THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 295 November 2 - 8, 2009
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November 2, 2009
The upstate New York Congressional race just got more interesting. This is the place where a Republican from a usually safe Republican district went to the Cabinet and a very liberal person got the Republican nomination. So liberal was she that she garnered an opponent running on the Conservative ticket. Newt Gingrich for party tactical reasons endorsed the Republican; the vast majority of conservative spokespeople and celebrities endorsed the Conservative. In due season the liberal Republican, realizing she was not going to win, withdrew from the election -- but then endorsed the Democrat, which may have a lot to say about party loyalty. In any even it makes for a very interesting race.
The New Jersey governor race is also important and interesting, as is the Virginia race. If the conservative republican candidates do well, it will be a message of some importance in the coming debates on health care and cap and trade. In these by elections turnout is the key element: if those who feel strongly about cap and trade and Obamacare turn out and vote, and each one brings someone to the polls who feels the same way, the result could be quite important for the future.
One estimate is that 500 nuclear power plants would make America energy independent. I think that is optimistic in that an abundance of electricity doesn't mean we won't need to import oil for transportation needs, but it would certainly take us a long way toward independence. The cost would be in the order of 2 billion per plant (I would think less; that is the first one might be 4 billion, but the 400th would be considerably less than a billion; but call it 2 billion). That is one trillion dollars, comparable to the TARP or stimulus -- and for once a deficit would be financing something real.
It is less than the cost of the war, and less than the war is going to cost if we continue. Cheap reliable energy would be one major step toward economic recovery. Low cost energy plus freedom will bring prosperity. If we have the energy we can work on the freedom. The whole thing could be accomplished in four years. Of course the ravening wolves in the Congress won't do it -- but then it's not likely that this is the kind of hope and change we can believe in from the current White House.
But it would work. France knows the value of nuclear power. Why can't we learn it?
May interest you. Compares Texas & California on big government/little government terms
A good article, if lengthy. Compares Texas which promises low taxes and a lower grade of public services with California which promises high grade public service and corresponding taxes: the problem being that California has the taxes but the public services are for the benefit of the public employees, not the middle class and the taxpayers. The consequence is the continued wreck in California.
There is mail today, and I put up a mixed bag of mail all interesting last night.
Time Warner is currently experiencing difficulties; which means we have neither Internet nor Cable TV at the moment (11:00 AM; my last email has a time of 10:24). Of course you won't see this until it's restored, although if it lasts much longer I'll go use an Internet Cafe to get this up and clear old email.
12:30 PM -- It's working again.
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November 3, 2009
This has been a day of distractions. For reasons I don't fathom I couldn't install an update to Acrobat on my Windows 7 64-bit system; it kept saying I didn't have administrator capability and if I logged in as administrator it gave me the same message. Eventually I was able to download and install an update to an installer, and once that was done I was able to install the update and read the pdf file, which is an e-ticket for my trip in a couple of weeks to Tyson's Corners VA where I am to take part in a conference. So I got that printed out. Finally. And now if I click a pdf file it opens as it should. But it took longer than it should have to muck about finding a way to make it happen.
It is probably time for me to update what I know about pdf files: what's the best way to create, change, read, and print them. For the past year or so I haven't done anything but read pdf files and that has been automatic with whatever Adobe has been sending updates about. Apparently something horrible happened to their installer, but mucking about fixed it. I haven't done much with pdf for a year or more, and apparently things have progressed since I last looked. In the old BYTE days the editorial people would keep me up to date whether I wanted them to or not. But then we had 30 crackerjack editors, some of the sharpest people in the industry; I miss the old BYTE a lot. I suppose all good things have to come to an end, and BYTE duly did, but it was great while it lasted. I still try to write the same column, and I have a pretty good group of volunteer advisors to keep me on track and sane. Which reminds me, it's time to do another column. Net neutrality among other things...
