View 737 Sunday, August 12, 2012
I spent part of the afternoon watching the Ryan and Romney show, and I was impressed. They play off each other very well. Clearly each respects the other, and they are in essential agreement.
Regarding foreign policy: an old friend reminds me that most of Ryan’s votes on foreign policy have been in support of the Republican establishment, and hardly in line with my suggestions of speaking softly while carrying a large cudgel. That of course is both true and expected. Ryan is Chairman of the Budget Committee. A powerful committee, and one that has no formal connection to foreign policy although of course at bottom financial control is power over almost anything. But to get that kind of committee chairmanship requires that you get along with other committee chairmen, and that usually means supporting their policies. You can call that unfortunate, but it is the essence of liberal democracy and pretty well has been for a long time. And yes going along to get along can be a terrible thing, and once in a while someone has to upset that apple cart. As Newt did.
But I have some reason to believe that both Romney and Ryan are closer to my views of American foreign policy – we are friends of liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own, and if you would have peace be prepared for war – than to the neoconservative imperialisms. And whatever their foreign policy views they are likely to be superior to what we are doing now. There isn’t a good simple description of our current foreign policy, which seems to be based on finger wagging, stating that something is unacceptable while clearly accepting it, telling everyone what they ought to be doing without paying much attention to what they are doing, and in generally promoting democracy by wishing for it without quite realizing what it would mean if implemented. Perhaps I am overly harsh, but I don’t think so.
There is a crisis in Turkey, another in Egypt, and others throughout the Middle East. Assad has clearly been told that he is unacceptable, meaning that nothing he can do will assure that he or any of his family will survive. He may as well fight on. Qadaffi found that out: he acceded to nearly every demand the US placed on him, but he found there is no forgiveness. Mubarak made the same discovery. Being a friend of the United States does not assure you of life even in exile. Sun Tzu tells us we must build golden bridges for our enemies, but Clinton, Bush II, and Obama blew up even the most rickety bridges that our friends and suitors might try to retreat over. Whatever will happen in Egypt now is beyond our control. We can only trust in Hope and Change, and hope that the change will — but then we run out of words because we don’t know what to hope for. As the Israelis must know by now. I am sure Netanyahu learned well when on his last visit he was dismissed from the White House by way of a tour of the trash piles.
In Iraq our only friends are the Kurds, who have built a Kurdish state on the Turkish border. Since about the only thing that Iran and Turkey agree on is that there must not be a Kurdish sanctuary for Kurdish rebels on their borders, this brings about interesting possibilities for realignments. Turkey at one time was very nearly an ally of Israel. Now all that has changed, as the successors of Mustapha Kemal are purged from the Turkish government – and the successors of Mubarak are dismissed from control of the Egyptian Mamelukes.
I have no certainties about US Middle East policies except this one: almost any consistent policy is probably better than what we have been doing. We invaded Iraq without any clear goals, sent in the most incompetent proconsul since Roman times, then staggered to a conclusion that leaves us nearly broke without obvious benefits from a pair of costly wars that could have been handled by punitive expeditions. Indeed, the Afghan War was settled by a few special forces. The Taliban was taught in no uncertain terms not to harbor enemies of the United States. What more did we need? But we had to build democracy in a land that doesn’t want it. But enough rambling. I have good reason to believe that a Romney/Ryan administration will not put us through military adventures. They can’t afford to, and Ryan knows that.
The election won’t be fought on foreign policy issues anyway. Both Romney and Ryan have said it flat out: this is a referendum on which way America will go, further down the road to entitlement until ruin, or back toward liberty and responsibility. There will be talk about jobs and prosperity, and most of us who believe in freedom will argue that liberty is a better path to prosperity than regulation and central planning – but even if it were not, is not liberty important in its own right?
We are down at the beach house for the weekend. For the story of how we acquired a beach house, and last year’s communications problems, see http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com/oa/2011/20110711_col.php.
When you are on the road nowadays you are seldom far from some kind of Wifi connection. Hotels, airport waiting rooms and particularly airline lounge clubs, coffee shops – there are Wifi networks everywhere, but as luck would have it, there isn’t one anywhere near our beach condo. I used to have cable modem, but for good and sufficient reasons that’s not an option right now. Last year I solved the problem using the AT&T USB Connect 900, which I bought in the local AT&T store. The device looks like a large thumb drive, and it connects to a USB port, where it functions sort of like a cell phone. In fact, it really is a 3G cellphone, and actually has a cell phone number.
