THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 373 August 1 - 7, 2005
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August 1, 2005
Siggraph today. I'll update this tonight. Meanwhile there was some action over the weekend, so look there...
An article from the Mises.org site on the "externalities" issue that makes informative reading. FYI.
Informative perhaps, but fairly tough sledding being an academic paper. I'll try to wade through it given more time but it is certainly not for skimming.
You can also see what Novak has to say about the silly Plame flap: http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak01.html
And now I am off to Siggraph for the day.
Or not for the day. The joke is on me: the show opens tomorrow. The conferences open today. There was a time when I would eagerly have gone to the Siggraph conferences, but Moore's Law and the general advances of the field have made that less vital -- as Siggraph has become less vital, alas. It's still an important show, but perhaps not what it used to be.
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Can anyone read this and not be ashamed? What in the world has happened to us? (And see below)
I have for years heard of a microwave powered reactionless space drive being developed in Britain. It is now said there is a working model. I'd sure like to see that. Meanwhile I have a theory paper that is supposed to explain how it works (and why it should work despite conservation laws). I am reminded of Robert Forward's conclusions in the Dean Drive matter: a repeatable data point in contradiction to fundamental theory is invaluable. Paper analyses purporting to show how such things can be possible, in the absence of a demonstration, are interesting. (I have freely restated Forward's conclusion, but in a manner consistent with what he said.)
Siggraph all day today.
Back from Siggraph, good job fair going, worth going to for that if your hiring or looking. Hollywood Bowl tonight.
August 3, 2005
Siggraph is on, the column is due, and there are many things that need commenting: police in Fresno, the Takings Cases and what they really mean, the Freelance Copyright settlement, among others. And I seem to have a touch of the summer flu that laid Roberta out over the weekend.
I'll try to get this place caught up today, but I probably won't.
I have posted a longish letter and reply on a number of subjects; the reply is long enough that it could have been here, but it's over there.
Are the following articles related?
The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies Kay S. Hymowitz
Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series "Class Matters" and you still won't grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.
By now, these facts shouldn't be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto "baby mamas." Not so; it is a largely low-income-and disproportionately black-phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal-one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.
So why does the Times, like so many who rail against inequality, fall silent on the relation between poverty and single-parent families? To answer that question-and to continue the confrontation with facts that Americans still prefer not to mention in polite company-you have to go back exactly 40 years. That was when a resounding cry of outrage echoed throughout Washington and the civil rights movement in reaction to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's Department of Labor report warning that the ghetto family was in disarray. Entitled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," the prophetic report prompted civil rights leaders, academics, politicians, and pundits to make a momentous-and, as time has shown, tragically wrong-decision about how to frame the national discussion about poverty.<snip>
Community-Based Policing: Round And Round And Back Again
Over And Over And Over
August 2, 2005
An advantage, or disadvantage, of having been in the news racket too long is that you see the same nostrums proposed again and again. One of these, "community-based policing," was briefly popular during my long and fascinating years on the police beat for the Washington Times. I hear noises on the web to suggest that it may be returning. A few thoughts:
Community-based-policing is a well-intentioned cure-all for crime. The idea is that the police should mingle with the people, and come to be loved, so that the people help them to fight crime. Instead of those intimidating, remote, paramilitary, and ninja-clad Robocops in cruisers, you have Officer Krupky the kindly Irish cop (all right, O'Krupky) who knows the people, understands their culture, is part of the neighborhood, and so on. CBP has the advantage of appealing to the desire of nice people for niceness. It charms people with terry-cloth minds, and conservatives who want to be thought insightful. Unfortunately it works best in neighborhoods that don't need it.<snip>
(3) Raise for Harvard's President Led Board Member to Quit New York Times, 5.8.2 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/02/education/02harvard.html
By ALAN FINDER
The decision by Harvard to grant a 3 percent raise to its controversial president, Lawrence H. Summers, was the final straw that led to the resignation of the only African-American member of the university's governing board, according to a resignation letter released yesterday by the university.
The board member, Conrad K. Harper, also said in the letter that he had argued months ago that Dr. Summers should resign, and that he still felt that way.
"I believe that Harvard's best interests require your resignation," Mr. Harper wrote in the letter to Dr. Summers, dated July 14. He noted in the letter that Dr. Summers had insulted people attending a Native American conference, alienated black professors and suggested that women might not have an "intrinsic" aptitude for science and engineering.