That took time. Then a reader sent me a message about H. Beam Piper, and reminded me that we met many years ago in State College, Pennsylvania; but when I try to reply I get a message telling me how I can apply to be in his good graces so I can send him mail, only that doesn't turn out to be easy to do either since I waited too long and EarthSink managed to lose the message I was sending. Another waste of time and I have deleted the whole mess: but please, if you send me mail and you expect me to respond, please do not send it in a way that guarantees my reply to your mail will be spam filtered and then I will get a message telling me how I can spend time getting in your approved list. I do try to reply to mail, particularly from people I have met, and it's pretty frustrating, especially if it hasn't been a great day to begin with.
Actually part of the day was pleasant. I had lunch with my friend John De Chancie, who writes SF adventure stories and was the most interesting secretary the LASFS has had in some time. I acted irked by some of his really amusing antics with the reading of the minutes, but that was more due to jealousy than anything else. Anyway it was a pleasant lunch.
I am about caught up with a bunch of stuff such as the ticket to the conference in DC. Of course the conference takes place the day before the Microsoft PDC in Los Angeles, meaning that I will miss the first day of PDC, since I'll be traveling on that Tuesday. I'll get down there Wednesday. The week of the 16th is going to be hectic.
There's a bag of interesting mail. Including on nuclear power.
November 4, 2009
The major evidence for the special theory of relativity is the Michaelson-Morely experiment, which demonstrated that there was no "ether wind" due to the movement of the earth through it. (For a thorough discussion of the experiment including the precise results, not just the conclusions, see Tom Bethel, Questioning Einstein, which presents the alternative theory of Dr. Petr Beckmann; note that this questions special, not necessarily general, relativity which is another matter. The book also looks at data that may not be consistent with special relativity (aberration in spectroscopic binaries, synchronized clocks in the GPS system, gaining and losing time when sending clocks around the Earth).
Einstein's special theory dismisses ether as not required to explain the known data. That leaves us with the oddity that light is a wave but there is no medium it waves in. Petr Beckmann postulated there is an ether, but it is the gravitational field, which means it is entangled with the earth; there are implications for the Michaelson-Morely experiment. Clearly an entangled gravitation field has diminishing influence as you get farther from Earth and into more dense fields such as the solar gravitational field -- and beyond that one to interstellar space.
My speculation: we are beginning to postulate both dark energy and dark matter to explain gravitational anomalies: there just isn't enough matter in the universe to explain what we see.
Could dark matter be the "ether"? In which case it would certainly react to gravitational fields, and in effect do what Beckmann's theory predicts. It would also provide a medium in which light can wave. I haven't the mathematical acuity to work out the details of this, and I suspect it's obviously wrong, but it was a thought I had while on my walk yesterday morning. I still don't understand waves without something to wave in, and I've heard most of the explanations. A sound wave can be described as a series of rarefactions and compressions in air, and it's easy to understand. Waves through an ether are a bit more complex (there's the polarization phenomena) but again they're comprehensible. Waves in an utter void are a bit tougher to visualize, which is one reason why the corpuscular theory of light hung on for so long. In any event, I think that "dark matter" as "ether" would behave about the same as Petr Beckmann's ether as the local gravitational field since the dark matter would be as entangled as the gravity field. It would eliminate "spooky action at a distance", and for that matter would explain gravity waves...
I put this as a "cocktail party" theory, one I will defend casually but I can't claim to have investigated with any thoroughness. Another of my cocktail party theories is that dogs were critical to human evolution: they used their forebrains to develop a sense of smell, we used that part to get smart; the symbiosis meant that villages with dogs had more surviving children, etc., etc. As I said, a cocktail party theory but one I've had for many years and I haven't seen any actual refutation. Of course that implies an ethical obligation: long ago our ancestors made a deal with dogs whereby we looked after each other's offspring. Leave that: the interesting theory just now is "Dark Matter is Ether."
Yesterday's by-election was encouraging. New Jersey, as blue a state as you can get, now has a Republican governor. In Virginia the Republicans had a landslide. In upstate New York the country club republicans and rinos got an interesting message. Across the country the results have been encouraging, to the point that the Senate Democrats are now talking about further delays in the Health Care Bill That Was Demanded Before September.