When you get the Connect 900 you choose a data plan. You can choose to pay a monthly rate, but since you aren’t likely to use this when you have another option, that probably doesn’t make sense for most people. One option is a $50 prepayment. That’s good for one month or 5 GB of data, whichever gets used up first. After that, the Connect 900 will still connect to AT&T, and it will offer you the opportunity to buy more time or more gigabytes. I know that works because I have done it.
This time it didn’t work. I plugged in the Connect 900, it called home and connected to AT&T, then opened my browser, and a friendly message told me hello, please log in and buy some more time. AT&T even told me my log in name. It only wanted my password. That should have been all right. I had that written down in my log book, and for that matter the ThinkPad remembered the password because I had told it to, possibly foolish thing to do, and I won’t be doing it any more. The only problem is that while I remembered my password, and my computer remembered my password, AT&T didn’t. It kept telling me to log in. I cursed a bit, and got by with a dialup connection for a day or so, but it wasn’t much fun. When I first started doing Internet stuff including blogging – I can make a reasonable argument to having been the first blogger, although I didn’t call it that because I thing the word blog is ugly – we were almost all on dialup unless we were on an academic or government campus that had backbone connections, and we were all careful to keep our web sites simple and easy to use because there weren’t any high speed connections when we were on the road. Those were the days of hacking into a hotel’s telephone system just to get dialup. But nowadays almost everyone has high bandwidth, and web sites often make a dozen link calls, and bring in fancy graphics, and some web sites are nearly impossible for people on dialup, and I decided to go get my Connect 900 activated. The AT&T store is only a couple of miles away from my Mission Beach condo.
Traffic was horrible. Mission Beach is a busy place and this was one of its busiest weekends, miles of tourists in cars, bicycles, tourist busses, golf carts, roller blades, and nearly every conceivable means of locomotion. It took half an hour to get the two miles to the AT&T store, where I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were five uniformed employees and no customers.
I hauled out the ThinkPad and explained my problem to one of the clerks. I showed him that the Connect 900 was working fine, and was in fact able to connect to AT&T, but AT&T didn’t believe my password, and could he do something about that. Alas, he said, he didn’t think so. He’d never encountered that problem before. However, he’d try. First thing was to get my ThinkPad on the store’s wireless net. That turned out to be harder than it ought to be, because Windows 7 has a wireless management system, and the ThinkPad has a Lenovo wireless management system, and they hate each other, so you have to be familiar with both so you can keep one from interfering with the other, and my AT&T clerk cursed Windows because he was an Apple man. But eventually we go connected to the local Wifi net, and after a while we discovered what the problem was: AT&T remembered that I had an account, but I hadn’t used it in 180 days (or perhaps longer) – so AT&T cancelled the account. Alas, though, my Connect 900 couldn’t start a new account because it was still associated with the old one.
The clerk ingeniously solved the problem by removing the sim card from the Connect 900 and putting in a new one. I told you it was really a cellphone. With a new sim card AT&T saw it as a new phone, and asked me to tell it my name, address, phone number, email number, secret words, the name of my neighbor’s cat, and so forth, created a new account, let me log in to it, and now was ready to charge my American Express card for prepayment of a block of time and gigabytes. There wasn’t any charge for the new sim card.
After which everything worked just fine. The AT&T 3G system works quite well. It’s not as fast as modern Wifi, but the slowness is lagging response time rather than throughput. And of course Wifi can get overloaded easily. All in all, having a working 3G connection system can be a useful backup for any road warrior. The only caution is that you will have to buy a day’s time twice a year else AT&T will close you out and you’ll have to go to an AT&T store to get a new sim card so you can fool AT&T into thinking you have bought a new Connect 900. It works with Apple and Linux systems as well as Windows. Recommended for road warriors who want to be sure of having a connection wherever you have 3G bars.
My beach house writing establishment: ThinkPad connected to an ancient but very good ViewSonic monitor, Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse, and other stuff. I do a lot of work down here, and Niven and I have done two novels here. When we started the monitor was older and the first computer I brought down here was a desktop with a 19” bottle monitor.
There is a lot of good mail, and I had intended a big mailbag for tonight, but it’s late, I am tired, and we will probably go home tomorrow, so it will have to wait. I’ll get there. I’ve got some of my energy back.
and we’re home