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Monday June 26, 2006

The beach air didn't clear up my head problems so we're going back today. I am going to camp at the radiologist office until I get my head examined. I'll also see my dentist. It's time to clear this mess up.

For those who ordered Strategy of Technology in pdf form, I have your orders, and I'll send the book tonight. It takes far too long at 56K. We're looking into DSL for this place, since I am never here long enough to meet the cable man to get cable modem and Warner doesn't have self installation. [Tuesday: I should have all those done now.]

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Charles Brumbelow sent me this link http://www.secretspain.org/ghostriders.html which leads to a site that has collected many renditions of the song "Ghost Riders in the Sky". The song was extremely popular, particularly among people my age, when I was in high school.

There's a pile of stuff worth your attention in last week's View for Friday and Saturday in case you missed it, including a bit about the Voodoo Sciences.

 

 

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006   

  I think I have sent in all the orders for Strategy of Technology in pdf format. To order yours:

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

==========

Mike Morris sends this gem:

"Tech Support: The guys who follow the 'Parade of New Products' with a shovel and a gas mask."-- Jay Mottern

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

Climatology and Voodoo

From the New York Times

June 27, 2006
The Energy Challenge | Exotic Visions How to Cool a Planet (Maybe)
By WILLIAM J. BROAD

In the past few decades, a handful of scientists have come up with big, futuristic ways to fight global warming: Build sunshades in orbit to cool the planet. Tinker with clouds to make them reflect more sunlight back into space. Trick oceans into soaking up more heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Their proposals were relegated to the fringes of climate science. Few journals would publish them. Few government agencies would pay for feasibility studies. Environmentalists and mainstream scientists said the focus should be on reducing greenhouse gases and preventing global warming in the first place.

But now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming.

Worried about a potential planetary crisis, these leaders are calling on governments and scientific groups to study exotic ways to reduce global warming, seeing them as possible fallback positions if the planet eventually needs a dose of emergency cooling.

"We should treat these ideas like any other research and get into the mind-set of taking them seriously," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

Which tells you a lot. Their proposals were relegated to the fringes of climate science.   What would you expect? Much of climatology is now Voodoo Science, and for the usual reasons. It is fashionable, it is easy to get grant money and publicity if you take the correct party line, and it doesn't take hard work. Note that I have not said that all climatologists are in the Voodoo category, or are lazy, or are motivated by the prospect of easy money and publicity; but a fair number of them are, and they get a lot of publicity, and have become the de facto spokespersons for the "Consensus theory."

The "Consensus" is actually not an actual consensus. Yes, most climate scientists will now agree if required to give an opinion that the Earth is more likely warming than cooling; that human activity very likely contributes to the warming; and that if there is a warming trend, and if it is as large as some think it is, the results could be very bad indeed. That is the actual extent of the consensus. There is no consensus on how much the Earth is warming; and even less on just how much human activity contributes. On Kyoto there is no consensus at all, since it is apparent to even casual observers that adopting Kyoto won't make any great difference in the warming trend no matter what the contribution of human activity to it might be.

One of the complaints of the Global Warming Alliance is that those who don't agree are funded by energy companies. What they don't say is that the Alliance controls grants and gives them only to those who won't shake up the Global Warming "consensus". Most sciences have become dominated by grants controlled by "peer review"; and peer review practically guarantees that all the funding goes to the currently held "consensus" theory.

A prime example of this is AIDS research, every bit of which goes to those who agree with currently held theories of the cause of AIDS. These theories are very probably correct, understand; but there is a non-zero probability that they are wrong. A small amount of money could be used to conduct an experimentum crucis to test the current consensus theory that HIV is the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS; but no such grants will be funded, not even to the discoverer of the retro-virus.

Climate research is in much the same condition. The Big Names control who gets the money; and they saw to it that not much went to what they now call "exotic" solutions. Interestingly, if even part of the money that went to promoting Kyoto had been put into "exotic" solutions, and if part of the NASA budget had gone to continuing the investigations the Citizens Advisory Council on Space began with the DC/X and other Single Stage to Orbit technology development, we would (1) have some concrete plans for what to do about global warming if that be happening; (2) know a lot more about how to get to space on the cheap, whether that be by Single Stage to Orbit, Single Stage plus recoverable booster (stage and a half), Two Stage, Single Stage with Aircraft mother ship, etc.; and, given (1), have a much better argument for non-military funding for X-programs in the space development area.

But the Big Names weren't interested in "exotic" methods. They saw to it that the grants went elsewhere and "exotic" studies were unfunded. After all, if there are solutions to the global warming problem we can hardly claim the sky is falling.

I don't question the use of peer review as a means of controlling most grants. I do say that simple Bayesian analysis dictates that some part of the funding be given to contrarian views. There is no scientific hypothesis that will be harmed by another confirmation (failure to falsify), and the more money that hangs on a particular consensus theory the more important it is to have tests of that theory.