"I saw a pattern," Mr. Conrad wrote. "Your statements demeaned those who are underrepresented at the top levels of major research universities."<snip>
Little-Noticed Crisis at Black Colleges New York Times, 5.8.3 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/03/education/03education.html
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN HOUSTON
IN a classroom of white walls and black students, an air-conditioned sanctuary from a sweltering July morning, Devon Moore walked toward the front table with his homework. He had clipped out a newspaper article and now gave a one-sentence synopsis of its subject, safety problems in pickup trucks. He identified a word new to him, "adjacent," and a word that used a prefix or suffix, "faulty." He was less than four weeks from starting his freshman year of college.
Devon had passed up a senior-class trip to Atlanta to enroll in the Summer Academy at Texas Southern University here, and at the outset of the eight-week session, he had wondered why. Having graduated from high school, he figured, "I already knew everything there was to learn." That illusion crashed and burned on Day 1, when the math instructor taught a lesson on slope and even gave an overnight assignment.
For some 185 incoming freshmen like him, and indeed for Texas Southern as an institution, the summer courses in reading, writing, and math form one front in a battle to reverse a disturbingly low graduation rate. Of the students who received diplomas last May, only 6 percent had earned their degree in the normal four years, and only 21 percent in six years. Those numbers, incredibly, reflected improvement from prior rates.
In its problem and its challenge, Texas Southern has plenty of company. Nationally, the historically black colleges and universities have a six-year graduation rate of 38 percent, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. That is slightly lower than the figure for black students at all other institutions, and roughly 40 percentage points lower than for blacks at elite schools. The situation amounts to a little-noticed crisis in the very institutions that, for their size, play a disproportionate role in educating African-Americans.
A half-century after Brown v. Board of Education, 40 years after Lyndon Johnson's speech endorsing the concept of affirmative action, and two years after the Supreme Court upheld racial diversity as a factor in admissions, the approximately 80 historically black colleges and universities still enroll more than 10 percent of the African-American students in higher education and award close to 20 percent of degrees.<snip>
And if so, how? And is there any implication for public policy?
Novak on Wilson and Plame: http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak01.html
August 4, 2005
I am off for my morning walk. I seem to be mostly recovered from yesterday's summer flu bout.
Subject: something worse than social science
A book review for “Theory’s Empire”, apparently a discussion of what English literature has become in these days of political correctness and deconstructionism (found at http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110007056 ) has this wonderfully stupid quote:
Luce Irigaray - "Is E=MC² a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possibly sexed nature of the equation is not directly its use by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest."
Clearly our academics have gone stark staring mad, and paying tuition to be instructed by such people is itself an act of madness.
I am tempted to write more on this subject. Is this what academic freedom is about? The right of colleges to collect money from students and pay it to puffed up "Theorists" who spout nonsense and induce others to not only listen to this, but major in the subject? Who have whole departments devoted to "Feminist Theory" and various other branches of this madness?
I note the Academy gets up in arms when a school board in Kansas tries to mandate that some alternatives to Darwinism be taught. Science is in danger. Perhaps so; but I had not noticed that our major universities were infiltrated with Creation Science. C. S. Lewis taught caution about the disease of rationalism, but he never sought to undermine the entire existence of scientific method by teaching deconstruction and "Theory".
The last place in the world that Marxism is entrenched and solid is in the Modern Language Association and our college departments of English and other "Humanities". Now I understand the urge to moderation in enthusiasm about Science as the only thing worth understanding and studying. There is more to life. Man does not live by bread, free trade, and maximum production efficiency alone; at least not and stay human. C. P. Snow tried to show some of this, and rightly. Science is a way to address certain problems, and to answer many questions. It generates technology. It has changed the world.
There can be and are legitimate criticisms of science from the Humanities. C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man did a splendid job of raising important questions, and his That Hideous Strength is a demonstration in fiction of what can happen when we apply technology without thought to ends. That, however, is not what "deconstruction" and Feminist Theory and the rest of this academic shamanism is about.
I see that the city of Fresno has graciously allowed Maribel to plead guilty to something or another so she can get off on probation and doesn't have to go to jail. Meanwhile, the people of the US have been protected from Martha Stewart who may have visited a Yoga Session. Can't have that. Can't have that. See also mail.