If you are concerned about the rush to nationalize health care and carbon use, yesterday was a good day. Not as good as it might have been, but a good day. We'll take what we can get in this year of grace...
(I don't post job offers very often, but this one comes from someone I can hardly refuse)
From the Club for Growth on the upstate New York Congressional election:
Recall that the reason the seat was vacant is that McHugh (formerly the Republican incumbent in that seat) accepted a position in the Obama administration. Winning the seat would have been encouraging, but the loss is not critical to conservative principles. The lesson to Republican Party officials is that the country remains center/right. When Clinton pronounced that the era of Big Government was over, a majority of the nation cheered. When Gingrich left Congress and the Republicans pulled the stake out of Big Government's heart and resurrected it, they lost support. Obama did not campaign as far left of Bill Clinton. He governs left but he didn't run from the left. He'll have to consider his options now.
For those who favor limited government and federalism the news from yesterday was good, perhaps not bracing, but certainly not depressing.
Coming up: another assessment of Afghanistan. What would we consider a victory in Afghanistan? Is that achievable? If so, is it achievable at a cost we are willing to pay? If not, and we must abandon Victory, then what must we do now?
November 5, 2009
Guy Fawkes Day
A Penny for the Guy...
Newt Gingrich said last night that he had endorsed the Republican candidate in upstate New York because she was the unanimous choice of the eleven Republican County Chairmen in the District. Precisely why they endorsed someone who would later withdraw and endorse a Democrat candidate is not known to me, and I doubt that Newt knows either. His advice to local party officials in New York state (where the Conservatives get to run a candidate or can endorse a candidate of another party; that's not a common situation in most states, and makes New York state politics unique) is that the Republican Party has to pay at least some attention to the local Conservative Party people in choices like this.
My observation is that parties and movements who can't generate party workers generally don't win. The ground game -- getting out the vote on election day -- remains fairly decisive, and one key to political influence remains: become a party activist and you get some influence. It is no longer true as it was in the 1950's and much of the 1960's that the US is in effect governed by about 50,000 self-selected Party Officials. Their influence and power have been greatly diluted by fund raisers and professional campaign people .
The so-called expertise of the army of mercenary political experts can be questioned. So can their commitment to any given political philosophy. It's hard to make a living as a political consultant unless you are willing to make fairly extensive compromises; it's easy to get in the habit of making compromise a goal, not a means to an end. The pay isn't all that good between campaigns, unless like Lyn Nofziger (whom I knew fairly well and admired) you do other consulting work. Lyn even co-wrote a couple of Western novels back in the slow times of Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter before the Reagan resurgence.
The self-selected party workers still have influence over party philosophy. It's one reason why the "social conservatives" have the influence they have: the can turn out the shock troops, people who will stand in the rain at a shopping mall, drive voters to the polls, organize people in assisted living facilities to get absentee ballots and fill them out, and all the other not very colorful work that goes into the ground game. Most conservatives don't want to do that. As Russell Kirk used to say, "conservatism is enjoyment." Conservatives believe that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but it's not a price so many of them are prepared to pay. Vigilance, yes; but sporadic, intense vigilance. Supreme effort, then "I lie in possession. Let me sleep."
The self-selected Party Workers -- of both parties -- no longer have the influence they once had, but they have some.
Meanwhile, the gloves are off, and we have seen that the Change We Can Believe In -- health care 'reform', cap and trade, enormous deficits, nationalization of industries, regulations without limit imposed by regulators who are beyond any regulation but the Iron Law -- has awakened some of the sleepers.
Tuesday's by-election has had a large influence on the future of the health care and carbon tax bills; the great shift of Independents from Obama has them scared. This must not be exaggerated. Back room politics will still have great influence, and the news media are already spinning the by-election shift to minimize it. But by and large there is reason for joy if not great rejoicing.
