THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 597 November 16 - 22, 2009
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November 16, 2009
It's actually the night before, and I'm about to go to bed, being here in DC (well, Virginia actually) and having an 0630 wakeup call scheduled. There won't be an update here until tomorrow night. I get home Tuesday. I did manage some comments yesterday if you missed them. As well as some mail yesterday.
Partly done for the day but a few ends remain. I'll get this off, but there won't be much here until tonight.
Done after a long an exhausting day. Bed time. WinHEC started today will get there Tomorrow in the Afternoon, which I must go to direct from Burbank airport. Nothing much here until tomorrow night.
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|This week:||Tuesday, November
.Washington National Airport on the way home.
Comes of being in a hurry. I suspected something but didn't stop to think long enough. Thanks
I'm home. I went down to the Microsoft PDC direct from the airplane and I'll be there again tomorrow so it's early to bed. I'm exhausted.. And my watch stopped working when I set the time to local LA time. Sigh.
I'll probably be late getting this up tomorrow, too.
November 18, 2009
1700. Back from PDC. They are doing
exciting things with Azure, Silverlight, and their 2010 series. For a short
One thing: the giveaways seemed pretty meager until today when they announced that conference members would receive a new Acer laptop set up to show much of what they are doing, with all the new beta software installed. It's the size of a netbook and a powerful little machine and I am sure you'll see some coverage of it on the breaking news web sites: alas, the Press didn't get one. Nor do government employees attending PDC. Since in the past the Press attendees all got everything anyone else did, I am wondering if this is due to these crazy new rules of the new administration. I can't think Acer and Intel would quibble about under two hundred press units given the thousands they were handing out to everyone else. The lines were very long at 12:30 today....
I have heard on the radio that "some" are proposing that Hasan be stripped of his citizenship and tried as a saboteur. I can't imagine who came up with this proposal and I suspect some talk show host heard it in a bull session and decided to act as if it were serious; but I don't know. I do know it's a horrible idea in about twenty different ways, and it has zero chance of implementation. We haven't gone that far. I do find that Puerto Rico secessionists killed and wounded armed service people in domestic violence, and the victims got Purple Hearts.
Meanwhile there is the decision.
This reminds me of the old Western joke, about giving Old Bart a fair trial and then hang him. Surely this is not the way to show how fair and free our system is, or to generate more respect for it? Or have I missed something?
Google's digitized newstand has turned up some
interesting stuff, including this article from June, 1952 issue of Popular
I had not known he published that: he swore me to secrecy regarding the existence of sleep over guest facilities in that house! He said far too many people would try to wangle a way to stay there. (I had a room at the Broadmoor Hotel, but it snowed as Robert and I sat talking in his living room, and the car could not get up the steep driveway that night.) The house looked much like that the night I stayed there.
November 19, 2009
Thomas Hiltzik in
today's LA Times has written a reasonable description of the California
education system's problems: too much money is being spent on not enough.
It's fairly obvious what the problem is: far from the principles of transparency and subsidiarity, which would be the only successful approach to education reform, the state tries to centralize all decisions and make everything dependent on a central bureaucracy. I covered some of this in an essay last June, and that's still worth reading. California's problems began when the courts, presumably in the hopes of doing good, ordered some equalization of school district funding: wealthy districts were spending too much, and poor districts didn't have enough to spend, and the state had to do something about it. The constitutional basis of Serrano vs. Priest should have been challenged then and there: I see no compelling reason why the people of a school district in Paradise, California, should be taxed to increase the amount that the Los Angeles County Unified School District pays for its schools.
The result is about what you'd expect. The state bureaucracy controls the school funding, and mandates how a great deal of it will be spent, so that Paradise and Los Angeles, the one a small country school district whose school board actually pays attention -- or did pay attention -- to school results and what parents say and want, and the other a monstrous aggregate of inner city and outer suburb and everything in between whose board will schedule parents three (3) minutes for a meeting at least six (6) months after an application for appointment, must have the same policies. Paradise no longer controls either financing nor policies for its students. LA Unified never had a chance of a policy that would work in both Studio City and Watts.
