THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 618 April 12 - 18, 2010
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April 12, 2010
The April Column is up. There's a good bit about the iPad and its probable impact on information consumption, and I'll put together a mail bag about that shortly since I'm already getting mail about it. And I put up a large and mixed bag of mail last night.
Meanwhile, there's an article in the business section of the Wall Street Journal that raises ire, or at least got my dander up.
What happened is that the FDA has given URL Pharma Inc. a monopoly on a folk remedy, and the price of colchicine went for $.07 a pill to $5.00; and URL Pharma is now suing the folk remedy producers to put them out of business so they can reap the rewards of their government granted monopoly. The article has no hint that URL Pharma engaged in any kind of skullduggery. It's all perfectly legal. It's just a great example of government and Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy at work.
Your tax dollars at work.
Now Rush Limbaugh is talking up iPad as a way to sell Carbonite backup to Mac users. (Back up your iPad to your Mac, then back the Mac with Carbonite.) The amusing thing is that he's talking, he says, to people who bought an iPad as their first computer -- and who are therefore quite unlikely to have a Mac to back it up to. I wonder if he has thought that out. But: it may be the case that the iPad will be the first computer for a number of people. iPhone certainly was. More recruits for the computer revolution...
On the Google Settlement: See mail. I have tried to clarify my views.
And indeed I suppose I should make it clear since at least one reader misunderstood:
Just for the record. I think there can be improvements in the Guild/Google agreement and indeed there have been some at the instigation of the judge, but I also think that any further improvements are likely to be offset by the problems caused by the delay. I don't like the advantages Google gets, but they're the ones who put up the money to scan all those works before they vanished, and they should get something out of it. One can now accept the settlement -- opt in -- and claim the compensation money for having one's works scanned without permission, then opt out of letting Google make the scanned work available. That seems fair to me, and is the course I am likely to take: I'll take care of my own publication of my works, and I'll take the compensation offered for the insult. Meanwhile, orphan works are now available through Google, and if an heir or copyright holder appears, there is a mechanism for the holder to get a share of the revenue. I don't see anything better likely. Let's get on with it.
There was an attachment of a zip file that purportedly told the details. Of course I did not open that, as of course you will not.
This has scatological but not blasphemous or obscene language. It's self explanatory:
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|This week:||Tuesday, April
Today's Wall Street Journal has an entire page dedicated to "Debating Obama's New Nuclear Doctrine", with statements by George Schultz, Wolfowitz, Schlesinger, and others who have been involved with US military doctrines. The Schlesinger contribution, "The Policy is Better than the Rhetoric," is particularly worth attention. I hope the Senators who will have to debate any new treaty growing out of the current meetings and Administration attention to nuclear matters will read it. Those with long enough memories may find my recommendation surprising since I wasn't always in agreement with Schlesinger in the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon days, but I have never contended that Schlesinger's views weren't worth respect and consideration.
Like Schlesinger I am a bit concerned about abandoning the "calculated ambiguity" of our nuclear umbrella and extended deterrence. Nuclear policy is far too important for political games. Politics ought to stop well before that.
I don't want to imply that Schlesiner's views are the only ones worth considering in that discussion. The Wall Street Journal has done an excellent job of assembling a spectrum of sensible views, all worth thinking about. Nuclear policy is never simple. Thinking about the unthinkable has never been easy. The miracle is that we have managed more than half a century without strategic or tactical use of nuclear weapons.
It's also clear, at least to me, that the "Arms Control" strategy of nuclear weapons control is pitifully insufficient: one also needs a Strategy of Technology. That got us through the Cold War; it's even more important now. It is not clear to me that the Administration fully understands that, although I believe the Pentagon does.
I have just about completed my taxes, which are higher than I had expected so it took more time to deal with it.
Newt is generally worth watching. PJTV has the annoying habit of flickering in and out with house advertisements and exhortations for your support, so that I didn't watch all of these due to the distractions. I hasten to add that I don't spend a lot of time watching videos of material if I can read it, and I have more to read than I can get at, so my patience with such annoyances is probably shorter than most. If I were in a business in which I had to spend a lot of time waiting for something to compile, or for messages to come in, or (like firemen) waiting for events I'd prefer I wouldn't have to deal with, I'd probably be more appreciative of their interviews and presentations, which generally range from good to excellent, with good production qualities.
