THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 569 May 4 - 10, 2009
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May 4, 2009
I am a bit behind today. I need to get to work on the column, Mamelukes is calling, and it's late. It's a beautiful spring day out there. Pollen count is high.
I've been under attack from a robot using my subscription buttons, and that's taken some time. We're dealing with it. Apparently it's not directed at me, it's just a robot going about its business. And the spam gets heavier every day.
Signs of the times: our morning walk was a different route that took me past a corner we don't get to every day. For 30 years someone has been feeding pigeons at that corner, and there would be 25 to 35 pigeons on the utility wires waiting around. Today they were gone. It's not impossible that the pigeon feeder has died, but it's more likely that the recession has put the shop out of business. In any event they are gone. Ventura Blvd. in Studio City has always had a variety of small shops that come and go -- Sky Dayton's coffee shop was here before he went and founded EarthLink -- but shops generally haven't stayed closed long. Boutiques, shoe shops, various other stuff, all come and go, but lately they just go and stay gone. Studio City used to have the best Chinese restaurant in the United States -- I say that on the authority of General Graham whose office on K street was next to Henry Kissinger's favorite Chinese restaurant in all the world; Dan said our Uncle Thai's was better -- and a variety of other really first class places, all with more reasonable prices than the more famous restaurant row places. Lately that's changed a bit. We still have fashionable places, but they're not world class. That's my impression anyway -- we don't eat out much, and when we do we generally go to another neighborhood. Anyway, the recession has come to Studio City, complete with For Sale signs where one never used to see any (houses were snapped up before the signs went up) and empty shops on the boulevard. When we moved here, houses were $30,000, but that was in 1968. Fortunately we have property tax controls here so I can afford to stay here even though the boom made my house "worth" some ridiculous amount, then dropped it back to half that; still a ridiculous amount.
And I get a lot of mail asking how one can become a writer. I have no better advice than I ever had. See the How To Get My Job essay.
I presume this is genuine.
It's a bit long, but interesting.
Over in mail there is a disturbing note about energy.
Hurrah. See my stories in EXILE -- AND GLORY!! And A STEP FARTHER OUT.
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Platinum subscribers enable me to work on what I think is important without worrying about economics. My thanks to all of you.
|This week:||Tuesday, May
Cinco de quatro hola!
Good news. The stock market is sort of back for the year. Still way down, of course.
The story of how Chrysler ended up in the hands of the unions rather than the bond holders is interesting. The story is that the President made manifest his hostility to the bond holder who made a counter offer rather than "accept the sacrifice" which the President proposed.
Perhaps the story of Tarquin the Proud is relevant. When Tarquin's son became powerful in the city of Gabii, he sent a messenger to his father to ask what he should do next. Tarquin made no reply, but took the messenger into his garden where he swung his staff to cut off the heads of the tallest poppies. The messenger eventually tired of waiting for a reply and returned to tell the story. Young Tarquin proceeded to ruin the most prominent men in the city, making himself all powerful.
There was a time when every school child knew this story, but our education systems seems to have lost that. Of course it is only a story.
And Eric pointed me to this review of the new Star Trek
I am getting reports about Windows 7. I have not installed it since playing about after PDF last fall. I will have to give it a try.
May 6, 2009
Well, it is official. If you do not BELIEVE in the CO2 theory of Global Warming, you are anti-science. Carbon Dioxide is destroying the planet, and if you don't believe that, you are a primitive idiot undeserving of any attention at all. The science is established. It's the consensus, and anyone who questions it simply doesn't pay attention to real science.
We stagger toward totalitarianism.
Amazon today introduces the new -- and very expensive -- Kindle DX. The trend in publishing will be the subject of the next column. Prior to the announcement I received
Whether it saves the Kindle will depend on the competition, but it's pretty certain that Kindle-like devices are the wave of the future for textbooks. I'm doing that column now.