I'm a little familiar with Studio City, Watts, and Paradise: I live in Studio City and although my children did not go to the local Carpenter Ave. public school, we know teachers there and we know neighbor children who do go there. I'm not so familiar with Watts today, but when I was a professor at Pepperdine I daily went to teach at the edge of Watts, and many of my students were graduates of LA public schools in the surrounding area. I realize that doesn't sound like the Pepperdine now known as Malibu U, but in those days the campus was on New Hampshire Avenue just South of Florence, and I used to walk with my Noon Senior Seminar students to Broadway and Manchester for hot dogs and ice cream in a perambulatory class session (about 12 students, generally about half black; it was an honors pre-law seminar on American Public Law). George Pepperdine founded his college with the intention of providing quality Christian (Church of Christ, to be exact) education to those too poor to go to major institutions, and thus located it in what was then near a number of light industries and other places where students could get manual labor jobs and work their way through college. The neighborhood changed over the years, and Pepperdine thanks to huge grants from a number of wealthy contributors moved out to Malibu. I didn't go with it. My familiarity with Paradise comes from their having hired me and Doc Lawler (once well known for his "each one teach one" literacy program) to go up and examine how well their schools were doing.
While some of my direct familiarity with Watts and Paradise is out of date, I do follow results; and it's very clear to me that all of our school districts have suffered badly from state centralization of education -- from the abandonment of transparency and subsidiarity. You may find more about this in a lengthy answer I gave to a letter about a year ago just after the election. It too is worth your time.
Transparency and subsidiarity are not fads or cure alls. They are, however, the necessary and often sufficient condition to many problems of social governance. They are necessary if we are to avoid the coming dark age. Dark Age Ahead
I have repeatedly said: the place to begin education reform is in the District of Columbia. Congress has the undoubted right to govern the city in any way it wants to. It has the money: DC spends more per pupil than anywhere else so far as I know. If there is education expertise in this world, let it be applied to DC. Let DC show us how things are to be done, rather than have Washington tell us how things must be done without any demonstration that their programs and desires will work.
The education crisis is real. The only way out of it is first to see what the goals of education must be: to educate students, to have them leave schools ready to be citizens, to get jobs, to do useful work: some immediately, some after further training, some after a liberal education, some after a stint in the military, and some only after many years of University including graduate school. The notion that one form of education will suffice for all these categories is patently ridiculous. The notion that eggheads in University Departments of Education know of policies that will be useful across this nation is at best an unverified hypothesis facing massive evidence that it is not true.
If the goal of education is to produce useful citizens, why are we not doing it despite spending far more, now, than ever we did in the past?
But of course the goal of the education system has little to do with education at all. The goals of the education system are determined by Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, and in fact the education system is one of the most powerful data sets confirming the Iron Law.
Transparency and subsidiarity. A Watts school district controlled by Watts -- taxes and policy -- would have far less money per pupil than is spent there now -- and I would wager that it would have far better schools. And whether it does or not, we can be very certain that a Sherman Oaks school district given control of both the finances and policies of its local schools would produce better schools than it has now -- and spend less money on them.
There used to be three enormous examples of the futility of centralized planning of massive activities: NASA, the Soviet System of Agriculture, and the American system of education. NASA is trying to change as it shrinks, and one change was Dan Goldin's attempt to decentralize. The Soviet system of collective farming vanished with the other central planning of that failed empire. The American system of education remains, grows more powerful, and accomplishes less every year; and attempts to 'reform' it consist of even more centralization.
Somewhere we ought to try transparency and subsidiarity. Until we do we sow the wind. The whirlwind will be a Dark Age. Dark Ages are not times in which we simply cannot do things we used to be able to do: they are times when we have forgotten that we ever could do them, that they ever could be done. We sow that wind. Dark Age Ahead
The University Students in California are out protesting the tuition: they assert their right to have someone else pay for their education.
