THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 593 October 19 - 25, 2009
This site looks better if you set your default font to Georgia.
Highlights this week:
For boiler plate, search engine, and notes on what in the world this place is, see below.
For Previous Weeks of the View, SEE VIEW HOME PAGE
If you intend to send MAIL to me, see the INSTRUCTIONS.
This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
October 19, 2009
I continue to be debilitated by what may or may not be a mild case of flu or a bad cold. Harms the concentration. I managed some coherent notes on education yesterday that are probably worth your time.
I have a lot of mail on the healthcare situation, and I'll try to organize the best of it in a topic in today's mail. That will probably take me all morning. Everything goes very slowly.
This is pledge week at KUSC. Four times a year they take a week to drum into listener's heads that the classical music station can't survive without subscriptions, and exhorting all of us loyal listeners to subscribe or renew. This goes on all day and part of the night for a week plus two days. It's blooming annoying, but apparently they find it works.
I'm not going to do that to you. I'm not going to pound you with pleas. I will remind you that this site operates on the public radio model -- I got the idea from KUSC -- and the same arguments they make apply here. I keep this place open because I get enough subscriptions to make it worth while doing it -- I cheerfully admit I enjoy being able to keep it open. Even on days when I don't have much of importance to comment on, there's always good mail, and I continue to insist that I have about the most interesting mail column on the web. That takes work, of course, not so much editing as selecting, which means reading all that comes in. Of course I learn something that way, too.
Anyway, this is one of those nagging reminders. I won't spend as much time on that as KUSC does every ten minutes. You have been nagged. Thanks to all those who have recently subscribed or renewed.
For platinum subscription:
Platinum subscribers enable me to work on what I think is important without worrying about economics. My thanks to all of you.
Did you subscribe and never hear from me? Click here!.
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Population growth: there is now a scheme to persuade people for not having kids by giving them a carbon credit. Like all population limiting schemes, this one seems designed to breed those who pay attention to population growth arguments out of the human race.
David Riesman in The Lonely Crowd characterized the world into zones of population explosion and incipient population decline; the West including Ireland was in the second category (this before the rapid secularization of Ireland later in the 20th Century). At the time most people thought the notion of population decline (other than through a mass die-off as predicted in the Club of Rome sponsored Models of Doom) to be ludicrous. Riesman turned out to be right, one of the few sociologists to generate falsifiable hypotheses. As to the Models of Doom, which predicted a planetary die-off before the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, so far it hasn't happened. There's selective population decline all right, but worldwide the population continues to grow. We're doing well at convincing some Western cultures to commit suicide, as predicted by James Burnham in Suicide of the West. Burnham was fond of saying that Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide. That was thought to be an obsolete observation after the end of the Seventy Years War; perhaps it is not so irrelevant as some thought.
As an aside: in my judgment Burnham's The Machiavellians is on my reading
list of works essential for educated people. Alas, it seems to be hard to
find. There is an inadequate summary at
You can find a copy of Burnham's book at
Modern Academia no longer takes serious discussions of Marxism seriously. Many academics merely act as if the debate is over, and Marx was right about a lot, and wrong about some things, but it's not important to determine which parts are which. Indeed, theories of history and social progress are not much discussed any longer. I meet fewer and fewer people who have any idea of what Marx and Trotsky actually said, much less Schumpeter, and while some academics pretend to know, they don't seem actually to have read the books. The modern generation is action-oriented and content to pretend that most of the great social questions have been settled, as for example the "right" of everyone to health care; some are startled when I point out that this really means an obligation for everyone to pay someone else's medical bills but not their own. Perhaps we have this obligation, but it is not easy to determine from when it comes. If it's purely pragmatic: that some kind of centrally imposed health care scheme will proved more and cost less and thus bring the greatest good to the greatest number, one might suppose more debate on that subject since the evidence seems contradictory; and if there is some other underlying principle of right and obligation, perhaps that ought to be stated?
Regarding the pragmatic theory, I again refer you to
This is Tuesday and the Windows 7 systems had all been restarted by Microsoft Updates. Firefox keeps crashing on whatever was open when Microsoft told my system to restart. I've tried three times now, and it is finally restoring the last known good session. I suppose that keeping 57 open tabs may be thought excessive. My guess is that it has to do with Press Display, which appears to be the new system that offers to sell you newspaper articles. While I appreciate that the LA Times needs revenue, I already subscribe to that; why I have to pay a buggy third party outfit to see articles in a paper that is already downstairs on my breakfast table is not so clear to me.
