THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 432 September 18 24, 2006
Highlights this week:
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September 18, 2006
I seem to be nearly caught up. The column is done, the mailbag is done, I managed to do some fiction, and I have caught up on registering the new subscribers. Now to get Inferno finished. I do not intend to let a few joint problems slow things down.
ought to cheer you up. After which
Perhaps we will find a Caesar who thinks first of the welfare of his own people. There does not seem to be such in sight.
Probably not a remedy...
Yesterday we had breakfast with friends after church, and then I had to get the column out. I also wasted some time reading nonsense about the The Great Harlan Ellison Incident, which turned out to be none of my business and thus a big waste of time. The result was that I didn't read either newspaper yesterday at all.
This morning's papers have a week's worth of material on Monday Morning.
First, we find that the Pope decided to apologize to the Muslims. He began his speech on a nice summer day at Castel Gandolpho (Google under that name for a picture) but no sooner had he begun than a sudden thundershower drenched him and his listeners. Perhaps there is a lesson in there? Meanwhile, in order to demonstrate their steadfast devotion to peace and justice, Muslims continue to burn down Christian churches, including Greek Orthodox churches that have no allegiance to the Pope, and at least one Protestant Church. Way to go!
Next item: various newspapers including the Wall Street Journal are carrying stories about new announcements from Intel and the University of California at Santa Barbara: they have developed new means for gluing indium phosphate to silicon chips so that the chips can now communicate by lasers. This sounds enough like the Starswarm life form computers I dreamed up in my novel that I am tempted to preen.
The implications are said to be profound. On the broader view, it's one more driver toward faster and better hardware, with more complex communications between and among computer systems. Over in Chaos Manor Reviews we've been having an on-going discussion of what we will do with all this new computing power: our software at the moment doesn't really take advantage of what we already have.
Also from the Wall Street Journal: although it's not precisely news, Microsoft is gunning for Apple's iPod revenue stream in a big way. Apple gets 75% of the market, and it's a third of their revenue, and Steve Ballmer wants Microsoft to get its fair share, which is a 95% market share. (That's the way IBM used to think, back in the old days.)
Having blown it with "Won't Play for Sure", Microsoft is now taking control of hardware as well as software, and is betting on its new Zune. Whatever the technology, Zune has to be one of the least fortunate name choices I ever heard. Zune was designed by the leaders of the XBOX team, and will move Microsoft further into the business of making and marketing hardware. Until recently many pundits promoted the conventional wisdom that Apple chose the wrong model: they wanted to be IBM when they should have tried to be Microsoft, hardware being inherently less profitable than software. We're nowhere near the end of this story. Zune will be made by Toshiba and marketed by Microsoft under the Microsoft brand name, with the goal of cutting deeply into Apple's iPod business.
It's probably just me, but I don't use iPod for much other than, with the Griffin adapter device, a splendid little pocket voice recorder. I also put lectures on it for listening to at odd times, but I usually forget to listen to them. Maybe it's because I have so much else to do, but I have never had the slightest temptation to fill my life with noise. My radio is tuned to KUSC Classical Music, but I have no particular wish to take it with me on my hikes. Apparently there is a segment of the latest generation that simply cannot bear to be without auditory stimulation, even for short periods: I noted with horror at CES that I could buy gadgets to allow me to use my iPod while SCUBA diving or water skiing.
I already have too much to read, so I seldom watch video podcasts, and while once in a while an audio podcast can be interesting, I don't usually remember them until they are too old to be interesting. Perhaps the latest generation grew up with MTV and TV all the time instead of books and newspapers? In which case I suppose this site is doomed, since it's mostly text.
In Houston they are arming against "Katricians". Katricians are defined as Katrina refugees who still don't have jobs and aren't looking for them after a year. A spokesperson for the Katricians -- at least he said he was speaking for them -- recently threatened riots and disruption if the free rent programs are not continued. Meanwhile, crime rates and gun sales rise in Houston.