That is worth a long essay and a number of questions. I got my education in a state university system: indeed I went to the University of Washington because I was legally a Washington state resident due to my parents then residing in the then Territory of Alaska -- Alaskans were Washington state residents, since Alaska was an economic colony of Seattle at the time. I couldn't afford a private university, and I was running out of the GI Bill which had paid my way through much of the University of Iowa where I was certainly not a resident. Long story. My point is that I can hardly denounce the state university system in this country.
But whether given the new and enormous costs of state universities -- see the Iron Law of Bureaucracy for many of the reasons why -- and the enormous expansion of that system (California used to have a system in which the Universities had tiny elite undergraduate programs and were mostly graduate schools, and the State Colleges were undergraduate schools with little graduate school activity -- but that got thrown out in the name of diversity and equality, and now there's no sane allocation system.
But the students had to be dispersed by riot police. And it's not over. That's education for you.
The solution is to admit fewer students to the expensive education systems, and expand the cheaper ones. But that won't happen. It would make too much sense.
Transparency and subsidiarity... That is, keep the State centralized university system, scale it to what can be afforded, and give the local state colleges to their local districts, to control and to finance as they can and will. But that is not likely to happen.
The Senate version of the health care bill changes the definition of a primary care physician to include LVN and Physician Assistant. I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing, but I am quite certain it need not be in a national law.
Subsidiarity and transparency...
November 20, 2009
In case it wasn't clear: what I said yesterday was not that the goal of most teachers is false; it is that the goal of the system is dictated by the Iron Law. There are many good teachers and some excellent teachers in the school system. Some produce remarkable results, and one of the things Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation has found is that an excellent teacher can produce far more spectacular results than smaller class sizes, better books, or any of the other conventional remedies. But the system not only doesn't recognize that, but works against it. The system resists the entire notion of merit pay, or promotion on classroom merit, or anything like that.
Subsidiarity and transparency. Local control of policy will generate thousands of policies. Some will be successful.
Apparently some of the global warming consensus has been a bit less than honest. They feel so strongly about their theory that they feel no compunction about what they are doing.
I have often observed that you can prove anything if you can make up your data.
Heading out for our walk. AND
I also have this link: <http://www.climatedepot.com/> Note that I am not familiar with the Climate Depot web site.** Some of the links there lead to interesting information. I suspect that this is a large enough story that some large media organizations with far more fact checking resources than I have -- Fox News, at least, and possibly more main stream outfits -- will be unable to ignore it.
It does appear that the consensus has within it a conspiracy whose goal is to produce a consensus. The payoff is big grants, travel tickets to conferences in nice places to be, and generally financing many of the people who form the consensus. That isn't to say there are not genuine scientists among the consensus.
At one time the "climate change" community was starkly divided: the modelers were certain that there would be global warming. All their models said so, starting with Arrhenius and his simple calculations in 1895. Rising CO2 levels would bring warming. At the same time the data gatherers insisted they had not seen any warming other than the 1 degree F per century trend that began in the 14th Century as the Little Ice Age was ending -- and even that seemed to be faltering.
When the data and the models disagree, common sense would say to revise the models, and for a while that was what was going on; but then a number of highly visible scientists began political campaigns. There was Hansen rolling his large cardboard dice in an artificially heated Congressional Committee hearing room. That was in 1989; prior to 1985 or so the consensus among climate scientists was that the Earth was cooling, and the probable disaster was another Little Ice Age. After Hansen's dramatic act there was funding of new studies of warning, and the consensus began to shift from the view of the data collectors to the views of the modelers. Some of modelers were not terribly scientific: there was Mann with his "hockey stick" who refused to publish either the model or the data set he was using. "Trade Secret" science was something new, and he got little support for his position among scientists -- but he got quite a lot from the science administration bureaucracy that compiles and publishes a number of official reports.