Whatever the case, while I was out with my cold/flu something changed. There was this morning an LA Times op-ed page article called The Afghan Trap by Dorronsolo. I don't seem to be able to find it on Google. A week ago I would have been. Yesterday all searches led to this "Press Display" web site. Today even that's gone. Something is a bit strange. I note that a Google search on LA Times Today Afghanistan shows no articles from today's paper. The LA Times appears to have gone off line, even to subscribers. Odd.
The point of The Afghan Trap article I wanted to call to your attention is that Afghans, and particularly Pushtans, are (1) polite, and (2) really and truly hate armed foreigners on their territory. This is an historical observation that I think is verifiable by nearly every report of the past two thousand years. If it's true, and I think it is, it bodes ill for the US efforts to remake Afghanistan into a modern stable liberal democracy. If you an find it, it's in today's LA Times: The Afghan Trap by Dorronsoro on today's (October 20, 2009) op-ed page is worth your attention. [It is now available at
We really do have to figure out just what we want in Afghanistan -- and whether our wishes have any chance whatever of fulfillment. In my judgment, our wants are irrelevant. We are not going to build a liberal democracy in Afghanistan; it will take longer and cost more than this nation is willing to invest. We are not going to have stable Western armed enclaves in Afghanistan. That can be done, but won't be very useful, and will be costly over long periods of time -- again something that this nation is nearly incapable of.
That inability, by the way, has been true for a very long time. Lee's greatest strategic mistake was to take the war to the North. Had he continued a strategy of defensive maneuver, politics in the North would very likely have ended the War Between the States by 1865 with a truce of exhaustion leading to a negotiated peace.
Democracies have never been much good at long term costly strategies and deferred rewards. It was only by the Grace of God that we managed to end the Seventy Years War with Communism without holocaust. Even so it was costly: see the Hungarian Uprising, Prague Spring, the Berlin Wall, the Killing Fields, the Reeducation Camps, Boat People, the long ordeal of Eastern Europe, etc. It was less costly for Europe than the Thirty Years War ending in the Peace of Exhaustion Signed at Westphalia in 1648 (the overthrow of the Peace of Westphalia was one of Hitler's most popular objectives), but costly enough, and it was often a near thing, with the Cold Warriors constantly taxed to give the Liberals more and more concessions in return for the wherewithal to continue Containment.
Containing Afghanistan is simple. Leave, with warning that we are going, taking with us those doomed allies to whom we have sworn protection (it's probably too late to build them an enclave, and they don't want that anyway). Afghanistan for the Afghans, meaning tribes and warlords with Pushtan domination around Kabul. We can try to shore up an anti-Taliban faction in Kabul. That might even work. But do it from afar. The strategy of counter-insurgency would work if we could actually commit to two generations of doing it, feeding a squad a month into the meatgrinder and disrupting a lot of American families for two generations here; but we aren't going to do that, and blood and treasure poured into Afghanistan is likely poured into, well, not sand, but the Ford of Kabul River.
If I seem ambiguous, of course I am. We have sent the Legions to Afghanistan and Iraq. They want to achieve the objectives we have given them. Bringing home a defeated army is never a good thing for a republic. We sent the troops, and we have no right to demand that they throw their honor on the ground as they withdraw.
Once again we search for Peace with Honor. Nixon achieved that in Viet Nam, but he had promised South Viet Nam security against outside invasion: counter insurgency was their problem. They achieved internal security, and had at least a democratic a society in South Viet Nam as anyone in the region with few exceptions; but Nixon could not keep his promise after the Watergate scandals, and we all saw the shameful scenes in which we abandoned out erstwhile allies to the tender mercies of the northern invaders.
The worst of it all is that some of use saw the upcoming end in Iraq before we ever went in. Our original commitment in Afghanistan was not the same as the obligation we assumed in Iraq. We could have gone in, expelled the Taliban, and got out, leaving Afghanistan to the Afghans (which is to say to the warlords in the hills, Pushtans around Kabul, and Taliban in a few areas). We didn't, and getting out -- peace with honor -- is more difficult now. I wish Obama well in finding a path to peace with honor. (and see below)
There is now mail, including a lengthy healthcare discussion forum.
The book remains one of the best accounts of what we did in the last depression.
October 21, 2009
It is now the eighth day of the KUSC pledge drive. That reminds me to nag you about subscribing. Thanks again to all those who recently subscribed or renewed their subscriptions. This week I'd like to get some new subscribers: those who have been reading this for a while. This site is run on the 'public radio' model. It's free, but it can only exist if enough of you subscribe. I am pleased to say it's fairly healthy despite the lean economic times, but we need some new subscribers.