This morning I received several dozen spams with subjects similar to "Iraq Bombing-- 140 Marines Killed". The message body contained the first paragraph of a news story plus a link to the continuation. The link was different in each message, but all went to the vbnnews.com domain.
The HTML received by downloading the link contains some kind of lightly encoded script or redirect function. I haven't tried to figure out what it does, but it's definitely evil.
I've also received a few spams recently with subjects similar to "Message ID 73010 - Message from eBay Member (eBay)". These are fairly ordinary phishing messages with the usual bad grammar, but with one interesting exception. The link they want the user to click actually DOES go to eBay:
Somehow, the phisher figured out how to get eBay's server to redirect a request to his own site. I haven't followed this one through either, but I'm sure it's also evil, and may trap people who think it's sufficient to examine the URL to make sure it goes to the expected domain.
Cultural Differences Complicate a Georgia Drug Sting Operation New York Times, 5.8.4 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/04/national/04meth.html
By KATE ZERNIKE
ROME, Ga., July 29 - When they charged 49 convenience store clerks and owners in rural northwest Georgia with selling materials used to make methamphetamine, federal prosecutors declared that they had conclusive evidence. Hidden microphones and cameras, they said, had caught the workers acknowledging that the products would be used to make the drug.
But weeks of court motions have produced many questions. Forty-four of the defendants are Indian immigrants - 32, mostly unrelated, are named Patel - and many spoke little more than the kind of transactional English mocked in sitcoms.
So when a government informant told store clerks that he needed the cold medicine, matches and camping fuel to "finish up a cook," some of them said they figured he must have meant something about barbecue.
The case of Operation Meth Merchant illustrates another difficulty for law enforcement officials fighting methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that can be made with ordinary grocery store items.
Many states, including Georgia, have recently enacted laws restricting the sale of common cold medicines like Sudafed, and nationwide, the police are telling merchants to be suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter. Walgreens agreed this week to pay $1.3 million for failing to monitor the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine that was bought by a methamphetamine dealer in Texas. <snip>
What kind of horrible criminal would go buy charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil, and kitty litter? Or sell those terrible things without reporting it? Throw them under the prison. Uh -- but I saw all those items in a shopping basket the other day. I might even buy all those in one trip myself. I don't have a cat, so I probably wouldn't get kitty litter, but perhaps I might as a favor to a neighbor.
The 18th Article of Amendment to the Constitution was required to make the Volstead Act -- which made making or possessing ethyl alcoholic beverages a Federal Crime -- constitutional. That Article was repealed. Precisely which Article of Amendment makes marijuana a Federal Crime has not been explained to me, but doubtless someone knows. And which Article makes it illegal to sell aluminum foil and kitty litter really escapes me.
The drug problem is serious -- and the war is lost. We jail 10% of the black male population of the US on drug charges (I made that number up but it's probably an underestimate). (See below.) The arrest and jailing continues unabated despite our previous successes. It has made the Prison Guard Union a powerful force in politics. The Feds are talking about jailing California physicians for prescribing marijuana in accord with a California constitutional amendment that makes it legal to grow, use, possess, and prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. Meth labs are going everywhere, and people are burning themselves and their neighborhoods up trying to make the stuff. Some horrendous percentage of our police and prison resources are being consumed in trying to protect people from themselves. Now it's the turn of the motel and convenience store owners. Can't protect them from being robbed, but we can jail them for being insufficiently cooperative with the new Drug Lords with Badges. And it's lucrative, too! Look how much we can extort from Walgreen's Drug Stores!
I confess I don't know what to do about drugs and drug problems. I do think it is time to Leave It To The States. They aren't very likely to be wiser than Washington DC but surely they can't be a lot more stupid? I mean, Washington can't even have good schools while spending more per student than anywhere else in the country. The Congress can't run the city properly despite clear constitutional authority to do so. Why can it tell rural Tennessee how to manage its convenience stores? There are drug deals within a block of the Capitol. When Washington solves its drug problem perhaps it can turn to telling the rest of us how. Until then, Leave It To The States.
As to what the States might do, perhaps legalizing and making cheap some form of getting high would induce people to stay away from the more dangerous stuff? I don't know. Anyone who would sniff glue and keyboard cleaning PerfectDuster to get high is probably beyond persuasion and will simply need luck to survive into adulthood. But perhaps not. What is clear to me is that jailing that kid isn't likely to be useful, and jailing the guy who sold meth to the kid's (now absent, probably in jail) father isn't doing us much good (and besides we are more likely to have jailed the father than the supplier).
