THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 567 April 20 - 26, 2009
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April 20, 2009
Microsoft is contemplating a crippled version of Windows 7 for netbooks. Selling crippled versions of programs with an option to pay more to get the crippling turned off has never been a very popular marketing strategy. Perhaps it will work this time. Meanwhile, it's hardly astonishing that Microsoft sales -- and profits -- are down.
There are a number of interesting messages in today's Mail.
Fifty two million dollars saved over five years! Just by purchasing office supplies in bulk! Now there's an achievement. Uh -- aren't there still trillion dollar deficits? I agree that cutting needless spending is a good idea, but no budget has ever been balanced by "trimming fraud and waste", although that is nearly always the first promise made.
The following observation appealed to me:
I don't so much blame Newt as the various Congressional Committees which ought to have been watching this. But Congress doesn't believe in Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, alas.
It is the anniversary of the publication of Strunk and White, and most writers took a moment to recall fondly their first encounter with The Elements of Style. Not all did. I do not share the views of this essay, and indeed it's the first time I have heard anything like this said:
For the record, I still recall fondly my first encounter with Strunk and White, and I think I learned a lot from it.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
The plan also ends the volunteer military, and the promotion system that has to some extent (not entirely, of course) mitigated the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Whether this is a trial balloon pr just a pundit's musing is not clear to me.
Now one can make a case for universal military service as necessary in a Republic, but what is proposed is not that at all. A "national service" program is something else entirely.
As to up or out, this needs a lot of discussion.
The real question, though, is the purpose of the military, which depends entirely on just where we are going. The World Policeman needs an entirely different military force from the Old Republic.
Regarding learning on line, I have this correspondence that I found interesting:
The reader continues (after an irrelevant answer from me):
It is pretty clear that a number of institutions have managed to become gate keepers, and that there will be vigorous opposition to any movement toward ending those rent-seeking positions.
April 22, 2009
It's cooler today, and I ought to feel more active, but in fact I don't.. Nor sure why, but I think I had better go find out why. I suspect some circulation problems.
Anyway I had a dental appointment, and I haven't fell up to much else all day. Sorry. Should be better tomorrow.
You might find this interesting reading
April 23, 2009
It's cool out, which ought to be a good thing.
The airwaves are full of stories of hideous tortures: three (3) people waterboarded, one man put in a box with a caterpillar, sleep deprivation, Celine Dion albums played continuously, Harry Potter books read aloud, and the Barney the Dinosaur theme.
And, I make no doubt, more strenuous measures were taken. One should not trivialize such matters. On the other hand, one should not trivialize the attacks on the World Trade Center: the first one, that didn't work, and the second one, which spectacularly did. Absent magic, there will be costs to suppression of terrorism. At some point we have to make some decisions on what costs we will pay and what measures we will take. Those decisions will change over time. What we would tolerate on September 13, 2001 is likely to be different from what we consider necessary on April 15, 2009. Republics can and do change their minds about policies; it's both a strength and a weakness. The very success of the policies adopted after 9/11/2001 have given us the opportunity to rethink those policies.
I make no doubt that had there been another highly successful attack after 9/11 -- say anthrax in Times Square on that New Year's Eve -- we would have had a drastic change in policies, and not one toward softer interrogation techniques.
The real danger to the Republic is the criminalization of political issues. We seem to be coming closer to that each year.
April 24, 2009
We have speculated on the consequences of this for decades. Now we need a real policy:
We live in a dangerous world, It is becoming more so.
I have a number of messages saying that what the Bush administration did was subject to the laws of war and thus anyone who participated in interrogation of prisoners ought to be prosecuted.
That turns out not to be the case. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francs-tireurs particularly that last section on status. For partisans to be subject to the laws of war they must meet certain conditions. None of the detainees did.
Now am I subject to prosecution for saying that? Would I be had I been asked by government to give an opinion? Obama has already exempted the operatives who interrogated the prisoners. I do not think he has the political will to prosecute Cabinet officers or a former President or Vice President. That leaves those who were asked for their opinions, and perhaps judges. Is it of benefit to the Republic to prosecute them?
And when there is a successful terrorist attack that kills thousands, what happens then?
The Constitution has little to say about Reasons of State as justification for any action. But we have long known that Inter armes, silent leges. In World War II the German saboteurs were executed out of hand, and American citizens of Japanese ancestry were interned under fairly awful conditions. Had the war ended with an Axis victory, those actions would have been prosecuted. As it did end, the US consensus was that the execution of the saboteurs was justified, and the internment of the Japanese was not; and eventually there was a mostly symbolic compensation and a public apology. There were no prosecutions.
If the concern is that we never again use waterboarding and caterpillars as interrogation techniques, that has probably been accomplished. Whether that is good can be debated, but that is the way things are now -- at least until there is another act of terrorism that causes thousands of domestic casualties and scares the hell out of the people.
We do live in interesting times. We also have a lot of pressing problems.
April 25, 2009
SFWA business meeting. Gone all day
April 26, 2009
Lunch with my agent, then Niven and I will go over to the LA Book Faire.
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 weekly 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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