THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 590 September 28 - October 4, 2009
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September 28, 2009
The September Chaos Manor Reviews Mailbag is posted, with comments on the September column and other matters of computer user interest. For the few who might not be aware, Chaos Manor Reviews is the continuation of the monthly BYTE Column "Computing at Chaos Manor" that began in 1979 at the beginning of the microcomputer revolution. Like this place, it operates on the Public Radio model: it's available to all, but it stays open only so long as we get enough voluntary subscriptions to make it worthwhile. A subscription to this site is a subscription to Chaos Manor Reviews and vice versa. My thanks to all who have recently subscribed or renewed their subscriptions.
There is considerable mail over the weekend both Saturday and Sunday, including a long but a bit flawed introductory history of US Iranian relations from FPRI. Despite the flaws it is a reasonable introduction to a long and complex relationship. Today's Mail contains a correction.
We are going home from the beach today and I'll resume all this in the evening.
Home safe. Sable was glad to see us. All is well.
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|This week:||Tuesday, September
Coldest winter in a decade because of weak el nino. Heating oil commodity prices bet on that. And of course Al Gore's fortunes are at risk since he has bet heavily on the upcoming cap and trade bill, which will be renamed and recast but will still result in billions for Gore and his friends. The "global warming" combine may now be too big to fail. The remedies for global warming are now so important to the global economy that they have to be subsidized.
This is long beyond science which has become irrelevant. It is now a story of economic dominance and an enormous transfer of funds during a worldwide depression. The stakes are enormous and so are the lobbying funds at a time when Congress is at a low ebb in public esteem and Members need the money now more than ever.
Note that reductions in the bureaucracy is not part of proposed remedies for the economic crisis. How could they be? The bureaucracies are among the most powerful of the lobbyist organizations. The original notion of civil service was to end the spoils system in which the bureaucracy was replaced with the election of the opposition. One reason the spoils system was thought undesirable was that the politically appointed civil servants would use their time to campaign, and be required to contribute money to campaigns. Civil service would relieve them of those pressures and make politics more honest.
Of course the Iron Law applied. Example: we now have in California a system in which relatives of the disabled can become state employees, and be paid to provide service to the disabled. They also get pension and other benefits. They are unionized and recently demonstrated and threatened a strike because the new state budget was lowering their wages from $11.50 an hour to something less. Of course other and less dramatic examples are easily found, particularly in the sciences and the institutions of higher education.
The Cap and Trade Bill, whatever it is called, is a must have for Gore and his friends, and we can expect frenzied lobbying, more little girls pleading with Daddy to save the polar bears, misstatements about coming hurricanes, fear mongering, and just plain hard lobbying to revive and save it. For many of the ruling class it is far more important than health care because it directly affects their incomes; and for the celebrity glitterati it is very hip, or, excuse the expression, cool.
Philip Rhodes, RIP. Mr. Rhodes died in January, but I have only become certain of it today. He was a neighbor with whom I used to have chats while on my daily walks. A mild conspiracy theorist, he was one of the best known makeup artists in Hollywood. He did Brando in all the Godfather movies, Bronson in all of his films, some of John Wayne, and some science fiction characters like Jor-El in Superman (he didn't do big spectacular aliens). His wife Marie was even the stand-in for Brando in many movies. He was retired when I met him and we talked more about his World War II experiences and his financial conspiracy theories than anything else. He was always dressed well, quite natty with an Ascot whenever he went out for a walk or even to rake twigs in his yard, and after his stroke two years ago he was never comfortable out in public again, and for his last year stayed indoors in seclusion, so it wasn't obvious when he died. We see Marie once in a while, but after she and Philip stopped taking walks not so often. A pleasant neighbor I won't see again.
Warning: Microsoft Security Essentials was released today, but if you Google Microsoft Security Essentials Download you WILL BE HIJACKED to something from Qiyang Software. Google has apparently allowed this or sold the top spot or something; however it happens, don't use Google to find where to download the new Microsoft Software.