The result was that Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy took over: those who got control of science organizations acted to increase their influence and the money flow toward their organizations.
We now hear that a number of actual scientists are beginning to question the warming hypothesis. Some are nonplussed. Is the cooling due to solar activity? Ocean currents? Cosmic rays? You can find supporters of each hypothesis. Of course this is from scientists who pay attention to data. Big Science continues to denounce Climate Change Deniers. The very name implies obloquy of course. You can't just not agree with the consensus -- you have to be a "denier", practically guilty of a hate crime just for your beliefs.
And now we find that at least some of the "Consensus" is in fact a conspiracy. I am sure we have not heard the last of this, Meanwhile, we have this:
Which sounds to me as if climatologists are now admitting they have not the faintest idea of what is going on. I have a remedy for them. Study the data and refine the models. Stop assuming you already know the answers and start looking for better models....
But for the moment the Consensus begins to look more and more like a Conspiracy.
Climategate: the final nail in the coffin?
I don' t know if it's a final nail in the coffin, but it sure does look like it's conspiracy, not consensus.
And the evidence piles up: Hasan was a jihadist, a lot of people knew it, and political correctness kept anyone from saying anything. There should be a lesson in there.
November 21, 2009
It is a sign of my preoccupation with other work that I didn't remember about the Climate Depot web site I mentioned above. It's maintained by Mark Moreno, who was a Republican congressional staffer whose newsletters on climate research activities were reliable and useful. He still does newsletters. I've found him fairly reliable in that he points to sources. He's quite political, of course.
In any event, http://www.climatedepot.com/a/3943/Read-All-About-it-Climate-Depot-Exclusive--Continuously-Updated-ClimateGate-News-Round-Up shows the latest in the ClimateGate imbroglio generated when a climate change operation's email site was hacked and many emails made public. It does appear very likely that some, perhaps a lot, of the "consensus" was in fact engineered by a conspiracy. You can prove anything if you make up your data, and some people with science credentials apparently were either making up or suppressing data with the intent of building a consensus on the proposition that climate change denial is dangerous and contemptible. (See Mail)
Of course the important question is not was this a conspiracy, but is the man-made climate change hypothesis true? If it really is true, one might understand the impetus to get people to believe and understand "by any means necessary." It would also be a pretty good illustration of why "any means necessary" is a dangerous way to defend a scientific theory.
I have always operated on the principle that truth will out, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," and such like: that is, that the best way to persuade people -- at least the people who pay attention to me -- is through rational argument. Possony was fond of saying that either you believe in rational thought or you don't. I've never forgotten that, and it may be the most important principle I learned from him.
warning of the dangers of continuing to spend far more than we can possibly bring in as government revenue. Deficits have to be financed. The financing can come from borrowing -- selling Treasury bonds, for example -- which costs money as the debt service and interest rates drive the deficit even higher. It can come from increasing government revenue by raising taxes, but in fact it's pretty certain that tax raises will not bring in more revenue: the US is probably at a place on the Laffer Curve where increasing taxes will actually reduce revenue (California certainly is), and in any event with the economy a shambles higher taxes don't bring in much. And it can come from printing more money.
Running the printing presses is a classic government way to finance itself, and the result is invariably inflation. Inflation is always, among other things, a tax on savings and fixed incomes. It is often confiscatory, and once those sources have dried up and those with savings or fixed incomes are ruined, inflation continues to destroy the economy. The classic runaway inflation was in Germany from 1922 to 1923. At one time I had a postage stamp, originally issued for 3 pfennigs, overstamped several times; the final denomination of that stamp was 300 mird millionen marks, and it was good for one first class letter. That, I think, illustrates where inflation can lead. Those were times in Germany when it was more efficient to burn paper marks than to try to buy coal or heating oil -- or even firewood -- with the paper money. People would quite literally take the money they were paid and rush out to try to buy food before the money they held was worthless.
