into one of his books as if it were all true, naming me as a "brilliant left wing intellectual" who was quite possibly one of the masterminds of the world conspiracy, with North American Aviation as one of the parties and sponsors of this conspiracy. I suppose nonsense like that sells books. I still have mine which I got through the Conservative Book Club shortly before I cancelled my membership in that august organization.
The left is often guilty of sloppy scholarship. I have no control over that, but I can certainly point out the silly failings of one of the supposed intellectual heroes of the right, and M. Stanton Evans demonstrated his either incompetence or more likely his indifference in discovering truth; in any event if that is investigative reporting, and he failed to make even one phone call -- Possony was at the time on the board of the American Conservative Union and I was a speaker at its upcoming event when that book was published -- if that is an example of investigative reporting by the right, then the right is in as sorry a mess as the left.
Evans eventually apologized to me at a party at one of Buckley's events, or maybe it was Kathy Krowe's Pasadena party one year, but the fact remains that it's an example of such shoddy scholarship as to call everything else he did into question. The notion that a North American space scientist was high in planning the world conspiracy was so absurd on the face of it that one might think a bit of investigation was in order before reporting it all as fact in a book. And that this brilliant left wing intellectual would be so high in the conspiracy, yet stupid enough to leave an important document like that to be found by a snooping middle grade engineer who ought to know better, is merely icing on the cake. The engineer, by the way, was met the next day at the plant gates by security, informed of his termination, and told that if we found anything in his desk that was his we would arrange to have it dumped outside the gates. I am sure this did a lot for his career.
In any event, Billy James Hargis, RIP
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The other item in the paper is the Supreme Court's hearing on California's marijuana laws. To me the matter is simplicity itself.
It required the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to give the Congress the power to outlaw liquor; the Volstead Act was held to be unconstitutional, so we got the 18th Amendment and Prohibition. The 18th was repealed.
Under what Article does Congress have the power to prohibit marijuana? Clearly it can be banned from interstate commerce, but exactly how it is interstate commerce for someone to grow pot and smoke it? Or for that matter to sell it to his friends from in front of his house?
The whole field of drug law is usurpation, and everyone knows it, but we pretend otherwise.
I have not addressed the merits of California's laws on the subject. I don't need to. Wise or foolish, they are valid laws, and marijuana and other drugs, absent Constitutional Amendment, are state matters until the stuff crosses state lines.
Subject: Dumbing down: the proof
Dumbing down: the proof
[quote] As a service to Spectator readers who still have any doubts about the decline in educational standards, we are printing these exam papers taken by 11-year-olds applying for places to King Edward¹s School in Birmingham in 1898.[end quote]
Read them, and weep.
(When you get to the Arithmetic questions, remember that there were no pocket calculators then. And also bear in mind that in those days, British currency consisted of pounds, shillings and pence, where one pound equaled twenty shillings and one shilling equaled twelve pence. The conventional abbreviations were '£' for pound, 's' for shilling & 'd' for penny--which came from the original Latin names for the coins, as everyone knew of course.)
We have similar articles regarding schools in the United States at about the same era; I quickly concede that the British exam was tougher than the American one of the same era, assuming both are authentic -- there is a bit of controversy about the bona fides of the American 1890 school exam. Still, from my own memories of schools in the 1930's, the content in schools has been lessened and what students are expected to know has been lowered, and this by a very great deal.
One can plausibly make the case that in 1898 in the US only about 80% of the children went to public school past 4th or 5th grade; there were many who were kept home to work, and many people who were never "in the system" at all. In the British case the number who went to the "Public Schools" (which we would call private schools in the US) was about all of the upper and middle classes, but didn't include many from the working classes.
It may be instructive to contemplate what we lose by insisting on egalitarianism, equal treatment, and "no child left behind." I could make the case that a society that has 40% or more people able to pass such examinations might be better off than one with "no child left behind" and only a very small percentage of the population, student or adult, able to handle such questions.
Democracy always drives toward egalitarianism, and toward cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies: that, according to Cicero, is the trouble with democracy and the reason Rome couldn't stand it. He had equally valid criticisms of Monarchy and Aristocracy and argued for the "mixed form" of government which he called a Republic that incorporated elements of all three forms. The Framers of the US Constitution were all familiar with that view and most of them seem to have been persuaded of its truth.
