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View 403 February 27 - March 5, 2006

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Monday 27 February, 2006

Carnival Monday

See my reflections on Guantanamo yesterday. There is mail relevant to the subject today, and I am sure the discussions will continue.

I also recommend for your attention and reflection Bacevich's latest in The American Conservative, and invite your comments.

==========

And now this:

Subject: Global cooling (14th century ed.)

Jerry:

What happens when you take a log *off* the fire. . .

Europe's "Little Ice Age" may have been triggered by the 14th Century Black Death plague, according to a new study. Pollen and leaf data support the idea that millions of trees sprang up on abandoned farmland, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This would have had the effect of cooling the climate, a team from Utrecht University, Netherlands, says.

 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4755328.stm

Steve

A VERY interesting question. Mike Flynn first raised it in his contribution to Fallen Angels. The onset seems a bit sudden to me: the heavy rains of, I believe, 1326 seem to have been important; but I am no expert on that chronology and it needs a closer look. We really don't understand what's going on.

 

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras   

  I find that BYTE has posted all the material I sent for the February column, which makes this column deadline week. I had thought I would have the weekend. So it goes.

There is mail on Guantanamo, and also we open a discussion of the trade deficit.

  ================

I would appreciate it if someone who knows what's going on with regard to this new Broadcast Treaty would tell us. I can guess and speculate, and I have read this http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060222-6237.html which I invite all of you to do. This may be serious, but it's also a bit murky, at least to me.

 

 

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Ash Wednesday

The port issue won't go away, but there is little new to be said. I do question the foreign ownership of vital facilities such as airports, the railroads and highways, ports, etc. On the other hand we allowed Harry Bridges to run the longshoreman unions during the Cold War. There were threats to use union power to further political ends, such as shutting down ports during the Korean War, but as I recall not too much came of that. (I was busy elsewhere in that time and don't recall much about the domestic scene in the early 50's.)

But if we are going to forbid foreign ownership of vital facilities, this is probably not the time to implement it. That is: if we are to continue our Middle East involvements, and it appears we will, then we need allies over there. If we are to continue to rely on our Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction to transform Arab societies, we have to allow them some rewards for being transformed. This is hardly the time to begin insulting the few places over there that allow us to operate bases in their territory. Imperialism has its price. This is one of them.

And:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=washingtonstory&sid=a.N5uf887omA

The backlash in Washington over a Dubai company's plans to run cargo terminals at six U.S. ports isn't resonating much on the waterfront.

Overseas-based companies operate as many as 80 percent of American terminals, a shift that began when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

The clamor over DP World's acquisition of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. has been driven by politics, because companies such as Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. and Denmark's A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S already dominate U.S. container terminals, said Don Frost, a private shipping consultant who has worked in the industry for 45 years.

==================

 

You might find this amusing. Be sure to close it after viewing, or it will play each time you open Firefox or other browser that restores windows. Thanks to John Monahan.

http://www.spikedhumor.com/articles/16957/
Commercial_About_Guns.html?autoplay=true

==========

And Roland thinks this is worth keeping an eye on:
http://www.ohgizmo.com/2006/02/28/irex-iliad-e-reader/

I still believe the TabletPC will eventually replace all these, but we'll see. The book business is changing and the publishers don't seem to be noticing. I now own a bunch of ISBN numbers, and now to see which of my works are no longer in print and might be published in ebook format.

===========

Subject: Really Neat Idea...

I just ran across this site and did not remember if you had mentioned it before or not. I think it is a wonderful idea, though I am not sure it is entirely legal or not.

They store older versions of software here for download. Sometimes, you really do need the a copy of the software 3 versions ago!

 -Paul

http://www.oldversion.com/

=============

Repeated from yesterday:

I would appreciate it if someone who knows what's going on with regard to this new Broadcast Treaty would tell us. I can guess and speculate, and I have read this http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060222-6237.html which I invite all of you to do. This may be serious, but it's also a bit murky, at least to me. Enlightenment appreciated.

==========

Subject: Army Public Affairs: Army testing unmanned Stryker convoys

http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/read.php?story_id_key=8606 

Dear Jerry:

This is rather fascinating.

Francis

Indeed. Thank you.

======

And for those interested, an article by Derbyshire, and a comment. I found both interesting.  Recommended.

http://www.olimu.com/WebJournalism/Texts/
Commentary/HesperophobiaContinued.htm

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/060226_derbyshire.htm

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

==============

William Dillon I have your subscription payment but I don't have your email address! Thanks.

Bob Guzik I have your subscription payment but I don't have your email address! Thanks.

===============

An important essay worth your reading:

The Return of Patriarchy

By Phillip Longman

March/April 2006

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3376

Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It's more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

"If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do without that nuisance." So proclaimed the Roman general, statesman, and censor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, in 131 B.C. Still, he went on to plead, falling birthrates required that Roman men fulfill their duty to reproduce, no matter how irritating Roman women might have become. "Since nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure."