Houston took in more Katrina refugees than any other city. Why they thought that people fleeing the most corrupt and least orderly city in the US would be good visitors is not entirely clear, but I guess hope springs eternal; or perhaps Jacobinism has taken deeper root than many believe.
And finally, just before the Presidential Election the pastor of All Saints Pasadena, the most liberal Episcopal parish church in California, heard their rector deliver a fiery anti-war sermon. This is perhaps as astonishing as the news that the minister of a Four Square Gospel Assembly delivered a sermon against idolatry. Last week, the IRS demanded that All Saints Pasadena turn over all its financial records, membership rolls, and just about every other record that it has, on the grounds that the rector, in preaching his anti-war sermon, was partisan, and anti-Bush, which is again about as astonishing as that the Four Square minister would be anti-Satan.
All Saints is considering defying the order to turn over its records. There will now be a big hullabaloo about defiance of the law and so forth.
I would call this an important issue. Surely the pastor of a religious congregation has the right to preach sermons denouncing the government, the President, the Congress, and all their works? If not, then precisely what does it mean, "freedom of speech" and "no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?
Now it is as certain as anything can be that churches and organizations posing as churches will find ways to use tax exemption in pernicious fashions to evade tax laws, and that some will be formed for this purpose and no other. It is a delicate matter, deciding what is a "real" church and what is not, and whether certain organizations are serious in believing what they purport to believe. That being said, I think no one would question that All Saints Pasadena, a long established church with well known beliefs, is a genuine church espousing "religion" well within the meaning intended by the Framers, and as deserving of the protection of the First Amendment as any religious organization in the United States.
If the pastor of All Saints Pasadena cannot preach an anti-war sermon without being persecuted by Federal authorities, I dare say there is no longer any freedom of religion in these United States.
Tax exemption is a tricky matter; but John Marshal was correct in saying that "the power to tax is the power to destroy," and we all know it; which is why we have always erred on the side of letting crooks in religious garb get away with what looks very like a scam, rather than coming down hard on those who hold religious beliefs we don't agree with. All Saints Pasadena isn't even very radical in these matters. True, they once held an ordination ceremony in which their litany included the lines "Bounce through the mountains on beach balls!" as a proclamation of joy or something like that (I never have found anyone who can explain that line to me); but that hardly removes them from the protection of the First Amendment.
States have some rights regarding the regulation of religion, including the power to establish churches with a tax-paid clergy. This was well recognized by John Marshal at the time of McCullough v. Maryland. But Congress shall make no law means just that, and it includes laws that allow the IRS to persecute the very liberal parish of All Saints Pasadena.
REMEMBER: TOMORROW IS INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY
|This week:||Tuesday, September
ARRR! International Talk Like a Pirate Day
In a more serous vein: the Pope delivers a rather important lecture on reason and faith, and how religion that does not recognize the primary importance of reason -- In the Beginning was the Word -- is contrary to the very nature of God. In the course of that he quotes a Byzantine emperor who was near the end of his rope, who saw in Islam nothing of value and no adherence to the importance of reason. The issue is whether today's Islam puts revelation (the Koran) above all reason and observation.
I have heard no one in the Muslim community denounce the resulting reactions, in which Muslims demonstrate their commitment to reason and civilization by: calling for the assassination of the Pope; gunning down a nun on the steps of the free clinic she and her order operated; burning down churches.
I think Benedict may have made his point, and the Muslims are eagerly affirming it.
Religion without reason is theological nonsense, at least in the Christian tradition. When science and revelation are flatly contradictory, one or the other is mistaken. This is the essence of Aquinas, and is taught in Catholic religion classes the world over, or certainly was when I was in high school. When right reason and science appear to contradict revelation, we have mistaken what was revealed. Benedict has repeated a lesson long taught; as Samuel Johnson observed, men seldom need educating but they often need reminding.
The reaction of the Muslim community was predictable, although apparently Pope Benedict did not predict it. Or perhaps he did, but hoped he would be mistaken? For the conclusion seems inevitable.