Having a good universal crime like possession of kitty litter, coffee filters, and camp stove fluid is good for the anarcho-tyranny state which thrives on being able to threaten anyone with jail who doesn't "cooperate" by finking on someone else; but it's not so hot for a self governing republic.
Am I concerned with people use addicting drugs? Yes, of course. Do I think that in itself is a crime? Probably not. Getting drunk isn't a crime. Public drunkenness and disorderly conduct is, some places and times, isn't some others (Fat Tuesday in New Orleans). Getting high in itself, or even being addicted: should that in and of itself be criminal? Jail time? Surely it's not an excuse for real criminal activity but that's not the same thing. Yes, it's easier on the police to get someone for tax violations, or being high, than to convict a clever criminal on real criminal action charges; but I hadn't thought the purpose of a republic was to make life easier for police.
Anyway, you have been warned: you probably have, in your house, all the materials needed to build a drug lab. Now all they have to do is stack it all in the middle of your living room and charge you with paraphernalia possession. But we were born free.
August 5, 2005
There is more on scams in mail.
The last US troops left Viet Nam in August of 1972. Earlier that year, more than 150,000 North Vietnamese, in 12 divisions, poured south at Eastertide. After some initial successes they were utterly defeated with more than 100,000 lost. US casualties were low. ARVN casualties were low given the size of the victory. All territory takes was retaken by the South. This was invasion from the North pure and simple, but of course the US public was told differently. After the defeat of the North, our pullout continued, but it was assumed that we would continue to give air support.
It was a model of how US support of local forces could operate, and has been studied that way by the military. The civil population of the US has in general never heard of the 1972 Eastertide Invasion from the North. Most students in the US learn that a bunch of Viet Cong guerrillas defeated the US, that insurgents drove us out; and do not know that in 1972 and 1975 North Viet Nam sent in armored armies well supported in massive invasions. In 1972 the North was completely defeated. In 1975 the Congress refused to allow the US to support Viet Nam, and the North Vietnamese tanks rolled through Saigon; there followed those shameful scenes of helicopters pushed into the sea by US sailors.
There are many sources for all this, as well as stories: http://www.thehistorynet.com/vn/blbravejollygreen/
An especially valuable analysis is given here: http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/willbanks/willbanks.asp
We did not lose in Viet Nam. As of 1972 we had won decisively. The North went back and built a new army, hoping that the US would eventually abandon its South Viet Nam ally, forfeit all the blood and treasure put there to defend South Viet Nam, and betray our supporters to the tender mercies of the North with concentration camps, forced emigration, and firing squads.
The US soldiers who served in Viet Nam can be proud. They won a victory. Those who betrayed them in the US, on the campuses and in the Congress, can plead that they didn't know, and perhaps convince themselves they had no duty to find out before beginning to chant Hey Hey Ho Ho. The Congress voted ARVN in 1975 20 rifle cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man as support. It wasn't enough; perhaps the Democrats can plead they did not know that would not be enough to resist a massive invasion of 150,000 men and 7 armored divisions. Perhaps they can remain proud of their dedication to their cause; but they can remain that way only by ignoring the facts.
The US was not defeated by insurgents. ARVN was defeated by a massive invasion of tanks and trucks supplied by the USSR, with plenty of ammunition. ARVN was abandoned by the Americans. We can all be proud of those scenes of desperation in the last days.
I find your candor regarding the source of your claim that 10% of the black population is jailed on drug charges refreshing. Nonetheless, your figure is inflated. In 2003 9.3% of black males between 25 and 29 were imprisoned. For black males between 45 and 54, the percentage dropped to 3.5 (strangely, the rate of imprisonment for whites remained stable at 1.1% of the white population in both of these age categories). The rate for imprisonment of black women was much lower. Accordingly, the percentage of the black population that is imprisoned is much less than 10%. My figures come from the USDOJ (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p03.pdf). Nevertheless, your point remains valid -- the percentage of blacks who are imprisoned is staggering. I (35 y.o. white male) do not personally know a single person in prison. If I were a young black male, I would probably know a variety of people currently in prison and a number of people on parole or released from prison.
