THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 423 July 17 - 23, 2006
Highlights this week:
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This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
July 17, 2006
Happy Anniversary, Roberta
The next installment of Chaos Manor Reviews and the weekly CMR mailbag are posted. Subscriptions are still coming in, but the rate has slowed. I hate to sound like a huckster, but I have limited choices here: I can find a post with another publication (and they'll ask you to subscribe and have advertisements as well); I can give it all up and write books (but I'm dancing as fast as I can; I have got more fiction written in the last week than in most months, and there is only so much creative energy in a day); or I can try to find more revenue from Chaos Manor Reviews. In practical terms that means building the subscription list because trying to get significant advertising revenue from a web site takes more work -- and skill -- than I have available. With a large subscription base I have a better chance of getting other revenue -- and the place will survive long enough to try. Think of this as an experiment.
|This week:||Tuesday, July
It is over 90 F here, with high humidity. The hills are alive with the sounds of brushfires. And Adelphia has failed once more. I can get email, but I cannot ftp to my web site, and I cannot send web pages as attachments to email to colleagues so they can update my web site. I can send short emails. Other than that I am cut off from the web. Downloading web pages takes forever. To make it worse, I discovered this when trying to update the mail page. Adelphia allows me to connect but won't finish the job so the attempt to update a page clobbers it.
Last time this happened it was about 36 hours before Adelphia got it fixed. That was on a hot day, too, and it may be that the weather is affecting the situation.
Last time this happened, I was able to switch to my satellite connection. Today the satellite connection is gone. The little lights on the modems -- two USB modems, one for upload, one for download -- are not blinking, and the communications program says that connection to the satellite is lost. I have no idea when this happened. Sometime in the last couple of days. It's the first time the modem lights have ceased to blink since I got the satellite connected.
I don't know how long this will continue. I suppose I should call DSL Extreme and see what they can do for me.
As to how did I get this up so you can see it: after I finish this I'll transfer the files to the TabletPC, then go down to the local Starbucks where they have a T-Mobile Hot Spot; and there I will upload index, mail, and view.
Of course this happens just as I was building a subscriber base. One wonders just what else will happen.
Some notes on my racket:
Writing for a living is lonely work, and it's easy to succumb to superstitions. Goethe and Schiller famously had their foibles, and Schiller envied Goethe's supposed ability to dash off work without care. Some writers needed drawers full of rotten apples in order to work. Others have wanted cats in the room. Somerset Maughm had his rituals, some of them a bit more elaborate than most.
When something upsets a writer's rituals -- even those unassociated with the act of writing itself -- it often produces the condition known as writers' block. Since most writers don't like to write -- we all love to have written -- almost anything can be taken as an omen to give up for an hour. Or a day. Or a week. Or a month.
And many writers turn to drink as a remedy.
After all, real writers meet deadlines. Real professionals turn out copy whether they feel good about it or not, good or bad omens, whether or not the rituals have been upset. Since a good belt of liquor will often cause one to ignore the bad omens, the myth gets propagated that hard drinking helps writers get on with it. It doesn't. While many writers can write while drunk, the notion that drinking improves one's writing, or is necessary to get over upsets and bad omens, is false. But it sure is tempting. Having consumed more than a lifetime's worth of nearly every known alcoholic beverage fairly early on, I gave it up, and of course my productivity improved. I have told many younger colleagues that writers probably ought to give up drinking at age 40. Some have taken my advice; all those who did have thanked me. And enough of the temperance lectures. This page isn't a front for the WCTU.
As to omens: first BYTE and I part company and I decide I'll write more fiction, but continue the column at Chaos Manor Reviews and try to build up a subscription base here and there. Immediately the monitor in my monk's cell where I write fiction dies. I replace that. Then the computer up there dies. I manage to use the laptops. Then the air conditioner dies. I replace that, spending far too much to get it done quickly. I begin to build a subscription base -- thanks! -- and Adelphia fails in a very weird way so that I waste a lot of time checking my own internal network and hardware before turning to the satellite as an alternate means. The satellite system hasn't been used in a while and the computer it's attached to needs a great deal of updating as does the networking software. I get that working. I update the web site. Things go well again. Now Adelphia has wonked out again, and the satellite isn't working.