The LA Times article on Afghanistan which I recommended is now
I note that in today's Wall Street Journal there are articles about ISP's and net neutrality: either they can treat large downloads such as Bit Torrent in a different manner from email, or they will have to start charging by use, ending the "all you can eat" fee structure. I recall that "all you can eat" was one of the factors that killed GE Genie, which used the GE corporate computers as net chat servers. Once they instigated unlimited messaging they were overwhelmed, and GE was faced with the choice of buying equipment dedicated to Genie, or letting Genie languish. They chose not to become the first AOL or Yahoo. So it goes.
I recommend today's article "Carriers Eye Pay-As-You-Go Internet."
The major thing you learn in economics 101 is the shape of a demand curve: the lower the price, the higher the demand for nearly any good. Certainly there are some saturation points, but in general the demand for a good goes up quite a lot as the price drops toward zero, and the theoretical demand for a free good is infinite. One can learn a lot from simply considering demand curves. Alas, not many ever think about them.
I will try to cover the proliferation of e-book readers and possible effects of their availability in the column. It is clear that many big players have decided there's a future in e-books. Authors are still contemplating what they should do, as are publishers. The Baen model works, but Baen has never been greedy...
Query: Harry Stine was a long time friend, but I have lost touch with his family. It's likely I have many of his friends as readers. If you have the email address for any of his family please send it to me.
October 22, 2009
Windows 7 Release Date
I'm not sure who the girls were. They are too young to be cadets or midshipmen. They are certainly impressive. It turns out they are 4 - 8th grade in an Ohio school district.
The pledge drive continues. I won't run on about it, but I will take this opportunity to point out that this place runs on the public radio model. It's free, but it can't continue without reader support. This week's goal is to enroll new subscribers, but my thanks to all those who also renewed.
As for me, the light flu or bad cold continues. I got some work done on Mamelukes yesterday, so I suppose I am recovering, but the cough was worse last night, and it hasn't been my best morning. Hope springs eternal.
I took my walk and I feel a little better, but I am sure slowed down. Sable is happy again: when we don't get out for a daily walk she thinks she has failed in her duty to get those humans out of the house for a while.
This is the official release date of Windows 7. There's a tongue in cheek interview with Leo Laporte on one of the radio talk shows as he announces his breathless excitement when it comes up. Actually, like me, Leo has been using Windows 7 for months, not only on test system but on production systems as well. I no longer have any Vista machines at Chaos Manor.
If you have Vista, you will want to upgrade to Windows 7. The upgrade installation works. It will take about an hour, and that will include update time. (Of course if you do it today it may take significantly longer since the servers are likely to be overloaded.) I'd then go get Microsoft Security Essentials and install that while you are at it. That takes less than half an hour including the initial scan.
The upgrade path to Windows 7 from XP takes a lot longer and is very complicated. You'll need a big external drive, and you need to think about whether your XP system is up to doing Windows 7; a lot of those XP systems are a bit old and slow.
Windows 7 is a bit more than just a major Service Pack. If there's anything about Vista you liked, you'll like Windows 7.
There's a variety of mail today.
Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would say. I just had a call from a Washington Post reporter regarding Stewart Nozette (see mail). I can't say she learned much from me, other than some reminiscences from the old SDI days (I was able to give her some background on the importance of Clementine).
As as you found out from Mail, Stewart was arrested on a charge of attempted espionage for Israel. The encounter sounded like entrapment.
and read the actual FBI report and complaint. It is a bit more intelligible than the Washington Post account, but none of it makes any real sense to me. What in the world were the Israelis trying to buy? Clementine and the Lunar Observatory are far more relevant to the future colonization of space than to defense technologies, and I would be astonished if Israel scientists -- who are pretty sharp -- don't already know everything we do and most of what the Russians know as well regarding the various radars and computer data integration, which is what Stewart would know well.
Of course there may be a lot more going on than I know about. The most recent Lunar Ice experiment didn't turn out as expected, and there are a number of unexplained aspects to that; and paragraph 46 of the complaint is also suggestive.
All very curious. Me, I'd have a fairly long list of threats more dangerous to the United States than Israel's attempts to narrow in on how good US ground observation technology is (and if we truly want Iran's nuclear capability to go away, we would certainly be sharing anything we know with Israel in the first place). I'd think that if I were running counter-espionage operations I'd have more important fish to fry than people who can tell Israel how good our satellite observation technology is. But I'm not in that game, and I don't call the shots. I wonder who is? Ah well.
