THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 357 April 11 - 17, 2005
Highlights this week:
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April 11, 2005
this is an experiment. Roberta is driving. I am trying to write with the Tablet. It's not working too well, partly because the new power system seems intermittent: the Tablet keeps thinking it is not connected to external power. Jiggling the connector fixes that, but that's not much fun.
Home. Cleaning up. Lots of mail to come. But: have to Pay Bills and Do Taxes, neither being my favorite activity.
I keep hearing stuff from Republicans that I dislike. Then I hear the Democrats who have no alternatives, and complain that the election was stolen. "Democrats vote on Wednesday." Apparently there were some pamphlets that said that, and some voters believed them. I doubt there were very many, but I do wonder, is it gaining "consent of the governed" to count the opinions of those who know so little about civic affairs they do not know when election day is the same as every other vote? We used to have literacy requirements and poll taxes. Those may have been unfairly applied to produce racial discrimination, but is it a bad thing to require voters to read English and pay less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes to take part in an election?
There are more important matters:
Subject: An immodest proposal for education
-- Ordinary users shouldn't even know the words "operating system," much less "device driver" or "patch." Paul Graham
Of course the BEST thing we could do for education is to abolish the Department of Education, get Washington including the courts out of the education business except in the District of Columbia where the Feds can set a shining example of how well their expertise works; if they are any good the States will copy their methods, and otherwise--
And let the States decide how to finance education.
Of course we will not do any of that. And things will get worse and worse, because THE PURPOSE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION is to hire and pay members of the UNIONS. But that isn't the REAL purpose. The REAL purpose is to see to it that the children of the wealthy stay on top, allowing a few upstarts to climb up but providing a real head start for those who can afford to send their kids to real schools instead of the horrors that the public system generates. IN some communities the local public schools will be fine; in most, only those who send their children to private schools will be sure of getting them enough education to be competitive with the children of the rich. THIS IS HOW IS IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.
If you don't believe it is intended to work this way, ask yourself what, if you were wealthy and knew your kids weren't really any brighter than the others around them, you would do to give your children an edge, a head start, a leg up. Be sure to keep your intentions concealed since you do not want the mugs to catch wise and upset the system. Design me a method to give your kids an edge.
You'll come up with something like this, and throw in No Child Left Behind to be sure that none in the public schools Get Ahead. Won't you?
And some GOOD news:
Mojave, CA, Wednesday, April 11, 2005: – Today, XCOR Aerospace announced it has signed a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a composite cryogenic tank to hold liquid oxygen (LOX). This contract is part of NASA’s Exploration Systems Research and Technology (ESR&T) program to develop key technologies for manned exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. The value of this firm fixed-price contract is $7 million with all options included, and will pay $1 million in the first year.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for NASA and for XCOR,” said XCOR’s president, Jeff Greason. “NASA is reaching out to small businesses and this contract is an excellent example. Both private industry and the government will benefit from this project, as well as future users of space vehicles.”
Now if NASA will just keep helping small companies with innovative systems.
But REAL PRIZES would work as well.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
As we were driving home yesterday the big story on the radio was man outside the Capitol with bombs. Later they said police had overpowered him. Then -- well, nothing. There was nothing in this morning's paper about it, either.
It transpired that the man had wheeled a couple of carryon bags up to the Sherman Fountain. How far beyond that he got I don't know. The the cops grabbed him threw him on the ground, and demanded to know what was in the bags. He wasn't talking, apparently, so they blew up one of the bags. They will now charge him with something or another, disorderly conduct perhaps: for some reason after they grabbed him and threw him to the ground he wasn't talking to them. The story doesn't say whether anyone tried to talk to him before throwing him to the ground.
I can recall some years ago pulling one of those travel bags up to the Capitol, up the stairs, and inside. I had a new computer I wanted to show one of the Congressmen. But that was in another country, when the Capitol was the people's house, accessible to all. The times, they are a' changing, although perhaps not quite as anticipated.
I am no at all sure I have any solution to the problem. I do know that before we decided to rearrange everyone else's affairs, I could walk up to the Capitol building with brief case or suitcase. Once I took the shortcut from the House Office Building to the Capitol through the tunnel; someone did ask me where I was going, then kindly directed me to the proper wing for the Minority Whip's office. But that too was in another country.