But that was 1787 and we are ever so much wiser today.
The first words in the old McGuffy Reader were "No man can put off the Law of God." The first words in the Soviet first reader (and one presumes the present one, perhaps) were "For the joys of our childhood we thank our native land." The first words in the most popular primer in the US at the time when most of our teachers went to school were "See Spot run, said Jane. Run Spot, run."
It is probably time that we in the US seriously decide whether we want egalitarianism or to be able to compete in the world market since our masters seem determined that we shall have universal free trade at whatever cost to jobs and trade deficits. It is highly unlikely that we can survive without bankruptcy given the education system we have now. It is hardly too early to start reforming it. It is also highly unlikely that we will do anything at all: our schools will probably continue to move toward credential factories in which all thought of what we used to know as education has not merely vanished, but is no longer a memory.
December 2, 2004
It's column time, but I have some thoughts on the intelligence bill which I'll try to put forth after my morning walk.
It helps if you've ever been in the intelligence business, but even a few minute's thought will convince you it's a complex game, and that centralizing everything under a czar who controls all the budgets is a bad idea.
There are many aspects to intelligence. This ought to be self-evident, but it doesn't appear to be so: reading Nancy Pelosi's thoughts on the subject after years of being on the Intelligence Committee is not much of an education in understanding the intelligence business. (www.speakerpelosi.com/pelosi/ ; http://www.house.gov/pelosi/flFundingIntelAgencies072402.htm ) Of course politicians on duty seldom say much that is interesting to anyone who knows an iota about the subject of the politician's attention. Mr. Sensenbrunner, meanwhile, has held up the President's Intelligence Czar bill for other reasons, including the very practical matter of insisting that we enforce some of the immigration laws as a first step toward making the country more secure. He has been pilloried by the bloggers -- I find articles about how this rather smart man is "chief whacko" and such -- but then most bloggers know nothing about the subject on which they wax eloquently; most politicians are more informative than most bloggers. Pity, but there it is. Just because someone can afford to maintain a web site doesn't guarantee they know much about their subjects.
So why am I qualified to write on this? Well, for one thing, I was for thirty years the protégé of Stefan Possony, one of the best intelligence officers this nation ever employed. For another, I have several times been employed as intelligence analyst for many major projects including restructuring the USAF Strategic Offensive Forces. I have read a very great deal on this subject. There are other reasons, but those will do.
As practiced in the United States the intelligence business consists of gathering data, interpreting it, using the analysis to allocate resources for acquisition of more data, and conducting overseas operations to disrupt potential enemy operations. Much of what is needed now is not classical intelligence at all, but counterintelligence: disrupting operations against us. Within the US -- and, importantly, in the Caribbean -- the FBI has been responsible for counterintelligence including disruptive operations. The Bureau ceded jurisdiction to the Agency for the Bay of Pigs operation; the results didn't help the Agency in the turf wars. In fact the Bay of Pigs was a pretty well planned operation that might have succeeded had the President not, at the very last minute, called off the air support operations including pre-emptive bombing by WW II era medium bombers flown out of Nicaragua. The original plan had air strikes to completely disable the Cuban Air Force, so that the landing at the Bay of Pigs would be unopposed. The beach area was quite defensible against ground assault, and in fact that is why it was chosen. But given that the Cuban Air Force was unopposed other than by Agency heroes -- no weaker word will do -- flying B-25's as interceptors because they weren't allowed to bomb the Cuban air fields, the disaster was assured.
Leave that. The important point is that in the US, counterintelligence operations including penetration of enemy organizations belongs to the Bureau, and since Hoover the bureau has become more and more dominated by legalistic concerns, and, at least until recently, saw itself as an arm of the Department of Justice, charged with arresting criminals after a criminal act, and prosecuting them in Constitutional Courts in which all the rules had to be followed. This effectively crippled US counterintelligence, and the success of the 911 attacks was assured. Whether the CIA, given a share of the counterintelligence mission, might have penetrated the 911 operation and prevented it isn't known; but it would certainly have had a better shot at it than the Bureau, and almost certainly would have investigated some of the reports of Arabs at pilot schools acting as if they were in their last year on earth. Given that most of those people were aliens who do not necessarily enjoy the privileges and immunities of citizens; and that the mission of the CIA would be to prevent something like 911, not build evidence for use in Constitutional courts; one can argue that they might well have been successful. Perhaps not, but it would have been worth a shot.
