THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 397 January 16 - 22, 2006
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January 16, 2005
We have visitors today. My desk is almost cleaned off. I have a zillion photographs of The Granddaughter and Sable, who like each other.
Back to real work tomorrow. As of just now they haven't put up the new installments of my CES report or the BYTE column, but there is the report Alex and Dan and Eric and Ernest wrote, with lots of pictures. Theirs is more technical than mine, which was more about impressions of the show. You'll find all that at www.byte.com along with a lot of archives, mostly good stuff. every now and then I meet someone who reads this web site but doesn't know about the column, which is why this paragraph. My old BYTE column still appears at http://www.byte.com; I write it all at once at the beginning of the month, and they break it into chunks and post some more each week, usually on Monday. I also do show reports, generally filed from the show itself; those go up by what I can only describe as whim, sometimes coming out the day I write them, sometimes not for a week after. So it goes.
We are off to the Zoo shortly. Haven't been in a while since Niven and I went over to meet the Red Men otherwise known as the Orangutans. Twenty years ago my cousin Dr. George Pournelle was Curator of Mammals at the San Diego Zoo and we got inside and backstage tours, but not recently. I promise to stay out of the Komodo Dragon cage in any event.
|This week:||Tuesday, January
The house is returning to normal.
Meanwhile, if you go to this page, do not say I did not warn you. I expect you will hate me.
January 18, 2006
If you went to that falling sand page http://chir.ag/stuff/sand/ and got trapped don't blame me. It killed several hours yesterday and is one of the most addictive traps I know. It works fine in Firefox 1.5 if you have Java installed. If you haven't figured it out, water makes the critter grow, salt reduces it (it must be a slug) and fire burns oil, wax, and plants...
Anyway, back to work. I have to take the dog out to the groomers, and run some errands.
Today's LA Times has a picture of joyful people toasting the Ninth Circuit Court decision upholding Oregon's right to allow assisted suicide. The decision is a correct one, in my judgment: that is, it's a state matter, not a Federal one. But the sheer joy of these people celebrating death is a bit unnerving. I wondered if the celebration could have been held as part of a protest against the death penalty, but I suppose that is uncharitable.
Federalism should allow the states considerable power. It is one reason why I was, not so much pleased with, as not appalled by, the decision on takings: that too is largely a state matter. I would support a Constitutional Amendment making takings a federal matter -- or would I? The Federal Bulldozer certainly gutted many neighborhoods. At one time Urban Renewal was called "Negro Removal" by the Urban League, and with good reason. Without protection of property there is no rule of law, and without protection of property there isn't much justification for government at all.
But we have made such a mess of Federal/State relations, with various academics promoting Federal power to coerce the states without regard to any form of rule of law, settled doctrines, consent of the governed, local democracy, or even home rule, while the Federal Courts discovered fresh new rights every month for a while there, that I have considerable doubt that we can ever recover as a nation of states. And meanwhile the diversity madness has undermined the very notion of "Americanism" and "American culture"; so that we have neither local nor federal cultures any longer.
At one time you could study to be an American, and if you adopted the American Way, which was never narrowly defined but we sort of knew what the American Way of Life was, your origin did not matter a bit. You spoke English, you adhered to Judao-Christian ethics, you vaguely recognized the sovereignty of God and the notion of Divine Providence and some notion that there was a power higher than the will of the people, but mostly the local will of the people and consent of the governed prevailed. Courts decided cases on as narrow grounds as possible precisely to avoid setting out vast and vague rules that enhanced the power of the bureaucracy. But that was long ago.
Without some vague notion of a national culture to which we give allegiance, it is hard to know where loyalty should be directed. Western culture has always restrained the ferocity of the warrior with restraints imposed by loyalty to the king and compassion for the weak. Roots of that are in all our cultures, from ancient Celtic to all the ancient Indo-European tribes, and it's built into our myths and legends, absorbed with mother's milk. Read Dumezil (www.homestead.com/dumezil/home.html) for details.