I very nearly bit on this one myself: I went so far as to download the exe file and attempted to start it when Vista (this was on a Vista 64 machine) asked if I wanted to run the exe installation from Qiyang Software. I told it no, cancelled the operation, and got out gracefully, but it was close.
DO NOT DOWNLOAD any Microsoft security software from anyone or anywhere but Microsoft.
If you enter Microsoft Security Essentials in Google, Google will prompt you with a list, the top of which is Microsoft Security Essentials Download. If you use Microsoft Security Essentials Download to search you will get a sponsored top link that looks like Microsoft Security but is not.
If you use Microsoft Security Essentials for the search, without the "download" in the search, you don't get that and you will be able to find Microsoft.com -- http://www.microsoft.com/Security_essentials/ -- which is a Microsoft site. But with the Download in the search title you'll get prompted to install a registry fixer from Qiyang software. Thanks a bunch, Google.
Note: there's no evidence that the registry fixer I would have got if I had continued would have been malware. I don't know. And I suppose Google has no way to filter these results.
But it means, as far as I am concerned, that one should NEVER use one of the sponsored links one gets from Google. Eventually I presume people will learn this, in which case the only sponsors will be scams.
Incidentally, I can't install the update on a 64-bit Vista machine. I have tried several times.
September 30, 2009
In theory the Senate rejected the public option in the health care bill, but apparently what they voted on isn't what the Democratic leadership will actually present. Parliamentary procedures will attach a different bill as an amendment to a bill regulating bank bonuses, and thus present something no one can vote against.
I have not idea whether (1) they will really try that, or it's just a Washington rumor, or (2) if they can get away with it. What I do know is that it's no longer astonishing: that is, you can't automatically reject the idea that they would try it. So far have we come from representative government. They still pretend that this is government by consent of the governed, but it's a pretense.
In my leftist youth when we believe that ideas ought to rule and be implemented by smart people who could plan things for everything, we were enamored of a Paul Robeson recording of a song he based on Lincoln's Second Inaugural.
Robeson sings this solo except for the last line in which he is accompanied by a rising number of choralists.
I bring this up as a warning, because it's attractive, at least to think about, but it's a cure that's worse than the disease. It wouldn't succeed, and you wouldn't like the result if it did. The American Revolution produced Washington and Hamilton, but the usual result of revolution is to raise up Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, St. Just, Robespierre, Bela Kun, Danton -- but surely the point is made?
The real cure to this mess is not Shays Rebellion, but the Philadelphia Constitution. That Constitution is in disarray and need to be restored. It will not be restored by a single march on Washington, but by sustained effort to turn the rascals out, both locally and nationally -- and unlike 1994, make certain that the Contract with America is kept. It can be done.
The Iron Law in action, in England
News: the Democrats have just rejected a photo ID requirement for receiving health care, just as they reject photo ID requirements for voting. You still have to have a photo ID with your exact name on it to get an airplane to Anaheim or anywhere else.
October 1, 2009
"No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation," said Barrack Obama to the United Nations. One does wonder what he meant by that. The Carthagenians probably felt well and truly dominated when the Romans ritually sowed salt where their city once stood. The Confederacy was dominated by the North, but perhaps he would say that the South wasn't actually a nation, and thus doesn't count. French Canada seems to have been dominated once Wolfe took Quebec. I could give a few more examples. As to whether nations should ever be dominated, I haven't heard too much condemnation of the domination and occupation of Germany and Japan after 1945. The President continued "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed." I wonder if the Uighers and Tibetans know this?