And that itself leads us to wonder if we want an intelligence Czar who controls all the budgets. We don't want to take away the Bureau's surveillance operations and its building of cases for trial; we want to add to the counterintelligence capabilities of the United States, which is to say, we want multiple lines of attack. We want operations sufficiently independent and suspicious of each other than compromise of one, say in the FBI, doesn't finish off all the others. We don't want such centralization that a Kim Philby can in a stroke destroy every intelligence operation we have. Even the USSR, which was pretty good at the spy business whatever other failings it had, did not organize intelligence in the silly way the President's intelligence bill proposes. The USSR had the KGB (or MVD or NKVD depending on your era) but it also had the GRU (military intelligence) and both operated spy networks; and the GRU brought off some of the USSR's best intelligence coup operations.
Before the fall of the USSR we used to say there are three huge organizations organized the same way: the Soviet system of agriculture, NASA, and the American system of education; and all are equally successful, which is to sat all are disasters with a few bright spots.
The proposed Intelligence Bill will create yet another centralized monstrosity with little chance of success. Yes: intelligence is best handled by putting a highly competent monomaniac in charge of a lot of resources and get out of his way. But finding the right monomaniac is never easy, and the job tends to burn people out. Better to have a number of organizations swimming in the soup. Navy operations will gather information of interest to the Navy, State has its own agenda as does Commerce, the Army and Air Force have their particular interests, and the CIA has several competing agendas within its bureaucracy. Gathering data is a bit of an art, and the CIA long ago lost it (we have few language schools and the case officer system hasn't worked in a long time); letting the other Departments try to do some spying doesn't hurt and often helps.
At the coordination level it pays to centralize, and have some central evaluation, which is what the DCI is supposed to do. Our present system was invented in theory to prevent another Pearl Harbor: prior to Pearl, we had Army, Navy, and State Department all in the intelligence business. Even Commerce got in the act. In fact that worked pretty well, but many of the signs that might have warned us of Pearl Harbor were lost because no one had all the facts at hand. No one, that is, but the President and his immediate advisors like Harry Hopkins. Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, had all the information including the Japanese diplomatic coded messages translated into English not very long after the Japanese Embassy received and decoded them. We can speculate for a long time on whether having a National Security Advisor in the White House might have prevented Pearl Harbor since all the threads would have run into that office: but in the United States no one can force the President to pay attention to anything if he doesn't want to hear the messages. I leave it at that.
If we want to create some competing intelligence analysis shops, and give each of them access to what is known, and let them fight it out and present reports to the National Security Advisor and the President, that will work; but creating a czar who controls all the intelligence budgets is an act of national insanity.
December 3, 2004
I have said this before but it is worth repeating:
I daily thank heaven for:
which is a nasal pump thing that opens up my nasal passages and sinuses enough to let me breathe. Without it I'd be addicted to nose drops, which are pretty awful things. Click on the link.
In fact I am not sure how I would have got through this without being able to blast open my nasal passages for a night's sleep.
Discussion of the intelligence mess in mail. It's column time.
Subject: Our Brethren Shield...
December 5, 2004
Continuing the column. And for some good news:
Subject: NASA on the side of the angels?
----- Roland Dobbins
We will see if anything comes of this, but perhaps someone has finally been listening?
December 5, 2004
It ain't the things you don't know that get you, it's the stuff you know for certain that ain't so. I've always known that a major part of concrete curing was hydration -- it doesn't "dry" but takes up water -- but when, at a discussion of Biosphere II by some people who ought to know (they included a physician who had been part of the experiment), it was said that the process involves oxidation as well, I had no reason to doubt it. I said as much in an answer in mail.
I have since been corrected. The problem is a lot more complicated than I thought, and the managers did indeed pump in a measured amount of oxygen. All of which should teach me to be more careful about things I think I know. Fortunately readers don't hesitate to correct me. As I tell people whose stuff I review, errors of fact I fix immediately. I'll listen to arguments regarding errors of judgment. I have to be the one who decides which is which.
Back to the column, but those interested in Biosphere II should look at http://www.chemistry.org/portal/a/c/s/1/acsdisplay.html?DOC=vc2%5C2my%5Cmy2_biosphere.html
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