What next? Of course the remedy is to shut up and soldier. I probably ought to delete all this ramble, but on the theory that it might be helpful to someone else in my racket, I'll leave it up.
I'll update the mail page and hike down to Starbuck's to post this. Then it's up to the monk's cell.
Well, that worked. I will update again in a few hours. Don't forget to subscribe...
TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY SUBSCRIBED: when I record the subscription I send you some mail attachments with information for subscribers. During this bandwidth occlusion I can't do that, so for the last day or so new subscriptions have piled up. I will record them tomorrow and process them and go to Starbuck's to send them if Adelphia is still broken. Don't stop subscribing! I'll get caught up, really I will.
Now I am off to the dentist. I'll go by Starbucks on the way home.
July 19, 2006
Adelphia has magically started working again.
Hollywood Bowl last night. Serenades including Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. Returned to find that Adelphia was working. Entered the new subscriptions. Lots of them. Thanks! Keep it up!
We got up early and took our walk before it got hot. Ed Asner is out walking again. I don't share his politics, but he's a good neighbor, and I always like chatting with him. Sable got a bit impatient for us to move on and began her usual campaign: she talks. Like most Huskies she seldom barks (our late friend Sasha only barked three times in his 16 year life; Sable barks perhaps weekly) but she talks. Sometimes it sounds like English words. On a hot morning she wants to get moving. Anyway, Mr. Asner is in good shape, walking with only cane, and he has lost a lot of weight. Not being a paparazzo I didn't take a picture.
The State Department bureaucrats have come to their senses, and ceased to try to collect money from the citizens we are evacuating from Lebanon. I am not often in agreement with Ms. Pelosi, but she was right in this case.
We were promoting Beirut as recovering, on its way back to being the Paris of the Orient, and it's hardly fair to blame our people for taking those stories seriously. I would not myself have vacationed in Beirut, but State wasn't warning people away. Perhaps they should have been, but that too makes for a dilemma. After all, we want Beirut to go back to normal, and we touted the Pine Tree revolution as a triumph of our policies in the area. Remember?
Niven is on his way over, and we're out of dog food. I have to go get some before Niven gets here.
On the way back I hear that Bush has exercised his first veto: no Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research. I expect the "scientists" who hope to get money from that to go mad.
Note that California has put up a lot of money for this research and hasn't even spent it all yet, much less got any results. But the "scientific community" will go nuts.
They have a right to public money, don't they?
Lunch with Niven
Lots of work done on Inferno. Book is moving along nicely, and it feels good to be working again. The computers are working. The Omens are good...
I will update mail this evening.
Subject: Niven and dogfood.
Pournelle said “Niven is on his way over, and we're out of dog food. I have to go get some before Niven gets here.”
Is there a particular brand he prefers?
I’d not offer him the expensive canned food, as my experience suggests that once they get a taste for the “gourmet” brands, that is all they will eat.
Actually we walked down to the district and had lunch in the Good Earth restaurant, which I usually refer to as the salad joint...
There have been articles in the papers about farmland returning to Greenland. One farmer has 300 feet of new land reclaimed from the glaciers. They are now looking to put in dairy farms in Greenland.
From 800 to 1300 the Vikings had dairy farms in Greenland. The Inuit were also herders. Then the Little Ice Age began. The Inuit learned to live off cold weather animals. The Vikings tried to be dairy farmers and eventually froze, starved, or fled.
Accompanying the articles about the Greenland farms coming back were predictions of 30 foot rise in sea level, Manhattan under water, etc.
My question is this: where were the shore lines in, say, 1066? When Greenland was warm enough to support dairy farms, was Manhattan Island under water? Just what was under water in those days?
Does anyone know?
July 20, 2006
Beverly Hills then bombs the freeways to cut off all imports of weapons and cut off the chance of transporting their hostages to Mexico. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Hawthorne Police Department send in patrol cares to evacuate LA and Hawthorne citizens. Beverly Hills bombards the community center and bus stations. A hundred people are killed. When the citizens protest they are told that since 40% of their people are gang bangers, it's time to do something about it to protect Beverly Hills. Crips and Bloods from Los Angeles throw firebombs at homes in Beverly Hills, but they don't do a lot of damage. In retaliation, BHPD patrol cars drive through Bell Gardens firing at public housing projects they are pretty certain are centers of Crip and Blood and other anti-BeverlyHillistic citizens.