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I am no great fan of Constitutional Amendments to begin with, or the Flag Burning amendment in particular. I do think it ought to be clear that employers, including the government and civil service, have every right to take flag burning into account when considering employment applications. Protecting the national symbols by police power should be needless; if such laws are needed, we have much greater problems.

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

SUBJECT: "Hajiinets" in Iraq

Sent to me by a Marine friend. Thought you might get a kick out of this article, I did... and the photo at the top of the article makes Chaos Manor look positively organized.

http://www.localistmagazine.com/iraq.htm 

Nice to know that necessity is still often the mother of invention. I included the content of the article in case you wanted to post it.

Valerie

 HACKING IRAQ

Enterprising soldiers take the internet into their own hands

By Carey Voss

Imagine: You're living in a previously abandoned compound in the desert with three hundred other people. You have a few rudimentary amenitiesórunning water, three meals a day, a bed to sleep inóbut your electricity still depends on a generator and telephone lines are just beginning to be installed. It's hot, people shoot at you, and from time to time, a rocket explodes nearby. In dreams of a more comfortable life, you miss a few simple things: friends and family, junk food, and porn. <snip>

Hurrah! Ingenuity prevails.

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

None Dare Call It Treason

I have not written about the New York Times blowing the financial operations against Al Qaeda, because the situation is a lot more complicated than most suppose.

First: once the secret was leaked to the New York Times, was it not unlikely that it would get to Al Qaeda at some point? Reporters and editors are not trained to keep secrets, and most of them very much like to crow when they know something secret. Were I Al Qaeda I would long ago have turned some NYT reporters; you may be certain that the KGB and GRU had targeted them during the Seventy Years War. People who gather information for a living have long been primary targets for real espionage agents; there is no reason to suppose that has changed.

In other words, was the publication the important leak, or was that merely an act of supererogation? I would not myself assume that the editorial board of the Times was particularly good at keeping secrets.

The real treason was the leak itself, and the real activities of the Department of Justice and our counterintelligence community ought to be directed at whomever in the Foreign Service or the CIA thought it necessary to betray his country. Of course the leaker will plead that this was "whistle blowing." Let him contemplate that in Leavenworth. Or take him to Iraq and turn him loose.

Given the resources poured into finding out who leaked the identity of La Plame, an act that doesn't appear to have been a crime because her status was no longer that of a covert agent, surely the betrayal of our financial analysis capability is at least as important?

The Times has no right to protect its sources when the source has committed treason in time of war.

Printing their story is not a crime and since the Alien and Sedition Laws has not been one.

Leaking the story is another matter. That is a crime.

I have mail saying we are not at war. That is not true. We are at war. It is not one I would have voted to declare, and it is not a war I would have advised us to enter, but the Congress in its wisdom has chosen to place the nation in a state of war. In war time there have been restrictions on what newspapers can publish; those who revealed state secrets have been jailed; and this by Democrats, Republicans, and for all I know Federalists and Whigs.

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  June 28, 2006

On Flag Burning:

When John F. Kennedy was shot, it was not a Federal crime. It was murder under the laws of Texas. It was later made a Federal crime to shoot a President, but I am not at all sure that was wise. I don't mean that Congress hasn't the Constitutional power to do that, but that it was a needless expansion of the Federal power.

There is no need for a Constitutional Amendment giving Congress the power to criminalize flag desecration. On the other hand, for two hundred years no one doubted that the States had such power (and Congress in the District of Columbia).

What is needed is a statute that says "The Federal Courts shall have no jurisdiction over cases originating under State laws forbidding the desecration of State and National flags." No more than that is needed.

The Supreme Court took it upon itself to amend the Constitution in this matter as it has in many other matters. All Congress needs to do is limit the jurisdiction of Federal Courts in many state matters.

In other words, leave it to the States; which is the proper remedy for most of these matters. Those who want to burn flags can go to a state in which it is legal. Government by consent of the governed.

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

The idiots in Palestine have decided to start the war again. Had they merely shot the Israeli soldier there would have been retaliation and that would be an end to it. Instead they chose to kidnap a soldier and hold him for ransom. Under those circumstance there was little the Israeli government could do but mount a massive effort to get him back and see to is that those who planned the kidnapping do not survive; and to make it clear to everyone in the area that this wasn't a good idea.

No army can permit this sort of blackmail, and no government that doesn't respond to such threats will long retain the loyalty of any army worth having.

I don't know what Hamas thought it would accomplish with this, but it was pretty clear from the first moments what the consequences would be.