Why do people say things like this? Is it just a ritual that takes place whenever one stands at that podium? But, he said, "The future will be forged by deeds and not simply words." That, at least, is consistent with what happened to Carthage. It's also consistent with the Mein Kampf theory of cultural domination: "The noblest of spirits can be liquidated if their bearer is beaten to death with a rubber truncheon." I doubt that is what Obama had in mind, but after reading the speech I can't figure what he did want to accomplish with that speech. It appeared to be a declaration that the United States no longer considers itself the world's policeman, and that we will no longer be telling other nations what they can and cannot do. If so, if this did signal a return to the traditional foreign policy of the United States, with an absence of entangling alliances and involvement in their territorial disputes, we can all cheer. Is that what he meant?
I don't know what the final form of the health care bill will be, but I can predict one major effect of it: the transfer of ever greater resources from the productive to the non-productive. This will be done in the name of justice, but it's a bit hard to discern precisely what is the fountain of that justice. Is it that the unproductive deserve more and the productive deserve to be made to pay for it? Is it that the calamities that befall the unproductive are not due to their own actions and fault, while the productive have amassed their resources through luck and deserve no credit for that? This may certainly be true for some individuals in both classes, but it's not so obvious that it's true for all. So how have the unproductive earned the right, and the productive incurred the burden? I have yet to see much of an answer to this question: to some the answer is obvious, to others it doesn't deserve an answer, but I still don't see actual answers. Perhaps it is my faulty memory.
Burke said that for a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely, and there is something to be said for that. Investment in the general welfare was written into the Constitution, but that meant harbors, roads, canals, parks, public buildings and monuments, all of which had to be paid for by taxing the productive -- almost by definition the unproductive don't have much to tax -- but it hardly meant a direct transfer of resources from the productive to the unproductive.
Apparently that's just the way things are. If you're productive you owe it to those less fortunate. And there is a class that has the right to pay itself -- by taxing you -- for taking your output and distributing it among those who weren't so fortunate as you. Get used to it.
Tocqueville, The Associations, and Welfare
Tocqueville's Democracy in America is a work few have read, although many cite it. At one time it was assigned in academic oriented high schools, but no more. It's too quaint, and a bit long, for the modern intellectual taste. For all that it remains an influential and important work.
One of his most important observations was that in America much of the activity done by government in Europe was done by private associations. This chapter is worth your attention. It is no longer as true as it was in Tocqueville's time, of course, but it remains an important observation, and a picture of what could be. Much of what we call "welfare" in the US has been and can be done by "the associations". One of Tocqueville's observations is the democratic nature of these associations: in Europe activities that would be headed by government, or by aristocrats and nobles, is done by the ordinary citizenry. The importance of this can't be overstressed. If you would have a republic, you need citizens who believe in their importance to the republic; who think, with reason, that they are valuable; that they are, to use a trite phrase, pillars of the community. To the extent that government takes over those activities which make the country lovely, it undermines the very foundations of the republic.
The alternative to free associations of free men is paternalistic government and bureaucracy. The bureaucracy takes away all pride in the work done -- think of those who take care of their aged relatives as state employees, and who strike because their wages are being cut back toward minimum wage -- while not necessarily increasing the quality of the work. Mostly they render superfluous any association other than unionization to improve their wages. The result is predictable.
Note on the Afghan War:
I don't know what the proper strategy for Afghanistan should be, now that we are in there. I do not want to bring a defeated army home, and we have committed ourselves to some kind of successful outcome.
What I do know is that it is not in our interest, and it is probably beyond our ability, to set as a goal the submission of the provinces to Kabul. Afghanistan makes nothing we want. Its commerce isn't important to us. If it deserves charity and help, let it look to Moslem institutions: the Gulf Kingdoms have plenty of such resources, and there is need for what we can spare in nations that don't have claim on Islamic resources. What we do want is that Afghanistan not harbor our enemies, either in Kabul or in the provinces.
How we achieve that result isn't entirely clear, given what we have already done with troops and drones; but surely the objective ought to be clear? We don't need to establish democracy in Afghanistan, which is as well, since it is beyond our abilities.