The whole thing sounds like Keystone Cops. A post office box "dead drop"? A "clean phone" provided by Mossad? Who in the world would be taken in by stories like that? If someone purporting to be a Mossad agent came to you or me with a proposition for buying classified information, surely any one of us would be smart enough to insist on some proof of identity? Having the Israeli ambassador or a consular official say a key phrase in a public speech? I'm not Jewish by inheritance, so it wouldn't work for me, but why didn't Stewart insist on dual citizenship and an Israeli passport in advance as proof that the purported Mossad agent could make things happen? It wouldn't be hard for a genuine Mossad agent to arrange, and it would be interesting to hear what explanation was offered when it didn't happen. And if I need a clean phone I can find one of my own. I don't need one from anyone else. Not that I would trust any phone conversation to begin with.
It's all very odd indeed, and not a story I'd believe if it were offered by an adventure story writer. Very odd, indeed.
October 23, 2009
This is the last day of the pledge drive on KUSC. Since I got the concept of a "public radio" model web site from KUSC, I tend to follow their lead on how to conduct subscription drives. Not entirely. KUSC pledge week has hundreds of exhortations a day. I don't do that, but I do take the time to remind you that this site operates like public radio: it's free to all, but it can only remain open if enough of you subscribe. This week I am after new subscriptions: people who have been here a while, but haven't got around to subscribing. This is your opportunity. And of course I thank all those who took the opportunity to renew their subscriptions. Thanks!
Obama's pay czar has determined pay scales for some of the officials in some of the banks and investment houses. Everything for the state. Nothing against the state. Nothing outside the state. It is certainly change you can believe in. And quite popular.
Roberta and I returned from our morning walk somewhat exhausted but convinced we are pretty well on the mend. It was a costly bout with what was probably swine flu mitigated by the fact that it's very likely we both had the original swine flu way back when. In any event we are climbing out. I got a disappointing amount of work done yesterday and don't have much energy for more today, but I think that too is getting better.
Microsoft had a successful launch of Windows 7 yesterday. If you are running Vista I recommend the upgrade. The upgrade installation works just fine. You'll want to put more thought into the decision for upgrading XP systems. Depends on the system and how long you'll keep it.
It's lunch time. There will be mail.
Wage controls continue. The war on the Chamber of Commerce continues. It's all pretty reminiscent of other times and places where it all turned out badly.
And today's Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by former Senator Bob Dole on Bosnia. Dole thinks we need to assert more leadership since Bosnia appears to be nearing collapse under the tender mercies of the European Union. Dole was the only man Clinton could beat in 1996, but it was his turn to run and he insisted on his droits d' signeur. He has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and I fear he is far too typical of the Country Club Republicans, who have never learned that the United States should avoid entangling alliances and not be concerned with territorial disputes in Europe. Bosnia is a European problem. Leave it to the Europeans. The Bosnia mess was never our mess, and Clinton's intervention didn't help the US in any discernible way. One of the fruits of US intervention in Bosnia was rapidly deteriorating relations with the then-nascent post USSR Russia, to no US advantage anyone can name.
The United States seems to work best when governed by a center-right coalition; it would work even better if there were two center-right coalitions contending for power. Alas I see few signs of any political party representing those views. I don't expect to see the kind of government I want, which involves local control over most domestic issues and far less Federal intervention in local and state affairs; but it would be useful to see contending parties who simply want to govern, not transform the country into something it never was and never should be. Even if we could afford it I do not think it would be a good thing for the US to become Sweden (and as I watch Sweden under diversity, one wonders if Sweden can stay Sweden, but that's another story). The Democratic Party doesn't want to govern, it wants to remake us; while the Country Club Republicans seem clueless when they aren't facilitating the ravenous wolves that go about seeking whom they will devour; nor do they have any notion of American national interests.
For a very long time we have sown the wind. Now we reap. And up pops Bob Dole reminding us of a place we have not sown recently. Halloween indeed.
October 24, 2009
The good news is that the pledge drive is over for the quarter (which doesn't mean that I won't from time to time remind you that this place operates on the public radio model) and was successful: we'll stay open. Better news is that my hideous cold/flu is better.
But I have pretty well taken the weekend off.
October 25, 2009
I took the day off.
Note on the Hungarian Uprising of 1956: the short description is that "the Hungarians acted like Poles, the Poles acted like Czechs, and the Czechs acted like swine." You might add that the Soviet Union acted like Ivan the Terrible.
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.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
For platinum subscription:
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
Strategy of Technology in pdf format:
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
For the BYTE story, click here.
Search: type in string and press return.
The freefind search remains:
Entire Site Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.