April 14, 2010
More and more evidence surfaces that liberal Democrats and union thugs are organizing infiltrations of the Tea Party rallies. Their minions shout racist slogans and carry racist signs. Sometimes they advocate violence. There have even been instances of agents provocateur, people who don't just show up at a rally in order to give the media a photo op of what appears to be an embarrassing act by a Tea Party rallyer: they seek to join and get others to agree to violence and racism. They tell racist jokes in order to get films of people laughing at them. This probably isn't common, but it has certainly happened. I bring this up only to remind readers planning on being involved in tomorrow's rallies that everyone you meet there is not necessarily your friend; be careful. And I really hate having to say that. If the subject interests you, Michelle Malkin has more.
The Nuclear Summit is over. Perhaps I haven't read closely enough, but I don't see that it accomplished anything of importance.
What's at Stake in Kyrgyzstan? by Ariel Cohen does a good job of answering that question, but it inadvertently addresses another important question: what's at stake in imperialism? The only reason the US has to be interested in Kyrgyzstan is that we have a war in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan makes nothing we want, buys little to nothing from us, and is generally uninteresting -- in other words, it's a bit like Afghanistan. In theory we have interests there, but those interests are generated by a foreign policy that keeps us interested in such places. So long as we are involved in the territorial disputes of Europe and Asia, we will find ourselves paying the price of hegemony. That price includes making deals with people like President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was recently hustled out of his capital by a mob that had had enough. The mob was able to succeed for the same reason that Castro's revolution was able to succeed. Batista's soldiers stopped defending him; just as the security forces of Kyrgyzstan did not drive the mob from the streets.
When the soldiers are willing to fire, mobs don't win. A handful of cartridges will disperse the mob -- look at Iran. Napoleon went further and used cannon. His "whiff of grapeshot" settled the French Revolution. Batista was no Napoleon, just as Bakiyev was no Tamarlane. Bakiyev, though, was what we got, and since our intervention in Afghanistan depends on our base in Kyrgyzstan, we had to deal with him. Apparently our imperial intelligence forces were unable to either keep him in power, or come up with ways to ingratiate ourselves with the opposition. That may be competence, or, more likely, it's a case of will: neither the Administration nor the State Department bureaucracy was willing to do what it takes to pursue a policy of competent imperialism.
Blood is the price of admiralty. The Great Game is the price of Empire. Running a Competent Empire requires a strong stomach. Either that or unlimited ambition: are we now to restructure Kyrgyzstan into a liberal democracy? One suspect that Russia, which also has a base in this former USSR area, may have ideas about that. What used to be called Russian Turkestan remains of interest to Moscow. The Chinese pretty well dominate Chinese Turkestan -- the Uighers are a pretty small minority and have been subdued enough that we rarely hear of them now -- but the Russians don't know what to do about Russian Turkestan. There aren't enough Russians simply to replace them -- indeed, the Turkestani are more likely to replace the Russians in Russia. Another matter of considerable interest if anyone in the US is looking at the long term, which I doubt. Competent Empire requires thinking well ahead of the headlines. Our posture of Incompetent Empire doesn't need that and we don't do it. Instead we muddle through, and some cheer as a tyrant is overthrown and hope that his replacement won't be so awful, while others worry about how the hell we supply our troops in Afghanistan if the new Kyrgyzstan regime decides to close our base when the lease expires this summer.
Jimmy Carter let the Shah fall, and Iran went from being reasonably friendly to violently hostile; we then had to make do with Saddam Hussein, who made the Shah look like a Saint, only the State Department failed to let Saddam know that his leash wasn't infinitely long, and let him think that he could get away with retaking his irredentist province of Kuwait, starting that long train of hideously expensive interventions into the territorial disputes of the Near East. After a while we couldn't take Saddam any longer, so out he went, and the State Department sent in the most incompetent pro-consul since Lepidus. Now it's Kyrgyzstan: do we liberate it, restore the tyrant, encourage another tyrant, or just wish loudly that Turkestan rapidly becomes a liberal democracy and we can all just get along, or at least supply the Legions in Afghanistan.