October 2, 2009
We will not be having the Olympic Games in Chicago. I wonder if Obama understood the possibility of defeat? This is perhaps the biggest defeat of his career. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
I am not impressed with the competence of this administration's diplomacy.
Subject: Dell claims they’ve made the world’s smallest, thinnest laptop.
It even has an inductive charging stand for the battery…I like that idea! I wonder what Apple will answer with.
Dell™ introduces the Latitude™ Z: the world's thinnest, lightest 16" laptop
Tracy Walters, CISSP
October 3, 2009
The health care mess continues. We have no idea what will actually be put up for vote -- or what we will be told has passed, which may not be what most of those in Congress thought they were voting for. Recall the RIAA snuck in provisions that hammered the artists while greatly benefiting the record companies, and we have yet to find a Congresscritter who will admit voting for it or knowing that provision was in the law.
But it defies reason to believe that we can add millions to the system, require insurance of people with existing conditions and diseases, without paying a great deal more. Protestations that we will save the money by eliminating fraud and waste are never credible: if that can be done, do it first, show the savings, and spend the savings on health care reform. I note that this is never seriously proposed.
And they never catch wise...
And as a reminder...
In 1943, Walter Lippmann observed that the disarmament movement had been "tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament. ..."
We have mail for today. Mixed bag.
October 4, 2009
It's 6 PM and I am getting down to it on the October column. I have installed Windows 7 on my main communications system, and I discovered something awful. Windows 7 is working fine, but Outlook Express no longer exists. If I want to use Outlook Express, I have to go to Vista or XP machine. I no longer have any Vista machines (good riddance). Since I don't use Outlook Express for anything but news groups, and the only news group I look at is news.sff.net which hosts the private SFWA discussion groups, I could I suppose just go to an XP machine for that, but it's not going to be convenient to change machines.
Also, I suppose there are some newsgroups worth looking at; I know there used to be. Years ago I used a news reader called Free Agent from Forte. I recall -- this was more than a decade ago -- that it worked all right. Forte no longer distributes the free version, but their paid one is cheap enough. I'm wondering if I should try it.
Peter Glaskowsky suggests that I ask the readers for recommendations on a news reader. Understand, I won't use it much no matter what reader I get. I don't need to browse newsgroups because all of you send me copies of anything really significant as email. But I do need an easy to use news browser so that I can keep up with SFWA affairs (SFWA is trying to convert to a new discussion system based on their new web site, but for the moment many of us old time members prefer to stay in the private discussion groups within news.sff.net and that may last a long time).
So I am asking for advice: what's a good news group reader? It needs to make it easy to carry on conversations within various topics in the news group. If it were easier to use to look into other news groups I might use it for more than the one I was looking at with Outlook Express. I recall that I was happy enough with Free Agent long ago, so my prime candidate is Forte's Agent, and I may just try that since it's cheap enough and I can always write a review. CNN seems to offer some free downloads of news agents, and I'm told that Thunderbird is well thought of. Thunderbird seems to be a full blown mail program, and I am not sure I need that -- I don't intend to abandon Outlook unless I switch entirely to the Mac, and that's not likely. I do like Macs a lot, but I also have a lot of Windows users -- and so far Roberta and I have found Windows 7 to be quite satisfactory.
Anyway, I'm open to suggestions on news groups: that is, browsers that work on Windows 7; and some discussion on whether there's any point to news groups subscriptions nowadays except for things like the SFWA closed discussions and such. I haven't missed not doing news groups for nearly a decade (but note that if anything really interesting happens there someone tells me...)
And now it's dinner time. Except for no Outlook Express and thus no newsgroups, Windows 7 is working very well on my main communications system. I'm using it for this now.
Monday Morning: Thanks, I think I have enough information on news group browsers, and I'll cover the whole subject in this month's column. Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions, reviews, and links.
Thanks, also, to all those who have recently subscribed or renewed your subscriptions. That's what keeps this place open.
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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