Perhaps the world is safer now that we are involved everywhere, and have had to close the people's house of government, the building most recognized everywhere in the world; a building anyone would walk up to, walk inside, photograph; visit the seat of government of the land of the free, and it wasn't disorderly conduct to do it. But permit some of us to remember earlier times, when there were 26,000 nuclear warheads aimed at us, but we did not close down the symbols of freedom.
April 13, 2005
Tax time. And of course my mail is not being sent. Glitch from Outlook? Problem with local service? So far as I can tell the FTP system works. Sigh. I have a pile of stuff to get done. Why not have email problems?
Well, shutting down Outlook and restarting Windows fixed this. Last night we had one of those Microsoft Surprises: the machine had reset itself when I got here. Some kind of system update. Microsoft was kind enough to tell me they had restarted my system for me.
Maybe not enough? Anyway, shut down Outlook and restart and my mail goes out properly. What next?
There's some good stuff in mail. Be sure to visit http://shurl.org/pizzadata so you can worry for the rest of the week. Lipid Leggin!
For those wondering just how much beginners get for science fiction novels, see http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/archives/001423.html
There are indications that the median for all SF novels isn't all that much higher.
April 14, 2005
I seem to have got my taxes done all but the actual paying bills and writing checks, but it sure ate the day. I owe Niven a lot of work on Inferno, and my wife some work on the plot on our next book. It's a great life if you don't weaken.
April 15, 2005
When I was younger, America made things. We were a creditor nation. During the Clinton Administration we became a debtor nation, and now we are very much so. It gets worse. We buy things. We sell services. But we don't sell anything like the amount of services it would take to cover the things we buy. We buy things from overseas because we can't make them cheaper than people overseas can. And we pay our taxes. And endure our regulations. Most of which don't plague the Chinese and others who make the things we buy.
So how do we pay for all this? By selling production values, and also selling calls on our labor: by going into debt and by selling capital assets. How long can this continue? I honestly don't know, but since our education establishment is set up to service the unions and is run for the benefit of the administrators and teachers rather than the students, we are unlikely to educate our way to higher productivity.
We are in real trouble.
So am I. InBoxer used to filter spam. Now it filters everything and marks it as unread. I will have to deal with that, because all my mail is now marked as unread and I'll have to go through it all.
I do not usually harbor thoughts of torture and inflicting pain, but spammers are beginning to get me thinking that way. Eric Pobirs once said that until things very physical, very painful, and very public happen to some spammers, nothing will ever change. He has so far been right. Not even jailing them helps.
Is this one of the "services" the US exports to balance our unbalance of trade? We are selling the nation, we can't make anything any more to compete with anyone else, and our schools are designed to keep the rich on top. Why not?
I seem to be sounding more shrill lately. Not sure why. But the numbers keep accumulating. The education system gets worse, not better, and this almost daily. The export situation is horrible and not likely to get better.
Billions constant dollars
From Access to Energy December 2004
"Lawyers may scheme all they wish; politicians may make all the laws they can imagine; economists may draw all the graphs they like; bureaucrats may posture at their convenience; and ecclesiastics may intone with the greatest enthusiasm. In the end, however, if a man can make a better product and deliver it at a lower price, the market will award to him the privilege of making that product and the wealth, prosperity, and power associated with doing so."
Very clearly the US no longer has the ability to make better products and deliver at lower prices, nor are we very interested in doing so. Adding regulations and taxes will not cure this problem. And we don't owe these deficits to ourselves. We owe these debts to other people. They will be paid. Perhaps in dollars, perhaps in our labor (likely to be worth a lot less in future) and perhaps in blood. One thing we can do very well is fight. Perhaps we have an export after all.
Are we likely to change? Will be bring back freedom? What party speaks for liberty? And yes, I know the answer to that one; but every time I get near Libertarians their first move is to denounce conservatives as fools and idiots. That isn't likely to make an alliance easy. I was with Russell Kirk during some of the debates between Kirk and Frank Meyer the National Review "fusionist", and of course Possony and I were always more "fusionist" than ideologues. But now there is neither a fusionist nor a libertarian wing to either major party, and the people called "conservative" are scattered and broken up into little groups. Neo conservatives were never for small government, and their opposition to regulations and taxes was apparently ephemeral. The schools operate to perpetuate the system. Changing to Democrats will do what, other than fill the Courts with activists for programs that can't get past legislatures?