I also used to have a Brazilian note for about 200 million cruzeros; this from my trip to Brazil in the 1990's. And of course there is runaway inflation in some African countries today.
Can that happen in the US? We like to think it cannot. Surely we are more sophisticated than that? Perhaps so; but the danger is certainly not zero. All during the German inflation there were economists who insisted that runaway inflation wasn't caused by increasing the currency in circulation; that the government could print money as it chose. Looking at what's going on in Washington right now, it would appear there are people who believe that still, and they're Treasury advisors.
Long time readers of this page will recall that I advised readers to pay attention to gold a year ago.
Meanwhile the Congress seems bent on increasing government health care funding -- the least I have seen is about 2% a year, and almost everyone I know thinks the costs will be considerably larger -- and then creates a boundless new entitlement. Entitlements don't ever seem to be cut, they always grow, and they do not help the economy recover.
The present administration seems determined to continue its policies while protesting that cutting the deficit is of primary importance. One wonders how we can increase spending and cut the deficit. The only way I know is to run the printing presses.
We live in interesting times. I thought Weimar Germany already ran that experiment; apparently they don't teach much history now. The Health Care Bill will now be debated. The price of getting enough votes even to debate it was billions in new deficits. I do not know what the final result will be, but adopting that bill in any form will make the deficit higher, and runaway inflation even more likely.
November 22, 2009
Catching up on mail that I missed due to the combined trip to DC and days at Microsoft PDC. You will find a large number of mails on different subjects in today's mail.
I am listening to a rant about vaccines: the cervical cancer vaccine apparently killed at least two (2) teenage children. I do not know how many got the vaccine but I assume millions. I also assume there is no way to determine in advance who may have abnormal sensitivity to vaccines.
I also remember when smallpox and polio were very much dread diseases, and everyone was terrified when polio season came around. I had a friend in Seattle, Bruce Wilson, who was a fencing club partner: I last saw Bruce in an Iron Lung in a hospital. He would be in that lung for the rest of his life. This was just as Dr. Salk discovered his polio immunization process, which came just too late for Bruce (who was my age at the time). I am old enough to remember when the dog sled run to carry diphtheria immunization was quite real: it happened a few years before I was born, but it was still discussed, especially among those who owned northern breed dogs as we did. And of course we all grew up understanding the importance of The Pox, and the importance of vaccinations, which in those days were fairly painful, left a large scar, and were universal; I suppose there were a few conscientious objectors and some who managed to avoid smallpox vaccinations, but not many, and when you joined the army you got another even if you could show a smallpox vaccination.
I don't believe that the Swine Flu vaccine is part of a population control conspiracy. I do question the wisdom of current practices of giving a whole pile of immunization shots at once to young children. I suppose it comes from bureaucratic convenience: it's easier to force everyone to get all their shots at once, because it's hard to keep track of some parts of the population, so if you get them, shoot them up: and as to why force everyone to take all their shots at once, blame political correctness and égalité. I don't insist on this theory. I do question why it is so difficult to get immunizations spaced out and not given all at once, and common sense tells me that it is probably less dangerous to get them one or a few at a time rather than the all at once they offer now. When I was young we eagerly got all our shots, there not being so many: I think there wasn't a whooping cough shot when I was young. I know my first child got DPT as one shot. By the time we had a fourth they were giving many more at once, but Dr. Pulido, our pediatrician, recommended that we do DPT first and wait a few weeks for some of the others. Eventually all the boys got all the shots.
In any event, we don't get Swine Flu shots, apparently; I already have the seasonal flu shot, as I do every year.
Do understand that it's not as easy as it was when Mr. Heinlein wrote Take Back Your Government, but it is still very much worth reading. It's how things used to work, and could be made to work again. At one time the US was governed by about 60,000 self-selected party workers.
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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