What is victory? If we define victory as a stable liberal democracy in Afghanistan with a government centralized in Kabul, then we can see the requirements: a very long term commitment, twenty years at the least with a large Army of special forces devoted to community organizing and development; better schools in rural Afghanistan than we have in the District of Columbia; health care clinics; and enough soldiers to protect those who become our friends from those who keep the Afghan tradition of distrust of Kabul and hatred of armed foreigners on their soil. That's a lot of soldiers.
If we are not prepared to make that commitment, what should we do?
If we cannot achieve victory, what can we achieve? And what is it that we want? If it were up to me, if I were trying an experiment in nation building, it would be in a nation that has something we want; Afghanistan has nothing we want exported to the United States.
As to what we can achieve, I suggest that we think in terms of silver bullets. If we pay the President of Afghanistan (AKA the Mayor of Kabul) enough he can bribe the war lords and tribal chiefs to exclude the enemies of the United States from their regions. We can pay well. Meanwhile we run an open market for opium. We'll buy all you can make, and pay good prices for it. It's up to you to get the stuff to us and avoid being killed by the Taliban who will forbid you to sell to us. The whole program will cost less in blood and treasure than the war, and the poppy market will give the farmers something they can grow for cash. We save that part of the cost of the War on Drugs that goes to intercepting heroin made from Afghan poppies.
We have mail on many subjects including some general thoughts on philosophy of science. (I once studied that under Gustav Bergmann many long years ago, but that's another subject.)
November 6, 2009
I'm getting a late start and it's time for our walk.
While I'm gone you can have a look at mail about cocktail party theories.
England was fond of declaring various actions treasonable, and convicting people of treason for activities that could be described as "loyal opposition." The Constitution nailed down the definition of Federal treason.
I would presume that arming oneself and shooting 43 US soldiers is (1) levying war against the United States, and (2) an overt act, and that Major Hassan should be charged with treason. I would further argue that prior to his actions he had made a number of overt acts which were evidence of adherence to their enemies, and he could have been charged with treason for those; but I won't argue the case too strongly.
I will argue that political correctness led to the madness of having someone who does not believe in the legitimacy of the war in Iraq practice psychiatry by counseling some of the most severely traumatized in the Iraqi war: that the instant he began to show doubts about the legitimacy of the War and an unwillingness to be deployed to participate in it, he ought at the very least to have been stripped of his commission and suffer whatever other consequences of failing to fulfill his part of the contract under which the United States paid for both his undergraduate and his medical education in return for his service as a medical officer.
Richard Weaver wrote an important book called Ideas Have Consequences. It's one book that everyone ought to read as an undergraduate, but the title makes an important point. Political correctness was the cause of the Fort Hood Massacre, and we ought not forget that. The fact that someone could go through -- at government expense -- an undergraduate education with ROTC, then medical school at a US military institution, and remain a traitor to the United States is a significant warning. A very significant warning that the idea of Political Correctness has consequences we can't afford. Corruption of the Legions is one danger the Republic cannot endure.
The Legions remain faithful; but for how long when their officers are no longer faithful? Hassan had been through ROTC and a US armed forces medical school as a commissioned officer. Why was his failure of loyalty to the armed forces not detected earlier? But of course he was a Muslim, and it would not be politically correct to wash someone out of an armed forces medical school for lack of loyalty to the armed forces of these United States.
We sow the wind. We have reaped one whirlwind.
The politically correct spin is coming like a tidal wave. He is a crazy guy who happens to be a Muslim. All of that misses the point: he was disloyal to the United States, and said so openly and many times; yet he remained a commissioned officer of the United States. That is the point that is being overlooked. Whether the disloyalty is due to a psychotic episode or some other cause is not important.
November 7, 2009
Health Care Bill Day
Unemployment is over 10%. It wasn't supposed to get that high. TARP was supposed to fix that.
Meanwhile today may be the most important vote in Congress since the days of the New Deal. If the health care bill passes, it will fundamentally convert these United States into a different kind of popular democracy, which generally means rule by a unionized bureaucracy organized to vote. Once that much of the economy is run by government, economic recovery as many hope for will simply be impossible.