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

I have about had it with World of Warcraft. They have clearly allowed far too many subscribers and allocated far too little money for their servers. The result is long waits to get on line, even longer waits for patches and updates, and far too high a level of frustration. One doesn't sign up for on line games in order to sit around watching nothing happening while your computer is tied up trying to get you to the game.

If they can't manage to get enough servers on line, let them pay some subscribers to stay off. Like airplanes that overbook...

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jim Baen, one of my oldest and closest friends, died peacefully last night. RIP

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
 

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetuam luceat eis.
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Jim was editor of Galaxy when I wrote the science column "A Step Farther Out." He was an excellent editor in every sense. Our conversations before I wrote the columns improved it greatly, and his subtle editing, often not noticed by me, made it more readable without intrusion. Niven and I hired Jim to do line and copy editing for our early novels even when we were working with some of the best editors in publishing.

He has unarguably improved the whole field of science fiction. Baen Books will continue under the leadership of Jim's long time companion and friend Toni Weisskopf. He is survived by his daughters Jessica and Katy.

Goodbye old friend.

There is an obituary at

http://www.david-drake.com/baen.html

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

Peggy Noonan on Hillary Clinton: http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110008579

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

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Spyware/index.php?p=837 has an interesting exposition on Microsoft Genuine Advantage.

Joe Zeff sends this:

I just read an article, http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=84,  about how WGA may become mandatory in September. Apparently, if it isn't installed, Windows will give you a warning, and if it doesn't get installed within 30 days, Windows will stop working. If so, I suggest that you start researching Wine, for those Windows programs you Just Can't Live Without. Please note that WGA already has a bad reputation for false claims of pirating, and Microsoft's standard response is simply to uninstall and buy a new copy of XP.

-- Joe Zeff

I find that difficult to believe, in that there are too many stories of legally purchased copies of Windows being thought spurious. On the other hand, if Microsoft wants to commit slow suicide because its management believes it has some kind of fiduciary obligation to punish anyone using a copy that might be pirated, they should feel free; it will be the biggest boost possible to Open Source software. It will take years to end the Microsoft semi-monopoly, but this will provide incentives to make that happen.

I do wonder what will happen to Microsoft products in Apple machines? Perhaps Microsoft will retain all those sales? I know that as Microsoft makes Windows harder to use and maintain, the attraction of OS X grows accordingly.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

I have not had time to read the Guantanamo Decision and background briefings. I do have a question for readers with legal expertise: Am I mistaken in thinking that the Congress removed this matter from the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts?

If so, and I emphasize if, then what in the world is the Court doing considering this case to begin with? Congress has clear authority over the jurisdiction of the courts; if that is being defied, we are very much in a Constitutional Crisis. I hope I am mistaken, and that the courts are not defying an Act of Congress.

As to the substance of the decision, I am not astonished; few Americans are happy with the current situation in Guantanamo. If we are going to detain people for the duration of hostilities, then we need to establish rules for their detention, and that is pretty clearly within the jurisdiction of both the President and the Congress, but the Congress has the primary authority. Deciding just who is subject to the restrictions of the Hague and Geneva Conventions is not clearly within the President's authority if the Congress wants to get into the act.

We have some precedents which the latest decision does not, so far as I can tell, upset. Enemy aliens captured in the United States who have been sent here to commit acts of sabotage are still subject to the military tribunals as set up by President Roosevelt during WW II. In the case of persons taken in arms in combat against the United States but not conforming to the Geneva rules for combatants, it's less clear, but I haven't read enough to know; it's not clear to me why the Courts are asserting jurisdiction in these cases.

They did assert jurisdiction over those who have "conspired" against the United States, a criminal act that warrants punishment, not just detention for the duration of hostilities or so long as they constitute a danger to the US. To charge someone with conspiracy one must show not merely intent but an overt act, and establishing this should be done according to established legal rules. I believe that is what the majority on the court has asserted. It is not clear to me that such matters are "naturally" within the jurisdiction of the courts when the accused is not on US soil and is not a US citizen, but the case can be made that it is -- unless the Congress has removed those cases from the Court's jurisdiction.

If that has been done -- and I am not sure it has been -- and the Supreme Court is proceeding in defiance of that Act of Congress, we are in a Constitutional Crisis indeed.

Will those who know more on this matter please write? (Please save speculation until we know what we are dealing with.)

==========

From a military law officer:

Congress limited the habeas jurisdiction of the courts over detainees, but the question before the court was whether it was retroactive or not, and the court ruled it was not. Not that big an issue, but that was the source of the Scalia dissent.

And see mail

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

It is time for me to get my tail in gear and go write fiction.

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

I seem to be doing about 1,000 words a day. So far all is going very well. My sinus condition seems to have fixed itself. It was, I now believe, two headaches: one associated with a crick in the back of my neck that I have had off and one for years, and the other a sinus problem; they were both sufficiently acute and diffused that I believed them to be one, and the notion of a pain that extended from behind my eyes to the lower part of the right side of the back of my head was a bit frightening. Coming back home to our dry climate, exercises and stretches, and the liberal use of Sudafed Non-drying Sinus Gels seems to have done both of them.