I thank you for the correction but I do not think my point is less valid.
I have mail from people who seem to think I advocate making drugs legal. I do not. I advocate taking the Federal Government out of the picture except as part of border control, and perhaps actual Interstate shipments (without the fiction that anything that exists is interstate commerce because it might conceivably be shipped interstate, or, if it be immobile, be owned by someone out of state).
I advocate Leaving It To The States. Most will, probably, continue more or less as they do now. Some will try other approaches. But at least it is no longer a Big Federal Industry.
One approach is to make sales criminal, but simple possession and use not so. That is attempted here and there now, but the Federal involvement limits the ways one can experiment. As I have repeatedly said, I have no solutions. I only know that one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that next time the results will be different. That, I put to you, is a description of the War on Drugs.
Subject: Prison Population
I just found the statistics for prison population in 2004 (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim04.pdf), and markedly higher percentages of blacks are imprisoned in 2004 than in 2003. In 2004, 12.6% of the black male population aged 25-29 was imprisoned and 4.5% of the male population aged 45-54 (again, white males held steady at 1.7% in the different age groups). Black women are imprisoned at a rate of far less than 1% of the female black population, but black women aged 35-39 almost hit 1%.
As I said, I am grateful for the correction but I made up my original estimate. It wasn't far off enough to change my views.
I have added a few more words to my story of the Lost Victory.
And received this:
I find your "revisionist" view of the Vietnam war utterly reprehensible.
The comment, "we did not lose in Viet Nam. As of 1972 we had won decisively" is incredibly arrogant and brash. We lost the war the minute we set foot in that country back in 1961. I would recommend refreshing your memory on the disastrous war by viewing the Vietnam time line at http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1969.html
I think a visit to the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C or Portland, Oregon (plus a visit to Vietnam today) would ameliorate your warped perspective of the debacle that took so many American and foreign lives needlessly.
Regards, --Dan Packard
The worst of it is I remain utterly and reprehensibly committed to my views: as 1972 ended, the borders were stable, there was essentially no insurgency in South Viet Nam, and the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam had defeated an invasion of 150,000 men comprising 12 divisions; and though they lost some territory at the beginning they retook it all. Of the 150,000 who came south in the Eastertide Offensive, fewer than 50,000 North Vietnamese ever got home again. That is called victory. US Casualties in Viet Nam were about 400, compared to over a thousand lost in the United States itself that year.
As to my warped perspective, I do not think that the North Vietnamese Communists are better masters of South Viet Nam.
Your implication that I am either unaware of or uncaring about the US casualties in a war that was begun by Kennedy, continued by Johnson, and won by Nixon is loathsome but not astonishing. And I repeat: by 1972 we had won decisively. Had we continued to support the South, and had we enforced the provisions of the cease fire we signed, the invasion of 1975 would have been stopped with great losses to the enemy.
My memory, sir, needs less refreshing than yours. You might stop this illusion of some kind of insurgency and realize that South Viet Nam fell to an armed invasion with armored divisions well supplied by the USSR.
From your own source:
January 8, 1975 - NVA general staff plan for the invasion of South Vietnam by 20 divisions is approved by North Vietnam's Politburo. By now, the Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese Army is the fifth largest in the world. It anticipates a two year struggle for victory. But in reality, South Vietnam's forces will collapse in only 55 days.
January 14, 1975 - Testifying before Congress, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger states that the U.S. is not living up to its earlier promise to South Vietnam's President Thieu of "severe retaliatory action" in the event North Vietnam violated the Paris peace treaty.
Do you have similar views of World War II? There are plenty of memorials to the fallen, there, too. Does that mean we did not win? As to when we lost, I would say that it began when Kennedy allowed his aids to talk him into approving the assassination of Diem. Diem, the premier who dismissed his Emperor and declared a Republic; who was certainly not a perfect Jeffersonian, but was certainly a preferable master to the Communists in the North. Kennedy made it clear that if you ask the US for aid, you personally will probably not survive; not a message I would send.
Eisenhower declined to get us into Viet Nam. That is a defensible position. But once we declared that we were going to defend the place, and put our blood and treasure there, it became a different story. In fact we held on long enough in terms of Realpolitick and perhaps that is all we need be concerned about. But the fact remains that we won decisively in 1972, and threw away that victory in 1975.
August 7. 2005
It's also column deadlines day.
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