Permanent unemployment at 7% or so; median income perhaps 10% higher than it is now, but not much higher; and a long period of stagflation. Reluctance to take on new employees, and great incentive to export jobs. Is this a picture of the future? We will have to see, as Congress debates the health care and carbon tax bills.
One of the big debating points is over abortion. That is certainly in important moral point, but the creation of an enormous entitlement overshadows it. At least under this bill, illegal immigrants can't be jailed for not buying government approved health insurance. The rest of us can be. I have no idea what happens to those my age. I gather that it pretty well eliminates the Medicare Advantage that pays most of my Kaiser dues. This all promises to be interesting.
With Detroit a ruin and manufacturing industries on the ropes, small business is the only possible engine of recovery from what they don't call a Depression; so the Congress is going to add an 8% tax on employing people. We already have the longest period of increasing unemployment since the Great Depression; I presume we are going for a really big record setting period of increasing unemployment.
What incentives people have to invest and create new jobs in this environment is pretty murky now; with the health bill there will be fewer incentives to invest in new jobs in the US. The incentives are now to the job black market -- hire illegal immigrants who don't have to have health insurance -- or to export the job if that can possibly be done.
Meanwhile the credit index is way down: people aren't borrowing or lending, meaning investment is down. Moving money around in circles keeps Wall Street going, but next year the Bush tax cuts expire, meaning a new round of higher taxes to go with the new taxes of the health care and carbon taxes, and the new regulations. And with a trillion dollar deficit the incentive to add surtaxes is overwhelming, thus again confiscating money from the successful -- money that otherwise would have been invested. Perhaps the government can invest for us with a new TARP?
Parts of the economy will thrive, but then some made good money during the Great Depression. The incentive will be to tax those who continue to do well, meaning they won't invest either, and will spend more on tax avoidance rather than making more money. We have seen that spiral before; the remedy was to cut taxes, but that is not a politically viable incentive.
Without investment there isn't a lot of job creation. Companies thrive by getting more work from fewer workers. That's good for the productive (who will have to work harder to pay their increased taxes) but doesn't do much for those without jobs. Unemployment compensation and welfare do not create jobs nor do they get people employed. Government employees don't increase production and wealth, but they have to be paid for what they do; and that takes more out of the economy. The spiral continues. When we do recover we may consider getting where we are now to be a great thing.
In other words: Have we seen the end of the good times? Tax rates go up, but government revenues keep going down. And down. Raising tax rates doesn't seem to make the government much more money. And unemployment goes up. And the beat goes on.
A new Great Depression is not inevitable, but each time there is another transfer of resources to the government, it becomes more likely. The trick to survival is to find niches where one can thrive or at least hang on in the midst of the downward spiral. Who is succeeding in today's Detroit? It would be worth studying those survivalists...
It's also worth considering vegetable gardens. I wish I were kidding.
The other survival tool is to learn a lot more about the tax laws. The return on investment from knowing more about tax laws is probably higher than the return on investment from increasing productivity.
I would have thought that the Obama administration is at least as responsible for the US response to the Swine Flu problem as the Bush administration ever was for the New Orleans response to Katrina, but the media are not reporting it that way. I wonder how those who stood in long lines for hours only to find that there is no vaccine feel about the government's coming takeover of the entire health care system? Will the new health care system work more smoothly than does, say, FEMA? Is there any reason to think so?
Still no vote as of 1650. The longer the vote is delayed, the more likely that it won't pass. But Nancy Pelosi is smiling, and claims to have 218 votes. Mourn the Republic.
It passed, getting one Republican vote. The storm gathers.
November 8, 2009
I have a column to get out the door, so not much will be done today.
The fallout from the House vote on health care continues. Apparently the Democrats are determined to show their power despite indications that much of the nation doesn't want 1,000 pages of new health care laws. It is a naked transfer of wealth, with a tax on high incomes to pay for benefits for low incomes; and a heavy cut in middle class health care benefits in Medicare.
The implications for the future are profound. We already hear the triumphalism of Nancy Pelosi.
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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