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

I come down to hear the radio is full of news of US Marine atrocity stories. I doubt most of them; but I do point out that if you send people into a civil war, you will reap results you did not want. Men are not angels. Every Western society, from the ancient Greeks to the Celts, has legends of heroes and their virtues -- and sins. The virtues of the warrior are protection of the innocent and loyalty to the king; the sins are their opposite. All the great heroes went off the rails and harmed innocents or failed to protect them; most were disobedient at one moment or another. And all societies have those legends.

And we expect perfection, every day, all day: be armed, be vigilant, live in situations where one mistake can cost the lives of your comrades; and always be correct.

There is a cost to living like that.

There is little cost to those who send the warriors, and even some rewards for defaming them.

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

The Guantanamo cases continue to be of interest. There are several issues here.

Some of those should be interned for the duration of the conflict; since this is likely to be quite a long time, there needs to be some thought given to the conditions of internment. At the least, I would think, they should be subject to International Red Cross inspections and conform to the Geneva Accords: they are not, after all, being punished. They can be punished for crimes committed while incarcerated, but we have ordinary laws and courts to deal with such matters, and those convicted can be sent to prisons.

The question is, who shall have the power to determine who is a danger and ought to be interned, and who was caught up in the military operations? On the one hand we have the Company people who insist they didn't scoop up people to be sent to Guantanamo for no reason if only because the paper work is onerous; leave out ordinary human compassion. On the other we have claims of people having been sold to the Company or to our military by local war lords for rewards for turning in terrorists, or even because of long duration feuds: a simple way for the Hatfields to get at the McCoys. Now: who gets to decide whether this is a soldier of Al Qaeda, an enemy of the United States, and who is a school teacher whose grandfather offended the grandfather of a local war lord?

I have no particularly profound thoughts on these matters except to wish mightily that we didn't have to make such decisions; but we do. The Afghani invasion was necessary, and once that was begun, such matters were inevitable.

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

And a reader sends this:

Microsoft Sued Over WGA

Thursday, June 29 2006 @ 04:00 PM EDT

Microsoft has just been sued over its Windows Genuine Advantage tool. Here's the complaint <http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/20060629/msftwgasuit.pdf>  [PDF], and you can read all about it in Todd Bishop's article in SeattlePI <http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/275780_msftsuit29.html>  . It was filed in California, and seeks to be a class action lawsuit, similar to the Sony rootkit ones: A computer user is suing Microsoft Corp. over the company's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy tool, alleging that it violates laws against spyware.

The suit by Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks class-action status for claims that Microsoft didn't adequately disclose details of the tool when it was delivered to PC users through the company's Automatic Update system.

I can't say I'm surprised. When I read David Berlind's piece <http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?page_id=3170>  demonstrating that the tool downloaded without adequate and clear notice <http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060608002958907>  first, I was pretty sure this would happen next. Then when I heard Microsoft had changed <http://computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9001471&pageNumber=1>  its EULA and its WGA policy, I knew there was a lawsuit in the air.<snip>

The outcome of this isn't as easy to predict as many might suppose.

===========

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, July 1, 2006

I have been building a new system all day, and working on the writeup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, July 2, 2006

 

If you are looking for something to read, try

William J. Bratton & George Kelling on Broken Windows http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/bratton_kelling200602281015.asp

LAPD Police Chief Bratton implemented James Q. Wilson's "Broken Windows" theory in New York City during the 1990's, with spectacular results. Now the theory is under attack by social scientists. Most of you probably already know my opinion of most social "scientists" (if not see The Voodoo Sciences). The late C P Snow wrote of "The Two Cultures," Science and Humanities, both highly educated and scholarly, and each talking past the other. My observation has been that scientists often know something of the humanities, and real humanist scholars can usually follow a scientific argument; the problem is the the universities are filled with "social scientists" who know neither science no humanities, and never will. Worse, having been taught a smattering of scientific method (cookbook statistics) they are convinced they "know science" and "are scientific", and thus their opinions are important.

Ortega y Gasset understood that type very well. Alas, Ortega lived in a time when most truly bright people did receive a pretty good systematic education. Today we have plenty of bright students who have been through schools without receiving any systematic education in anything, science or humanities, and who have gone on to specialize and be successful so they don't know there's anything missing. Every now and then they will breathlessly "discover" a problem, and tell the world that "it's important!" About half the time I have to suppress my automatic reply: "Indeed it is important. Aristotle thought it was important..."

In any event, there is some opposition to the broken window theory; Bratton and his colleague discuss this in a short essay worth your time.

 

 

 

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