Perhaps it is the day, but I am feeling a bit gloomy about the future of this republic. Tocqueville seems to have been prescient; and the days of the voluntary society, with much of the activity done by "associations" rather than governments, with self government that was limited, small, non-intrusive, and cheap are gone. I would far rather have government "intrusion" through censorship of books and magazines in my city than have what we have now: a government that can prevent neither pornography nor crime, and offers me the freedom to pay taxes while avoiding potholes, but not to smoke in a bar in which every patron wants to smoke; a government that minds my business for me, but can't teach the kids next door to read. A government that protects the rights of the handicapped, unless they're really handicapped...
The discussion on trade and trade deficits continues below.
(My friend Bob Thompson has a legitimate beef; see mail.)
April 16, 2005
What Scalia said was this:
Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. Social perceptions of sexual and other morality change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best. That homosexuals have achieved some success in that enterprise is attested to by the fact that Texas is one of the few remaining States that criminalize private, consensual homosexual acts. But persuading one's fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one's views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. I would no more require a State to criminalize homosexual acts--or, for that matter, display any moral disapprobation of them--than I would forbid it to do so. What Texas has chosen to do is well within the range of traditional democratic action, and its hand should not be stayed through the invention of a brand-new "constitutional right" by a Court that is impatient of democratic change. It is indeed true that "later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress," ante, at 18; and when that happens, later generations can repeal those laws. But it is the premise of our system that those judgments are to be made by the people, and not imposed by a governing caste that knows best.
There are a couple of other good points made by Scalia:
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding. See ante, at 11 (noting "an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex" (emphasis added)). The impossibility of distinguishing homosexuality from other traditional "morals" offenses is precisely why Bowers rejected the rational-basis challenge. "The law," it said, "is constantly based on notions of morality, and if all laws representing essentially moral choices are to be invalidated under the Due Process Clause, the courts will be very busy indeed." 478 U. S., at 196.2
and the point about gay marriage:
One of the benefits of leaving regulation of this matter to the people rather than to the courts is that the people, unlike judges, need not carry things to their logical conclusion. The people may feel that their disapprobation of homosexual conduct is strong enough to disallow homosexual marriage, but not strong enough to criminalize private homosexual acts--and may legislate accordingly. The Court today pretends that it possesses a similar freedom of action, so that that we need not fear judicial imposition of homosexual marriage, as has recently occurred in Canada (in a decision that the Canadian Government has chosen not to appeal). See Halpern v. Toronto, 2003 WL 34950 (Ontario Ct. App.); Cohen, Dozens in Canada Follow Gay Couple's Lead, Washington Post, June 12, 2003, p. A25. At the end of its opinion--after having laid waste the foundations of our rational-basis jurisprudence--the Court says that the present case "does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter." Ante, at 17.
Do not believe it.
Emphasis added. I find this a succinct statement of Constitutional principles that seem obvious to me, and are anathema to a large but vocal minority which seems to have control of the judicial system. Rule by judges in defiance of the popular will has the same defects as any other form of rule by elites without consent of the governed, but with the additional defect that there is no time-honored sanction to generate respect. One may follow a king or a lord from prescriptive reasons: my father swore fealty to your father, and I to you, and Sire, I obey though I think you be wrong. One does not say such things to judges.
"Rule of law" is a principle that when said to "law" neither historical nor enacted by the people diminishes respect for law. The abortion matter is a good illustration: had this been left to legislation it would in fact be law, but the discovery of rights not suspected for 200 years has not persuaded those who disagree that "rights of choice" are in fact actual law. Had the matter been left to states and legislatures it would be long settled now, as divorce, once rare (some of us can remember when going to Reno for 6 weeks was routine for those wealthy enough who lived in states that didn't have divorce) is now obtainable almost everywhere.
While we are raising profound issues, there's autism, and deafness, and...
April 17, 2005
We went to the MWA meeting, then a concert by Susan Graham. Graham is worth going to if you enjoy classical music. She is a six foot tall dish. Being a mezzo, she sings a lot of trousers roles; but you ain't seen nothing until you've seen a six foot tall Graeme do the habanera from Carmen...
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