With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population-at least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and his many modern acolytes.

Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next-from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.<snip>

When the people who produce the goods that make civilization possible stop having kids, then we will all depend on the children of those who don't produce much. How long a First World civilization can be sustained under these circumstances is worth discussion. Robots take up much of the slack...

Science Fiction has dealt with this for a long time. See "The Little Black Bag" by Kornbluth as one of the best.

Of course the Roman general understood the situation thoroughly. Betty Friedan has seen that the problem is current as well as historical.  (And see mail)

============

Octavia Butler, RIP  I never knew her well. We shared a couple of book signings, and had coffee at conventions. Steve Barnes was a closer friend, and his web site is the right place for more information and to express sympathy.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-butler28feb28,1,1152401.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

Octavia Butler, 58; Author Opened the Galaxies of Science Fiction to Blacks

Is just not quite correct. We had black science fiction writers before Butler, and she would never have made that claim. But she was a good writer and a good if not close friend.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

The FEMA debates continue and no one says what is obvious: the whole thing is a failure and needs to be abolished.

Jimmy Carter in his wisdom converted Civil Defense, which sounded military and was a threat to the Soviet Union, into FEMA. Civil Defense was structured around mostly local organizations. Local groups were in charge, local groups stockpiled supplies for the kinds of problems they might expect. Communications drills were held. Much of the work was by volunteers.

Jimmy Carter, in his wisdom, converted that into a Federal Bureaucracy. Thus, in Mississippi, an Indian two-star general was brought in to tell Mississippi people how to react. People on the ground in Biloxi had to send requests through this northern general headquartered in Jackson even if the equipment was 200 feet away from those who needed it. And so forth.

Whether a local Civil Defense organization in New Orleans could have functioned given that it was the most corrupt and least efficient city in the country, where inhabitants were as afraid of the police as of criminals, isn't entirely knowable; but in fact I'd put my bet on retired military officers and the kinds of people who were willing to put in time as civic volunteers over the elected officials of New Orleans.

Abolish FEMA. Bring back Civil Defense. And do that now before we have another disaster. There is no way a Federal bureaucracy can respond as well to local emergencies as will a local organization that regularly works with local fire and safety and medial officials.

===========

And now for a matter of great importance from one of our security experts:

Subject: Cow Abductions

Dr. Pournelle:

As if I didn't have enough to worry about, what with viruses and worms and bots ... now I have to worry about cow abductions.

See www.cowabductions.com 

I'm going to lie down now.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

Alarming! I can't blame them for wanting to develop technology to deal with this awful threat. I wonder if it's covered by the Patriot Act?

 

 

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Friday, March 3, 2006

I don't often listen to Rush in the morning but he's in good form this morning: Michael Brown, whom the media could not trash enough in Katrina days, is now a scapegoat. The same people who howled for Brown's head are now saying he was unjustly treated.

And Gorbachev is the man who introduced democracy to the USSR.

Alas, we live in interesting times.

=========

And here's something to worry about:

Subject: Viruses go commercial

It looks like big business to me...

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060225-6264.html

E.C. "Stan" Field

========

And one more thing to think about:

Subject: Port deal-divide and conquer?

I receive reports from Stratfor.com. The last one I received had this to say about the administrationsí strategy in supporting the UAE deal:

The point here is not to argue the merits of the Dubai ports deal, but rather to place the business deal in the context of the U.S. grand strategy. That strategy is; again, to split the Islamic world into its component parts, induce divisions by manipulating differences, and to create coalitions based on particular needs. This is, currently, about the only strategy the United States has going for it -- and if it can't use commercial relations as an inducement in the Muslim world, that is quite a weapon to lose.

Bryant

=============

And now I need to get my column done.

============

 

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Saturday, March 4, 2006

A few words on Harold Lamb and essential reading for pleasure and education over in Mail.

=====

 The Missing Girls

The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration

By Martin Walker

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=220

March/April 2006

Asia has too many boys. They can't find wives, but they just might find extreme nationalism instead. It's a dangerous imbalance for a region already on edge.

The lost boys of Prof. Albert Macovski are upon us. Twenty years ago, the ultrasound scanning machine came into widespread use in Asia. The invention of Macovski, a Stanford University researcher, the device quickly gave pregnant women a cheap and readily available means to determine the sex of their unborn children. The results, by the million, are now coming to maturity in Bangladesh, China, India, and Taiwan. By choosing to give birth to males-and to abort females-millions of Asian parents have propelled the region into an extraordinary experiment in the social effects of gender imbalance.

Back in 1990, Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen was one of the first to call attention to the phenomenon of an estimated 100 million "missing women" in Asia. Nearly everywhere else, women outnumber men, in Europe by 7 percent, and in North America by 3.4 percent. Concern now is shifting to the boys for whom these missing females might have provided mates as they reach the age that Shakespeare described as nothing but stealing and fighting and "getting of wenches with child."