1725: Done with my medical appointments. Looks as if I'll be around awhile. Still have some skin barnacles to be cleared up with the air can in a couple of weeks but there's nothing serious there. I've got some residual effects from the radiation, but we expected all that and given the alternative...
So I'll be writing for a while yet. Fortunately I can.
April 15, 2010
I have finished my taxes and I'll walk them down to the Post Office. It took longer to prepare than I thought. Alas, it takes nearly as long to get everything together for someone else to do it as it does for me to do it myself -- at one time I was much better at it than the tax people, but I seem to have slowed down in the past few years. Ah well. As I told my doctor yesterday, I now have the memory problems that Larry Niven has had all his life. I have become the absent minded professor of all the jokes I used to tell. Ah well.
The egregious Henry Waxman has decided not to allow US firms to come explain just why they expect their premiums to go up and their income to go down when the Health Care Act goes into effect. Apparently someone got to him and pointed out that (1) he was acting like McCarthy was accused of acting, and (2) the companies were in the right, obeying the law, and were eager to come tell their side of the story. Ah, what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive...
"Peace Is Our Profession". There's a good short article on Curtis LeMay and SAC in today's Wall Street Journal. Its point, and that's a major point, is that if you rely on deterrence as a strategy, your threat has to be believed. No one doubted that LaMay, given the order, would have carried out whatever SIOP the President chose, and do so without hesitation; and that SAC, the organization he had created, would do as ordered.
I suppose most readers do not remember those days when the B-47 and B-52 crews slept out on the runway ready to generate the force at a single command from Dropkick, and young men and women spent their Christmases in deep silo with the keys to Armageddon as necklaces. That's just as well. They were perilous times. But we are here today because of them. Had the Soviet Military been able to report to the Politburo that "Yes, Comrade Chairman, we would take terrible casualties but at the end we would dominate the world without question," they would have had a decision to make; and while for much of the time there were few believing Communists on that committee, every single one of them had to pretend to be -- and some of the members, like Suslov, were true believers, ready to trade today for the bright promise of a Soviet Tomorrow.
Consider the crews of the KC-135 tankers assigned to refuel the B-52's over the North Pole. There is no partition between the tanks the plane flies on and those holding the fuel to be pumped into the bombers. These forces were sent north immediately on an alert; and had the alert been real, had the confirming orders been received and the bombers arrived ready to go in, they would have pumped themselves dry. Four minutes flying time remaining and you are dead stick over the Arctic Ocean.
Peace was their profession.
James Woolsey was Clinton's Director of Central Intelligence. His op ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal is worth your attention. "How to End America's Addiction to Oil" has a lot of hard foundation data, and part of it read like the kinds of things I was writing back in the days when one of Woolsey's friends was Newt Gingrich, who thought highly of him. His proposal is not as drastic as mine would be, but it's a far better way to go than what we are doing -- or not doing. We will not be saved by small measures.
C-NET has an interview with Marc Maiffret, former teen-age
hacker and bane of Microsoft, on the state of computer security. It's well
worth your reading.
Having concluded that Microsoft has been taking the problems seriously and has made dramatic and substantial improvements since Bill Gates' 2002 memorandum, the interview continues:
He also considers Adobe to be a high risk outfit. Read the article for details.
I'm hardly an expert on Apple vulnerabilities; I've never so far as I know been bitten by any malware on any Apple system. That's certainly not true regarding Microsoft.
I got this interesting comment on Waxman wimping out:
April 16, 2010
The Day After Doomsday
The great volcanic cloud covers the North Atlantic and much of northern Europe, shutting down jet traffic. It must be something like the volcanic cloud that Benjamin Franklin witnessed on this voyage to England: that caused Dr. Franklin to speculate that such clouds could cool the Earth by reflecting away the sunlight, and might be responsible for great glaciers, cool summers, and even the return of the ice. Meanwhile, I hear that this was the warmest March in history (history being since the 1880's). Land temperature was a full 1.39 degrees above the average of 54.9 degrees. For the oceans it was 1.01 degree above the 20th century average of 60.7 degrees. How we manage to calculate temperatures to .01 degree is not explained, and one is permitted to question that accuracy, but it sure looks impressive.