KUSC continues its quarterly pledge drive. The emphasis is on new subscribers. I suppose I should do the same: that is, I have an astonishingly high renewal rate among subscribers -- thanks!! -- but lately the new subscriptions have fallen off. Given the economy that's hardly a big surprise, and I don't intend to spend a lot of time nagging you about it, but I do point out that both this page and the monthly column and mailbag at Chaos Manor Reviews are supported by subscribers -- perhaps a better name would be patrons. We run on the public radio model. It's all free (well almost; there are a few goodies in the closed areas at Chaos Manor Reviews), but if not enough subscribe it can't stay open. Think of this as a gentle reminder to those who find these pages worth your time and intend to subscribe but just didn't get around to it yet. And again, thanks to all those who have recently renewed.
The Obama Administration has relented -- sort of -- on the death sentence for the alternative education program in the DC school system. They're going to let the kids in the program go on to graduation, but there won't be any new students accepted.
The DC school system is horrible. There is no question that Congress has the constitutional authority to fix the DC school systems; this isn't a "federal aid to education" because Congress is sovereign in the District. They throw money at the schools, and I believe DC spends more per pupil than any other school district in the country. The schools are so awful that almost no Members of Congress or high ranking members of the Executive (including the President) will send their children to the DC public schools. Indeed few who can escape those schools let their kids go to them. The alternative school program in DC was a voucher system, and by all accounts it has been enormously successful.
It makes no sense to shut the program down; it was the escape hatch for a couple of thousand kids, nearly all black, all from the low end of the socio-economic scale, and by all indications I have heard (including the Washington Post) it was very successful. So of course it had to be shut down. Apparently there was a lot of pressure not to tear the kids already in the program out and cast them back into the DC Public School Blob, so there was mercy from above: those kids will be allowed to finish. But the program itself must be cancelled. You may come up with your own reasons for why that very successful program had to go; I suspect you already know.
Incidentally, the Federal Government does know how to operate a school system. The Armed Forces school system works splendidly; it is one of the best school systems in the nation, even though many of its pupils find their academic year interrupted by transfers. It's not an expensive system compared to the DC school system. And it works. Of course the Department of Education does not seem to notice this. Perhaps that is just as well, since if the education establishment learns about it, they will want to take it over. I wonder how the Legions will feel about that.
Incidentally, this note on education and my opening remark on totalitarian science are not entirely unrelated.
From within the Legions:
We have not heard the last of this one. And Pakistan has nukes.
May 7, 2009
I am working on the column as well as grinding on Mamelukes. Had a good day yesterday. I'll be back this evening.
I have heard that there may be a sun spot and the solar cycle is resuming. Not confirmed.
And I am very much under the weather. Maybe the sinw flu has come for a visit
May 8, 2009
Column is in fair shape. I am way under the weather and so is Roberta. It has not been a great week, and I didn't get much done, certainly not catching up. But I keep at it.
I do not agree that Republicans are better off without Specter, who championed Clarence Thomas. One needs to understand that the purpose of political parties is to win elections. If conservatives were a majority in the nation, then it might make sense to have an ideologically pure party and run primary candidates against less conservative Senators and Representatives. That's particularly true in "safe" districts that will go Republican, and I've done that: but even then the first rule was that whoever won the primary would get the endorsement of all the other Republicans.
In Pennsylvania, conservatives and libertarians are no more than a third of the electorate, and Specter, for all his faults, is about as conservative as you will elect there. The nation was better off with Specter as a Republican than with the Democrat who would have been elected in his place had he lost in a Republican primary (he was targeted by the Club for Growth, which made a drastic error in deciding to purge Specter). The nation was also better off with Specter as a Republican.
Of course Specter remains Specter and will retain maverick tendencies over on that side of the aisle, but he'll tend to stay on party lines.
The purpose of a movement is to educate; the purpose of a political party is to win elections. It is all very well to rail at RINOs and such like, but it's one thing to put pressure on them to support one's views, and quite another to decide to go unseat them and hand their districts over to Democrats. Pennsylvania is a centrist state. It's not going to go hard conservative. It will go moderate liberal or moderate conservative. That may not be a great difference, but there is a difference, and it can matter.
