THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 581 July 27 - August 2, 2009
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July 27, 2009
We mostly played with Ruthie, the youngest grandchild over the weekend. I did put up a large mixed bag of Mail on a variety of subjects, all interesting or at least it was to me. There is also a note on force levels and national goals in yesterday's View.
The good news is that Obama' health care package seems to be stalled, and perhaps cap and trade is in a similar condition. The impetus for change for change's sake is slowing a lot, now that the American people get to see what Obama would change to. The desire to turn the US into a "modern" European-style mostly socialist state isn't as strong as the Obama team thought they could make it be, and the economic disaster continues despite the biggest spending bill in the history of Earth. It will be a long and hard climb out of the pits we have dug ourselves, but there's at least a chance that we'll stop digging.
Meanwhile the evidence piles up on CO2 and Global Warming: CO2 may or may not be a danger, but to the extent there's a causative factor, warming causes CO2 increase, not the other way around. At least that appears to be the most reasonable hypothesis. Until we find ways to do actual scientific research as opposed to putting up money to employ people to find ways to justify the consensus and continue spending, we'll continue to have real problems; but that message, too, seems to be sinking in slowly among the intellectuals.
This is a very real problem. When most science is funded through taxes, then the peer review process takes over. Science administration is a bureaucracy, and that bureaucracy is as subject to the Iron Law of Bureaucracy as any other. The process weeds out silly grant applications and those based on truly unsound science, but it also weeds out bold challenges to the consensus, and the number of "peers" who adhere to the consensus grows. The result is concentration of resources on the popular hypotheses: often a good thing, but no formula for breakthroughs. How to fund contrarian ideas is the real challenge to government funding of science. We don't really want to be handing grants off to the Flat Earth Society, but you know, I'd rather give them a million or so each century than beggar the country in order to enrich Al Gore.
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|This week:||Tuesday, July
We will be driving home today, so this will all be delayed. California sort of has a budget, maybe, practically almost, so the debate on next year's budget can begin...
Until we get home today is mostly mail. Some is quite interesting. Again a mixed bag.
You may find this interesting:
The points it raises are obvious but perhaps personalizing them is the right way to get attention. The only way we can have what amounts to free health care for all is to ration it. Of course once that is done there will be gaming of the system.
Meanwhile they contemplate fat taxes. Recall Lippidleggin' from my anthology Survival of Freedom...
Now if they will come up with something like One Note for the new Apple tablet...
[The result was the collapse of the Soviet Empire.]
Russia can not be ignored, and should not be taunted. The US is not good at Imperial games. If we wish to squeeze the Russians, we need to understand just what that means -- and what it requires of the Legions. The world is safer than it was during the Seventy Years War, but it is not safe. And I am not at all convinced that Biden's strategy, if it can be called that, will work even under present Russian policies. Putin controls a lot of resources vital to Europe.
China is growing. Russia is not. Each would like to control the world island. Neither is at present our ally.
July 29, 2009
It was gloomy all morning, a bit muggy but not hot so it was fairly pleasant to have our morning walk. I took the dog rake along and got enough fur out of Sable to make another dog, and there's a lot more to come. It's good fur, too. I don't know how much it would take if carded and spun to make a sweater because I'm not going to try, but it's sure a lot of good quality fur. It's a bit late in the season for birds to be building nests. They sure like finding wolf -- well, Husky -- fur in spring, but there's not so much of it then.
The House has sort of decided on a health care bill. Not sure what's in it. No one has read it. It won't be voted on until September. Perhaps by the time it comes up for a vote we will know more about what's in it. What I have seen so far is a mess, with contradictions, and building bureaucracies like mad; and the savings it boasts are problematical and likely non-existent. Tennessee's experience would indicate that costs will rise, not fall. It's hard to provide more care for less money. Everyone knows that, then many act as if they did not know it.
The demand for a free good is infinite. Everyone knows that, but many act as if they don't believe it; but it's true enough for valuable resources like health care -- life itself for many. There's a near infinite demand for life and improvements in quality of life. Everyone wants to feel better. Few want to waste away. And of course everyone eventually gets sick, and the older you are the more serious that is likely to be. The result is something pretty close to infinite demand for ever better care and treatment; and that means that health care has to be rationed somehow. At best that usually means delays. In Canada and England those delays can be very long.
One way to cut the delays is to increase the supply. I don't think anyone is working on that one: how to produce more doctors, nurse practitioners, technicians, orderlies, attendants, and so forth. My medical professor friends tell me that producing more doctors is difficult -- the schools are working to capacity now. I suspect there are ways around that, but no one seems to be working on them; there are probably provisions in the bill that in theory will increase the supply of professional and semi-professional health care workers, but I doubt they will be very effective.