I don't want to make light of climate changes, but I do find it hard to believe they're serious when they report an ocean temperature of "1.01 degrees above the average" as if the .01 had any meaning whatever.
We'll see if the volcanic cloud affects April's temperature. In Franklin's time the Hudson still froze over in winter, there were far more glaciers, and Europe was having a colder than usual summer; the results were quite noticeable in terms of growing seasons and crop yields.
Regarding history, clearly it was colder prior to 1880. They just don't know how much colder. Not sure what that means, either, since they don't blush to report temperatures to the nearest hundredth of a degree Fahrenheit from 1880 on.
Time for my walk.
I have never seen a WePad, and I tend to be suspicious of web sites that are a joint venture with "neofonie" but that may be my unduly suspicious nature. Anyone have one of these? I expect that someone will make a Linux version for sale at a reasonable price, but I am not sure it has happened yet.
"The Case Against Gene Patents" by Nobel in Economics winners Joseph Stiglitz and John Sultson presents its case well. A court recently ruled against the gene patent granted to Myriad Genetics, which had developed tests for a proclivity to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
This seems to me an obvious finding; it's analogous to the isolation of a new element. Patenting processes using the element, or the process used to isolate it, would be quite appropriate, but to say that any one firm had a monopoly on everything associated with the element seems absurd.
The rest of the article concerns economic incentives and research: how far should patent law reach, and how does that affect the incentive to do necessary research? Stiglitz and Sultson present the case that patenting genes is bad economics as well as bad law. This will be appealed, and we may be sure it will come up again. It's an emotional issue:
Obviously I defend intellectual property and reward for investment in scientific discoveries. I'm also in favor of this court ruling: I don't think the US can grant a monopoly on study of a gene. This hasn't yet come before Congress, but that's one possibility; it would be well to have a rational position on the subject before it gets there.
I'm still thinking about the implications of this. I have a friend at Sloan Kettering with inoperable stomach cancer and about a year; if that could be prevented from mestasizing long enough for chemo to shrink it until it can be operated on, the benefit would be obvious. Of course before the FDA will approve it for use with anyone including those who will die without it, the year will probably be up. More on the FDA and approval another time.
I have not seen her for years, but when I regularly went to AAAS meetings she was there often. We didn't always agree but she was always rational. RIP
The Sun is spotless again. The Minimum continues. http://www.solarcycle24.com/ Temperatures continue to rise. What it all means isn't clear, at least not to me.
And more breaking news :
We once had weapons of mass destruction. Come to that, we still do...
April 17, 2010
.Tax week is over and I am back at work. Except that we're getting roofed -- leaks in several places, and our roof is old -- and that took a lot of Roberta's time collecting bids and interviewing contractors, and just as we were going to start they noticed the bees are back, and I've been two days getting the bee man to come out and flush out my bees, They're up at the peak of the highest roof and I can't figure out where they're nesting, but they seem to be up there. So I'm waiting for the bee man to show up.
Morning was used partly to fire up ancient Windows 2000 machines on which lurk the programs -- the program itself and the disk label printer -- which create Roberta's reading program. If you're not familiar with that you're likely a new reader since I talk about it a lot. It's a Windows program that will teach anyone from about age 4 to adult to read English in 70 one half hour lessons. Some people may have to repeat some lessons, but the program has been shown to work in multi-lingual public schools, private schools, homes, and just about anywhere else, with bright students and average students and some special problems students. It's a bit hokey since it was written for DOS in pre-Windows days, but the game seems to be fun enough to get attention. Anyway she's had some orders recently and I had to make her some new disks and labels. I have CD burners all over the place, of course, but I have always made these on an ancient Windows 2000 system which I barely remember how to turn on. All worked without incident other than that I had the CAPS LOCK key on without realizing it so I thought I had forgotten the password. Same with label printing, which takes place on a Compaq iPaq Desktop running Windows 2000 Professional and an ancient Cannon color printer that never gets turned on
April 18, 2010
Will there ever again be an England?
Perhaps England needs the equivalent of the Oath Keepers. Only of course in England the Oath is to the Crown, not to the people or Constitution.
I am going to take the rest of the day off. I will get some mail up tonight. But I found this looking over older mail:
I doubt we will have falsifiable hypotheses from this but perhaps so...
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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