Without such restraints society becomes impossible (look to the inner city, where diversity reigns, if you want a picture of a future without the Western restraints; or read The Burning City by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for a novelistic view of clashes of cultures of formal law versus cultures of strength and tribal traditions).
We are busily disarming our society, centralizing it, and taking away even the pretense that there is a power higher than the Will of the People as expressed by the bureaucratic state. All this has happened before, and it always leads to the same place.
When the only rights are individual, and there is no entity with rights between you and the state, there comes a time when you have only the rights the state wishes you to have; which is to say, those granted by the bureaucracy; which is often to say, what you can bribe your way to, or win by nepotism, or through favors to the ruling bureaucrats and their unions.
But enough. I have to take the dog to the groomers. Apologies for rambling. I should write a coherent essay on all this, but it isn't easy to do.
January 19, 2006
Subject: bring a hankie
This is wonderful. A.
Bring several. You'll need them.
I have been reading Paul Bremer's book on his time in Iraq, and I didn't need more than five pages to know what went wrong. Not in detail, perhaps, but from the first five pages any rational person could have predicted disaster; and the fact that Bremer still doesn't know that says many volumes.
Bremer didn't know he was going to Iraq until a few days before he left. He had never been in Baghdad, or in Iraq for that matter. He had been to Afghanistan.
He had never met the President, whose viceroy he was to become. His first meeting with the President was memorable: about twenty words passed between them. Clearly Bremer had been recommended, and Bush had taken the recommendation, and wasn't terribly interested in talking with our new proconsul, or the details of the operation.
Bush asked why Bremer would want to go to Iraq. His reply is significant: "Because I believe America has done something great in liberating Iraq, sir. And because I think I can help."
That was the end of the interview, except that Bremer did tell the President that Mrs. Bremer had been impressed by Bush's speech in which he said "Freedom is not America's gift to the world. It is God's gift to mankind."
Bremer had no team. He chose his chief of staff because one of Cheney's people wanted the job and arranged to meet him at the copy machine outside Cheney's office. His military advisor had been assigned t0 him by someone else. He chose his other staff on the basis of friendship and the fact that they had come up through the Foreign Service. All through the early chapters you see that Bremer, like most FSO's, believe that a career in the Foreign Service fits you to do anything.
So. With no plans, no experience in military government, no experience in military affairs, but with supreme confidence in his management skills and those of his Foreign Service colleagues, our proconsul set out for Iraq. Democracy would be America's gift to Iraq. God had given it to us, and it is our mission to spread freedom and democracy through the world.
Jacobinism is the term we use for this kind of hubris, this supreme arrogance, this utter conviction that the world works in a certain way, and deep down inside every human heart burns a desire for freedom and justice. There is no Original Sin, and there is certainly no burning desire for revenge, or plunder, or to covet thy neighbor's goods, or thy neighbor's wife. We have only to tour through the area smiting the bad guys and the good guys will emerge, take over, establish liberal democracy and freedom, and we can negotiate our "legitimate disputes" with them. And all is well, and all will be well, per omnia secula seculorum, amen.
If someone were to write a novel in which such characters appeared, it would probably be dismissed as absurd. But this is no novel. This is the account of the American Viceroy of Iraq during his year of disaster. He understood little going in, and apparently understands less now.
It gets worse. Read his account of his first meetings with the Iraqis, almost all exiles, and his idea of "putting down the hammer" and being firm with these people.
O God, O Ottowa. And this was our proconsul, the best we breed, the best and the brightest, sent to govern a country he had never visited.
Reviewers tell me that this book tells all you need to know about what went wrong. Alas, it doesn't tell what to do, because Bremer never knew what to do.
Having said that, I have to emphasize that I have not finished the book; but from the first chapter you can infer all I have said above. Now I will go through it all, painful as it will be; but the sheer Jacobin arrogance shines through from the first page.
January 20, 2006
and cry. Fred is ascorbic, sometimes overly so, but his ire has been earned. in spades, with big casino. For references to a somewhat more scholarly article on this survey, see mail.
It is not as if I had not been telling you this would happen, starting back in the 1970's. We sowed the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind.