I managed 1,000 words yesterday. More later.
The entire essay is worth reading. Weigel raises the age old question, is good good because it is good, or is good good because God says so; or, put another way, is God good because that is His nature, or is God good because whatever God wills is by definition good?
The Thomistic tradition generates natural law: good exists and can be deduced from the nature of man. This follows much of the Classical tradition.
None of which is new to readers of this page, but it is well said, and well worth your time.
I am working on an essay on Iraq. Think bout this: do we want to win? How badly do we want to win?
In answer to several letters on the Harlan Ellison affair:
Which is certainly all that needs saying. I have seen no public statement from Connie Willis, so it appears that the furor comes from others who may or may not have conferred with her, but probably have not. The notion that Harlan, who expended a great deal of time and energy in support of the failed Equal Rights Amendment, is intellectually sexist is ludicrous. Those who think they have, from one incident in which Harlan was playing "Jeffty is Five", inferred something about "the inner Harlan" or his "true feelings" would, I think, have a poor case to make; it is certainly not obvious that they are correct, and there is an enormous body of evidence to the contrary. And that is more than enough on the subject.
September 21, 2006
Worked on Inferno today.
I also have 3 pages of log notes attempting to make sense out of ASUS nVidia motherboards, and failing. That will be in the column.
September 22, 2006
Yesterday was no fun. I think I have a genuine sinus irritation and that plus the neck nerve false reports makes it harder to work than I much like. Ah well. The text Sunday had to do with taking up one's cross.
Reaction continues: the Muslims are now calling for the removal of the Pope, because he quoted a Byzantine Emperor who was watching as the Muslims, in the name of their peaceful religion, were reducing many of the fairest provinces of the Empire to waste and ruin. Now in an effort to show us how civilized they are, they shoot nuns on the steps of their clinics, burn churches, and call for the removal of the Pope; and if there is any opposition to this among the Muslims, it is hard to find. It is one thing to note that most cannot possibly feel this way; it is quite another to see that they either do not care to dissent, or are afraid to.
Civilizations do not fall to the power of enemies. They fall due to the timidity or lack of will of the defenders; or to both. The West appears to be both; few defend our defenders, further reducing their ranks. And in the name of diversity we invite the enemy within the gates, and even allow the enemy a turn at being keeper of the keys to the citadel.
We have sown the wind.
The LA Times today has a front page article which begins with the spinach crisis, but soon goes to more general and important matters.
Which, alas, is another illustration of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy at work; as well as an illustration of Possony's Principle. The FDA inspection budget is no smaller now than in the 19070's; rather the opposite. But as the Agency expanded, and added to its personnel, the actual work it was founded to do -- to ensure purity of food and drugs -- contracted.
None of this should be astonishing.
More later. Michael is here to help me throw things away.
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
Possony's Principle states that left to themselves, civilizations devote more and more of their output to structure, and that this structure inevitably reduces the ability of the civilization to do anything including defend itself. It also states that some civilizations will decay through its working faster than others. The Iron Law and the Principle are clearly related in both simple and complex ways. [The late Stefan T. Possony and I developed this theory as part of a still incomplete work on The Strategy of Progress. Steve never gave this observation a name during his lifetime. In the decades since his death I have observed it in action and have concluded that this a major factor in the death of civilizations, and have given it this name. Note that this Principle was one of the assumptions of the Cold War Strategy of Containment explicated in The Protracted Conflict by Strausz-Hupe, Kintner, and Possony.
MAC USERS: see mail.
It ought to be an essay here, but it was written in reply to a letter. See Church and State in mail
September 24, 2006
Working on column, and trying to keep working despite neck and back problems. Column is going well, and the mail bag should be very interesting.
Installed Vista Release Candidate on a production machine. That may or may not be a mistake, but I do have Norton ghost ready to recover.
September 24, 2006
Column and mailbag going up tomorrow. It has some of the Vista story.
It also has a warning about the Zero Day vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
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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