Yes, principles matter; but so do strategies. If the Republicans had been more zealous in curbing the Great Spree by the Big Government Conservatives -- a contradiction in terms that was pretty obvious to most -- we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.
Meanwhile I repeat: The purpose of a movement or a philosophy is to teach; the purpose of a political party is to win elections. The two require different strategies.
While we are at it, there seems to be confusion as to what it means to be conservative. That is a complex matter, and one I have been involved in most of my life. The conservative movement was built largely by Frank Meyer of National Review who tried to forge a "fusion" movement; a coalition of Libertarian Individualists from the Albert Jay Nock, Hayek, and Ayn Rand traditions, and philosophical conservatives from the tradition of Edmund Burke as transmitted by Russell Kirk. Barry Goldwater and Jack Kemp translated this into a political movement. After the disaster of 1964 the movement expanded to include a number of other groups, including evangelical Christians who furnished so many of the zealous shock troops of the movement that their views had to be accommodated. Ronald Reagan turned this uneasy alliance into a winning political movement, and Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp extended it with the Contract with America to bring the Congressional Republicans out of the Wilderness.
The coalition didn't survive the loss of Gingrich as Speaker. Republicans retained control of government, but the policies of the so-called Big Government Conservatives proved disastrous. Of course those policies weren't all that different from those of Big Government Liberals, but much of the disaster happened on the Republican watch, and no leader appeared who could hold together a new coalition. The conservative fusion alliance isn't in great shape (it's mostly held together by what it's against than what it's for), while other factions decided that ideology was more important than winning elections, resulting in Specter's defection.
New coalitions have to be built, both movement coalitions and party coalitions.
The purpose of a movement is to teach and persuade. The purpose of a political party is to win elections.
May 9, 2009
Roberta and I were both under the weather for most of the week, but the symptoms are different. I think we're recovering. In my case I was getting worried that my problems weren't temporary. And of course there's always the concern that it's just funk, and if I pull myself together all will be well.
Some of that is probably true. It is likely time to start work on a serious proposal for The Mask on the Wall, my story of getting past brain cancer, and the effects of 50,000 rad (pretty grim on the memory and pretty depressing, too). A lot of getting through all this is mental. Putting that proposal together is going to take some work, and may cut down on what I can do here. That, of course, affects subscriptions. Just now subscription renewals are in very good shape -- thanks! Alas, there haven't been many new subscribers. Not sure what I can do about that. I suppose I ought to look hard at how this site looks to those who casually visit. I'm quite aware that the primary attraction has nothing to do with appearances: the problem is how to get potential subscribers to hang around long enough to read things and look over the resources we have here. There's a lot, some topical, some educational, some humorous, even if some of the humor (Dogs in Elk) is a bit bizarre. We discuss science, writing and how to get my job, recommended classical reading, and tons of other stuff, some topical about computers, but most designed to be a bit more than that. How I get that across to those just coming for a visit is sort of beyond me; mostly I have to rely on word of mouth.
Enough rambling. I'm polishing the column, I've been working on Mamelukes, and there are few dull moments around Chaos Manor. I'm trying to keep up. And thanks to all of you who do subscribe. The KUSC membership drive (ten days long!) ended last night. They got several thousand new subscribers, mostly from listeners who had always intended to subscribe but just didn't get around to it. If you've been thinking about subscribing here and just didn't get around to it...
I suppose that at some point I ought to at least look at Twitter. You'd think that by now I'd know all about it, but when it first came out I took one look, determined that it was unutterably boring and trivial, and never looked again. I understand there may be some people in some jobs whose 140 character utterances may be important to know about: if the CEO of Intel was about to commit suicide I'd like to know before my broker does. Fortunately that sort of tweet is not likely. When Twitter first started I predicted that it would get to potty humor soon enough. Apparently it got there long ago.
If someone finds Twitter valuable, please explain.
My particular thanks to platinum subscribers, who enable me to work on items like The Mask on the Wall without worrying about how quickly I can get an advance.
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