Now there are too few wenches. Thanks in large part to the introduction of the ultrasound machine, Mother Nature's usual preference for about 105 males to 100 females has grown to around 120 male births for every 100 female births in China. The imbalance is even higher in some locales-136 males to 100 females on the island of Hainan, an increasingly prosperous tourist resort, and 135 males to 100 females in central China's Hubei Province. Similar patterns can be found in Taiwan, with 119 boys to 100 girls; Singapore, 118 boys to 100 girls; South Korea, 112 boys to 100 girls; and parts of India, 120 boys to 100 girls.<snip>

I recall warning about this back in the 1980's on BIX and Genie. Now the problem is upon us. Fletcher Pratt notes in passing in his sequence on Spain and the reconquista that monastic military orders have always been highly effective through most of history. And in Asia, wars of conquest in which the rewards to the troops are women have been traditional. (Of course my Viking ancestors used to raid for slave girls. Then they started to raid Ireland, and by some magic they never understood the slave girls were wives and a celibate priest was telling them when they could sleep with them; but that's another story for discussion of cocktail party history; this matter, I fear is serious.)

Another thing to worry about.

And this comment:

Interestingly, there is no mention of this being the biggest eugenics program in human history. (The determination of which Chinese males get a bride will not be random, and it certainly won't be the dysgenic pattern we see in America (least-successful males father the most children (though support none of them)).)

Jim

 

==========

Yet one more time:

A question  I have asked before, and never seem to get a full answer for. Or maybe I learned and forgot.

I need a calendar and task manager that I will use.

For years I used the Franklin Ascend manager. It had the characteristic that it wasn't integrated with anything else, which was good; and the way to synchronize it was to copy a couple of files, neither of them very large, from one machine to another. I could copy them onto a Zip disk and carry my calendar and task list upstairs to the monk's cell, work on them, then bring them back down and update everything simply. I really liked that program, and I would use it today except that the Y2K bug killed it: it won't forward a task any longer. Otherwise it sure was good at both calendar and task priority management, and it was very easy to work with on whatever computer I happened to be working with, from main machines to laptops to the monk's cell machine.

I can't do that with Outlook. "Synching" Outlook takes forever because it needs the transfer of gigabyte sized files, and my attempts to keep any kind of calendar program synched between the main machine and the HP iPAQ pocket PDA don't seem to have worked very well. Perhaps what I need is a form of Franklin Ascend that stands alone. Or, perhaps, I should simply forget trying to synch email (which I find I don't use much from the iPAQ anyway) and just use the iPAQ for calendar and meeting control.

Or maybe it's time for me to do one of my periodic investigations of what people use for PDA management.

One possibility, I suppose, is to do it ALL on the HP iPAQ and never even attempt to synch with the main machine. Another, I guess, would be to work harder on understanding the efficient use of Outlook.  I know a number of people do that.

My problem is I was spoiled by that wonderful old Franklin Ascend that died with the new century, and I keep trying other things to no avail. For the moment I'd appreciate reasoned suggestions with stories. At some point I intend to make some changes, before I forget some important meetings.

==========

Does anyone know much about this chap Gary Brecher? http://www.exile.ru/2005-July-28/victor_hanson.html He was the reviewer in The American Conservative's review of Hanson's new book A War Like No Other, and on the internal evidence of the review and his web site contributions he hardly seems qualified. While I have my quarrels with Hanson, it is absurd to question his scholarship, or his understanding of the era of the Peloponnesian War. His Western Way of War caused many to rethink their views of classical life, and his The Other Greeks is a contribution to understanding only made possible by his upbringing as a farmer.

I am curious as to why this Gary Brecher would be chosen as a reviewer, and why any of us should pay attention to his reviews. I confess I never heard of him until I saw, not his review which I must have passed over, but a letter in TAC about his review quoting some of his, uh, shrill remarks. I looked him up and failed to find anything persuasive. (Turns out I have heard of him, but did not remember.)

I confess this isn't an urgent matter.

================

Roland points out that Hanson is wrong in most of what he says about Iraq. Yes, and we've said that here. It hardly lessens his expertise on Classical Warfare. Kagan has been wrong in some -- many --  of his applications of history to modern times, but it hardly makes him less learned regarding Thucydides. Take Hanson to task for his interpretation of modern events, by all means; but to let one's disagreement with his policies lead to the kind of hatchet job Brecher did in The American Conservative does no favors to the magazine or the conservative cause. I had never thought that a conservative position entitled one to use any stick to beat one's enemies, or for that matter, to rejoice when one's country blunders into a pickle and it all begins to dill. I don't like the Iraqi situation much and I'd be pleased to find a way out with some dignity and honor -- including honor to those who fell in Mesopotamia obedient to our commands.

From what I have read by both of them, I would far rather spend an evening -- or a semester -- with Victor Hanson than with Gary Brecher. I suspect I would learn more.

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, March 5, 2006

Column work today

 

 

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