Thirty years ago the Europeans used to say that Americans got a very good high school education. Of course they had to go to four years of college to get it. That was true then; it is not true now. Even four years of college doesn't always (perhaps not even frequently; I don't have hard data, but see the survey yesterday) produce as good an education as did Memphis Central High School or Memphis Technical High School in 1950. I was a product of a "superior" high school, Christian Brothers, and I am very glad about that; but my friends in the public high schools, while not as well versed in literature and mathematics as we were, certainly were not illiterate.
So far have we come in our Jacobin assumptions. No child shall be left behind, even if we must slow the pace of all to a crawl. Soon it will be a crime to know more than the lowest scoring child in the school -- and the courts will demand that we mainstream imbeciles and morons since that is their right. The rights of the bright kids don't count; nor do the needs of the nation; nor does the public good except for the all illusive goal of equality.
Today's LA Times has a story about magnet schools and how they have improved school quality but have not achieved integration. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-magnet20jan20,0,982972.story?coll=la-home-headlines) If you read this story you will be able to infer many things about what's wrong with our education system; but note that those who wrote it have no clues as to what is wrong. So it goes.
And the teachers unions gain more power, and insist that all education needs is more money.
And the suckers never catch wise.
There is considerably more in MAIL.
January 21, 2006
More on the education disaster in mail. See also the letter that follows, and if by chance you have never read Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, follow the link and read it. He wrote that in 1961, and it was prophetic. It is not where we are going: we are very nearly there.
I sometimes do wonder if anything short of blood in the streets will remedy the horrors we have built for our children. Of course we already have blood in the streets, but it is not that of those who built us this horror.
I got this today. I have no comment on it for I know nothing about it.
DG ALERT: The US FDA noted that three patients using Telithromycin (Ketek) developed serious liver damage.
<http://ww3.docguide.com/pe/dgalerts/la?pid=757612&alertid=8> More soon on www.docguide.com <http://ww3.docguide.com/pe/dgalerts/loadarticle?pid=757612&alertid=8> and in the next Doctor's Guide Weekly Edition.
This alert is brought to you by DG Alert (tm), a service from Doctor's Guide designed to highlight breaking news our medical editors identify as being of major importance to our readers.
The Strategy of Technology is available here in html form. I have had requests for the pdf format. That is now available for $6.95. As to how I arrived at that price, I just wrote down a number. The is the full book in pdf, as of our last revision, which is a while ago. This book was influential in winning the Cold War (or at least I like to think so), and the general principles developed in the book are applicable to this day; but all the examples are Cold War.
The following is a button generated by Paypal. It should let you pay me the money rather painlessly, and generate a letter from Paypal to me with your email address. When I get that I'll email you a copy of the book. It's approximately 1 megabyte in size, but I have several different copies, and alas, I have not had a chance to compare them, so I will probably send you two of them and let you comment.
To buy the book, click this button:
If this doesn't work please let me know. This is an experiment generated by several requests for the book.
I'll do a more comprehensive attempt to sell copies another time. This is just to let people know it's available. Note that the html copy is freely available here and always has been.
Interesting: I got an order within about two minutes of posting this.
We went to Madama Butterfly, a Robert Wilson production meaning that it was done as a Noh play rather than traditional. I went expecting not to like it: I hated what he did to Parsifal. But in fact it was wonderful. I do not much care for the minimalist approach, particularly when done by someone with as little musical appreciation as Wilson has, but if it must be done this is the opera to do it to; and Butterfly's death was the best I have ever seen.
I do not think I will change my mind about minimalism. I believe that the essence of opera is to combine music and dramatic values, and that neglecting either is wrong; if you do not want or cannot afford to stage an opera properly, do it in concert and be done with it. I am unlikely ever to be a Wilson fan, but I do not regret going to this one, and I can recommend it to anyone in the Los Angeles area.
Janury 22, 2006
If you have a strong stomach you will not enjoy http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=011906D but perhaps it should be endured. Local control is a good thing but it does not always produce good results. Of course there used to be an American tradition involving tar and feathers and a rail, but that was long ago.
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, 8,000 - 12,000 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. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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