Increasing the supply won't fix things, but it may help. Of course that means lowering what's paid, which means that fewer of the really able are attracted to the profession. Some people want to be doctors because they truly have the image of the caring physician, but the compensations and rewards also figure into the decision to spend such a long time in apprenticeship. The same is true down the line to the casual orderly. We want to attract the best qualified. This can be tricky, and if anyone has thought this through to a real conclusion I haven't seen it. Perhaps I missed it.
US health care isn't seriously broken, but rushing into "fixing" it can definitely break it. Surely we ought to think hard about what we are doing. We are, after all, talking about some 15% of the annual GDP. It's not even clear that anyone is smart enough to allocate that much money; but surely taking a step that large requires a great deal of thought, and should not be done in haste?
And see this mail and my comment.
It's a pretty rigorous schedule in many places.
I recently couldn't think of a word which I have used in a hundred lectures: those who make the worse appear the better cause. Eventually I looked it up by Googling the phrase. I didn't really find that but it led me to Plato's account of Socrates' Apology, which I haven't read in twenty years. And of course I read it again.
Everyone ought to read it at least twice in a lifetime.
What led me there was
which I also had not read in more than twenty years. Old TR had some insights.
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July 30, 2009
Limbaugh has just admitted that he can't refute Obama's arguments by logic, and has to use electronics to make Obama sound like Donald Duck. It's an astounding admission. He's now using the electronic speed up mechanism for all his opponents. Many cannot understand what the opponents are saying -- I certainly can't -- but this isn't important. What's important is the end of rational debate in favor of rhetorical tricks.
With all his advantages: he chooses the sound bite, he gets unlimited time to comment on what was said, the -- according to him, and I don't really disagree -- the egregious nature of much of what his opponents say -- with all those advantages, he can't win in a fair fight and has to play electronics games. Things may be more serious than I thought. Meanwhile, I guess I need a new morning political talk show for my radio, or else perhaps I go back to KUSC in the mornings.
Since the time of Socrates democracies have had the problem of sophists and demagogues -- those who use rhetoric "to make the worse appear the better cause." Reasonable government advanced through logic and rational analysis. It takes longer than ridicule, but the effect is more pronounced.
Limbaugh then complains that the liberal media are unfair.
Now I am hearing Obama at normal speed. No comment on why, but no Donald Duck. Interesting.
There is some discussion of health care costs and rationing in mail.
July 31, 2009
The teachable moment, aka the Great Beer Summit, is done. I don't know if Gates and Crowley were billed for the cost of the peanuts, pretzels, and beer; it's my understanding that the administration has taken to sending bills or collecting credit cards from those attending "private" White House dinners. I'm not sure why. I wonder what we were taught by this Presidential teachable moment? That the Vice President likes Buckler, the Heineken non-alcoholic beer while the President prefers Bud Light? Or that Professor Gates drinks Sam Adams Light? One does wonder what Sam Adams would have made of this teachable moment at the White House.
Meanwhile, about 5,000 people in the banking/financial products industry got more than $1 million in bonuses from companies that took public bailout money. There may be some acceptable explanation of all that, but I haven't heard it. It would seem to me that if those people, whose average salaries are over $100,000 a year to begin with, could have made do with a mere $100,000 in bonuses, another 50,000 people could have got $100,000 to make their mortgage payments (actually, I'd expect it to be more like 200,000). With more people making mortgage payments there would be fewer defaults, which would be stabilizing. I confess some confusion as to how this might be accomplished -- the devil is in the details -- but surely those so intelligent that they could create this mess and who are being paid bonuses to do so might be able to suggest something?
I guess I am unclear on just what a bonus is. I had always thought it was a payment over and above the guaranteed salary as a reward for success. Given that the firms were headed for bankruptcy, it's not clear to me just what was worth $1 million (and some much higher) bonuses to begin with. I'd think that if a bank had extra money it might pay back the taxpayers rather than distribute the money in bonuses. There's something wrong with the banking system when it produces results like this, and it's not unrestrained capitalism. Unrestrained capitalism would have produced bankruptcies, not bonuses. These bonuses were made possible only by government transfers of tax money to the banks. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi can explain to us how this works out to the benefit of the taxpayers. I can't.