Defenders of Beverly Hills Police Department point out that no one has been able to control the Crips and the Bloods and the Columbian gangs, and BHPD has no choice but to end this nonsense once and for all. There will be collateral damage, and we're all sorry. Meanwhile, BHPD is asking for Federal Funds to buy F-15's to complete the job, because they need to cut all the roads and other ways in and out of Bell Gardens to prevent Columbian gangs from reinforcing the Crips and Bloods. And anyone driving in a car is subject to attack by BHPD helicopters.
We firebombed Japan. We need national determination to end the reign of terror of the Crips and Bloods. Do what is necessary.
As I predicted there is a flood of anti-Bush news about his veto of stem cell spending. Most of it equate not spending Federal tax money, much of it earmarked to go to places that the Congressional Experts are sure that it will do the most good, with forbidding such research.
There are several issues here and none of them are being discussed.
First: has the enormous California expenditure on stem cell research had any results whatever? Even the result of identifying what to spend the rest of the money on, and how it will be spent? Why do we never hear much about the California $3 billion (which costs the taxpayers $6 billion to retire the bonds) stem cell research project?
Second: we know that those who make their living at Stem Cell Research are (1) the peers who do peer review of Federal Funding of stem cell research projects, and (2) in favor of nearly any expensive project that pays people who do Stem Cell Research. The question is, are there any mechanisms for project review by people who don't have a stake in continuing the funding? "You fund mine, I fund yours, that's peer review." Are there any checks and balances, any demands for results, any means of ending projects that don't pay off, when there's federal bucks at stake? I can't claim to be an expert, and I am on record as saying that on balance the NSF does a reasonably good job of allocating research funds, but it's also true that the payoff from Federal funded medical and public health research doesn't seem to have a payoff high with respect to funding from private sources.
Third: would the nation be better off if most of these publicly funded research projects were left to the states, so that there would be at least some competition? Perhaps states would specialize, and take great pride in being in first place in, say, finding cures for cancers, or use of stem cells to treat Alzheimer's. California has a pretty good start, at least in money spent, on stem cells, but I haven't seen much in the way of results. Certainly California has the research scientists, what with Scripps, and the University of California system of research universities. Would leaving such things to the states be a better solution?
Note that I am not bringing up any moral and ethical questions about the research for the same reason that I don't bring them up in the abortion debates. Such matters are explicitly denied to Congress and the Federal Government if the Court's interpretation of the Establishment Clause be correct (it's not, but let's leave that); but they are not denied to the States. Abortion, stem cell research, the time of quickening (at what point does a baby in the womb acquire a soul? Even the Roman Church has not always held that it is at conception) -- all of these matters are best left to the States.
My question is, is Federal Funding of Research all that effective? Is it more effective than leaving it to the states would be? Federal funding goes only to the "consensus" research position unless some local scientist can persuade a Congresscritter to earmark some money for his research institution. Is this the optimum way to allocate research money?
I agree that Bush's veto ought to generate some debates, but I am convinced that we are not debating the right issues.
July 21, 2006
I put up my analogy between Lebanon and a war between the Bell Gardens Crips and Bloods, and Beverly Hills, in order to get people to think about how such a conflict might be ended.
What does Israel want? Well, a strong Lebanese government capable of suppressing Hezbollah and making that suppression stick. Then a long period of peace so that the generation that hates Israel will die off, without incidents that recruit new generations of Hezbollah fighters and martyrs.
Is destroying the Lebanese infrastructure, including the airports and harbors and highways, a good step toward achieving that goal? Is bombing Christian villages a way to achieve that goal?
The last time Israel went into Lebanon, they had Christian allies. They are unlikely to have any this time. Can Israel occupy any large part of Lebanon, given that the Lebanese government and Army have been rendered ineffective? They couldn't do it with allies last time; will they be able to do so this time? And if Israel can't occupy the area and enforce peace, is there anyone who can? Realistically? Who?
When you send in the military, you are saying that breaking things and killing people will solve your problems. Israel's army is good at breaking things and killing people. But how many things have to be broken, and how many people killed, before Israel's problems are solved and there is peace? When this war started, about 40% of the Lebanese population supported Hezbollah. Do we suppose that number is smaller now? If larger, how much larger? Has a new generation dedicated to the end of Israel been recruited?
Realistically, Israel is not going to kill off 40% of the population of Lebanon. They won't occupy even ten percent and engage in ethnic cleansing. The Turks could rule that area in peace for a thousand years because the Turks could and did exterminate whole villages. Remember Money's threat at the end of "The Unforgiven?" "I'm coming out now. If anyone shoots at me I'm going to kill you. Then I'll go to your house and kill your wife and kids. Then I'll kill all your friends."
No one fired at him because they believed him.
If Israel says they will kill everyone in a village if a rocket rises from that village, will everyone believe it? Even if they mean it, will they do it under the eyes of CNN or even Fox News? Machiavelli says you should never do your enemy a small injury. Don't take this the wrong way; but what Israel has done to Hezbollah so far is a small injury. It's not small to those killed and the families of those killed, but the deaths are measured in hundreds, not in percentages of the population. For every one killed it is highly likely that at least one additional person is persuaded to take up the cause of Hezbollah. As the deaths rise, numbers eager to join Hezbollah increase. Now it's likely that at some point this trend will be reversed, but how many people must be killed before terror sets in and the desire to join Hezbollah is lowered, not raised? I don't know that number, but I'd bet it's more people killed than Israel can afford to kill.
I do hope that someone in the Israeli government is asking these questions, but I fear it is not so.
HSV-2 is now officially part of the Lebanon evacuation force. http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/articles/2006/132.html
Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle is executive officer of SWIFT (HSV-2).
Reports when I have them.
Sending in a Commando force to round up 100 young Muslim males and bring them back to Israel, treating them like POW's complete with Red Cross inspection, and offering to trade sounds about right to me. That should be enough to discourage future such efforts: sure, we'll negotiate. Hand over your wallet. Now, just how much did you say I owe you? It would also have the approval of nearly everyone not Hizbollah including the Christians and Druze, and probably the Sunni as well.
Sorry, I thought that so obvious as not to need stating.
July 22, 2006
The Grave of the Hundred Head
Might that have been preferable to destroying the government of Lebanon?
Many have said when I suggested taking 100 hostages in the local area from which the attacks came might be preferable to bombing Beirut, dropping leaflets on villages telling people to flee and then attacking the automobiles carrying the fleeing refugee families, and essentially destroying the Cedar Revolution, "What if that didn't work? The couldn't just execute the new hostages."
Do perhaps a Grave of the Hundred Head?
Has anyone a scenario in which the world is better off when this is over than it would have been had Israel offered to work with the Lebanese government, and confined their response to the southern region from which the attacks came?
That is, a realistic scenario. Not one in which Hizbollah sees the light and lays down its arms, which is a bit like the scenario in which Chalabi rides into Baghdad on American tanks and is welcomed as the people cheer their new leader.
I have a long letter from my old friend and fellow author Joel Rosenberg. I sent him some questions and he's preparing an answer. I'll post the exchange when that arrives.
I have to disagree with you.
"People keep asking me what I would have done given the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers.
Sending in a Commando force to round up 100 young Muslim males and bring them back to Israel, treating them like POW's complete with Red Cross inspection, and offering to trade sounds about right to me. That should be enough to discourage future such efforts: sure, we'll negotiate. Hand over your wallet. Now, just how much did you say I owe you? It would also have the approval of nearly everyone not Hizbollah including the Christians and Druze, and probably the Sunni as well."
The Hizbollah response would be well distributed videos of two Israeli soldiers being messily beheaded. Then it's Israel's turn.
I don't think that is a good idea.
Who hasn't got a cheap or easy suggestion, but as a former soldier I want my country to come save my ass.
No government that wants to keep the loyalty of its soldiers can afford not to be seen making a response; but no intelligence officer with any brains considers those young soldiers anything but dead. They were dead the moment they were captured. Technically they may be alive, but the chances that they will ever be turned loose alive are very small.