And the Cash for Klunkers program is out of money, and they're trying to "find" more for the program. Surely it's obvious that a few spare billion might be "found" in the great Stimulus Bill. After all, very little of that has been spent, and the effect of what has been spent isn't obvious as unemployment grows. Now precisely why those who own old klunks and want to replace them with new cars should be given rewards paid by those who don't isn't clear to me, but at least the program is getting money moving about in the economy. It promotes particular cars, most prominently the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, various other Hondas and Toyotas, various Volkswagons, more Hondas and Toyotas, four models of Chevrolet, one Pontiac one Saturn, a lot more Hondas and Toyotas, and then some Fords. It's a long list, and there are some Chryslers but they are way down the list.
I found that list by Googling [ cash for clunkers qualifying cars ] which took me to www.cashforclunkersfacts.com/qualifying-cars. That ended me up with a list, but also a four page URL. When I tried to visit this site again I got a message that the site was banned and may have infected me. That sent me off to Norton to scan my system in a bit of a panic. I've never seen a many-page URL (most of it consisted of numbers like 23467,26743,etc.) I'm not really worried that going to that URL actually compromised Firefox -- OneCare is still active and I've heard nothing -- but I am wondering what happened to make the site "banned" in the last half hour. Incidentally, it's banned on Internet Explorer as well as Firefox if that matters. I suspect it's a matter of overload from people trying to get in on the free money. Of course it's free only if you want one of the approved cars.
[Much later: several external deep scans of my system tell me that there is no malware aboard. But see below.]
I confess I no longer understand my government. I suppose I might say, I am afraid I understand it all too well.
There is another mixed bag of interesting mail including some insights into the future of Japan.
The July mailbag will be up tonight at Chaos Manor Reviews. (Chaos Manor Reviews, for those who don't know, is the continuation of my old BYTE column, and is about technology per se with limited partisan political commentary. Obviously I am pro-technology, and I expect my general preference for freedom comes through often, but I try to keep narrow politics out of that site.)
One discussion in the upcoming mailbag involved the TabletPC and OneNote, which is a very powerful combination for those doing research. Indeed, I have said in the past, the TabletPC and OneNote can change your life.
Peter Glaskowsky comments:
August 1, 2009
I am rather fond of some of Jonah Goldberg's work. I am not so sure what to make of this. I do note that trying to find out what cars one could buy under the Clunker program got me an odd warning. I have not seen that strange warning about all your computer now belong to us, and I haven't yet had the nerve to go look.
August 2, 2009
We're in the process of moving Roberta's reading program from its present host to the place where this site is hosted. That will take a bit of time. Meanwhile, we will have a temporary ordering procedure.
For the moment if you need a copy of the Windows version (which will run on the Mac but only in Windows under the Mac; it does work on both Bootcamp and VMware (and so far as we know on anything that runs Internet Explorer). This program will teach anyone to read, and is the best insurance we know against illiteracy. There is such a thing as "reading readiness", but it's nothing like as important as the school system seems to believe, and the only harm in trying to learn before "readiness" is the time spent. Kids don't like being frustrated, but this program is designed to prevent that. We know children have learned using the program at age 4. The US school system used to believe that all children were "ready" to learn reading by first grade (traditionally age 6 but there were many who started at 5) and before World War II it was rare for children to leave first grade unable to read. (As my mother, who taught first grade in rural Florida in the 1920's used to say, the ones who didn't learn to read in first grade "didn't learn anything else either." There weren't many; in those days well over 90% of children left first grade pretty well able to read, and school readers included stories from many sources including popular writers like Rosemary and Steven Vincent Benet, fairy tales from traditional sources, and such like. The concept of "controlled vocabulary" wasn't needed. Neither was the concept of "reading readiness."
As Education Departments became more "progressive" instruction methods changed, in part due to a change in theory of how children read; the result was increasing numbers of children leaving first grade unable to read words they had never seen before. To explain the increasing illiteracy the "readiness" theory was developed. All this story and more is told in many places, including "Why Johnny Can't Read" by Rudolf Flesch. At about the same time Roberta Pournelle began developing her reading program. She has since employed it in public and private schools, in classes where the students were selected as way above average and in the Los Angeles County juvenile justice detention facilities. It works. It required about 70 lessons each of about 1/2 hour.
Anyway I am setting up new ordering procedures. The cost is about $200 plus shipping. Those interested should send me a note with "Reading Purchase" in the subject. Ignore the ordering procedures you find at her site as we do the revisions. Send us an inquiry instead. I do point out that this is a great time to get the program and get started on teaching your kids to read. Being able to read from first grade on is a great head start (and one that the Head Start program isn't allowed to give).
I'm also at work on the next column.
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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