Many years ago the Lebanese insurgents (I forget precisely which group of them) kidnapped the American station chief in Beirut, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/cron.html ) and a Soviet Diplomat who may or may not have been an intelligence officer. The US protested vigorously for months. Eventually Mr. Buckley was killed in rather gruesome way, having been tortured.
The KGB operated differently. Their agents determined which faction had done the kidnapping. KGB secret operatives then kidnapped about 20 Lebanese relatives of the leaders of that faction. They began cutting off finger joints and other non-essential parts of their hostages. A week later, their diplomat was released unharmed.
Asked why we had not done the same thing, the US response was dismay and horror. Of course we could do no such thing. We did contemplate bombarding the city of Beirut, destroying harbors, blowing up infrastructure. The strategy discussion didn't last long. Undermining the effectiveness of the Lebanese government was not in our interest. More to the point, none of that would get Buckley back. Indeed, the faction that engineered the kidnapping was opposed to the Lebanese government and wanted it destroyed: we would be doing their work for them. The only reason their demand for Buckley's release did not include that we bombard Beirut was -- well, actually, we couldn't think of a reason why they did not make that demand.
Of course Hizbollah would respond by killing the hostages with videos; or at least that's a distinct possibility. But bombing Lebanon's airports and seaports, and telling people to leave their village then bombing the refugee convoys, isn't going to get them released either, or at least that is a very low probability event.
Indeed, Hizbollah probably prayed that Israel would issue evacuation orders to a village, then kill the fleeing refugees. Could Allah send a more useful event?
Geoff, you don't have an easy or cheap suggestion because there aren't any. No one wants to lose comrades. But were it my decision, I would confine my responses to those likely to have been involved in the kidnappings, or likely to be relatives and tribesmen of those involved in the kidnappings. Bombing a city 40 miles to the north doesn't even make you feel good afterwards, and you know it. Bombing a refugee car caravan certainly doesn't make you feel good afterwards, and you know it.
The Grave of the Hundred Head
Might that have been preferable to destroying the government of Lebanon?
My point being that if the Grave of the Hundred Head is over the top, it is at least confined to the area where the action took place, and sends the message "Don't let them use your area as a base." Bombing Lebanon airport and the rest has produced more casualties, including refugees, and send the message "It doesn't matter what you do. We are going to destroy Lebanon, and to Hell with your Cedar Revolution."
The question to ask is "And how well is that working?"
My action: go take 100 young men from the area where the Hisbollah attacks originated, then offer to negotiate, is less extreme than the grave of the hundred head. As to what to do when Hisbollah executes the Israel soldiers, one confines them to POW camps for the duration of the war. And next time, another hundred young men from the area go into POW camps. And so forth. It's more expensive than bombing the airport, but it doesn't weaken the Lebanese government's capability to subdue Hizbollah either. Or build the grave of the hundred head.
Monday the lead in mail will be a lengthy exchange of views between me and Joel Rosenberg.
July 23, 2006
I was referred recently to the real climate web site as authoritative. http://www.realclimate.org/
When there I saw first thing:
I have never heard Fred Singer or Sallie Baliunas say a damn thing about v) therefore increasing greenhouse gases have no radiative effect and I seriously doubt that whoever wrote that has ever heard them say it. I know of no one who disputes that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that there is what they call a greenhouse effect (Farmers will say 'Humph! Ain't the way MY greenhouse works,' but that is another matter entirely). What I have heard is doubt that it is the cause of any detected climate trend, and serious doubt that there's any proof that CO2 is provably the cause of any detected climate trend; which is quite different from the straw men this site seems eager to knock apart.
I didn't see any reference to dairy farms in Greenland, growing seasons and planting dates, almanacs, and other sources that lead us to believe that between 800 AD and 1325 AD there was a definite period of warmer climates. Instead there is this look at wine growing in England. I didn't bother to follow their references because their language already tells me what they are looking to find. Apparently we are to take this for serious "real climate" research and an example of the evidence that the consensus relies on.
Incidentally, most people would call them "principal" sources, but perhaps they have a consensus on principle sources?
Monday there will be a new Chaos Manor Reviews column and a new Chaos Manor Reviews mailbag. We will also, over here, have the edited correspondence between me and my friend and colleague Joel Rosenberg on the current Middle East War. We are not much in agreement but I think between us we cover the alternatives and present the views...
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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