THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 651 November 29 - December 5, 2010
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November 29, 2010
The November Column is done and ought to be posted sometime tonight. I am sort of recovered from the flu that has kept me nearly unable to work for two weeks. I don't think I am completely recovered, but I have been able to work steadily, not just in half hour intervals. Deo Gratia.
Today's mail will have some observations from Korea by an on the spot reader, and some notes on the TSA X-ray screeners and ways they might go wrong and do harm. My own view remains that when properly operating they deliver considerably less radiation than you'll get from the flight, and the chances that they will do you real damage are low compared to the probability that you will be in an accident going to or coming from the airport. I object to the TSA and its mission of reducing American citizens to obedient subjects, but I don't find the new X-ray scanners that much more objectionable than what they used to do. Of course the TSA adopted intentionally offensive body searches as an alternative to the X-Ray scanners, with the deliberate purpose of punishing those who chose to opt out. It's part of their "you are subjects, not citizens" campaign. To those who say "We're TSA and we don't have that intent!" I can only say that I do not believe you have thought through the consequences of what you are doing. See mail.
Regarding Korea, the situation is going where I thought it would, which is a slow spiral down to nothing. The addition of an American carrier to the Yellow Sea mildly disturbs me in that it was predictable, and it furnishes a really high value target to North Korea, but I don't count the probability that anything will come of that as very high. I suspect this story will just fade away, leaving behind the picture of a tiger made if not of paper, then of thin sheet metal. But perhaps I am wrong. I am disappointed that the South Korean gunners, given the green light to fire, did not take out the entire North Korean battalion that fired on them. South Korea has much better munitions and radar than North Korea, and even with three of their six guns out of action they ought to have been able to have a decisive win. Surely they already had the azimuth and range of all the North Korean guns? And the fact that the North got only three of the South Korean Six in their first barrage says volumes. But perhaps I am far out of date on technologies. Still, I am surprised. I'd have thought the South Korean gunners better than that. I had a bit more to say on that yesterday. ... There is also mail.
I note that the Government Motors IP took place and that the holders of GM bonds who were stripped of their assets so that GM could belong to the unions that bankrupted the firm in the first place were not even offered first choice in getting in on the IP price. That is neither justice nor smart. Clearly the GM incident was manipulated to reward political friends and perhaps to induce some others to become friends. It is neither constitutional nor justice, but that should not be astonishing.
If you have not seen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9fc-crEFDw it might be worth your time.
Mail is up over at current mail.
CMDR John J. Adams of United Planets Cruiser C-57D, RIP.
-- Roland Dobbins
Monsters! From the Id! But that's not important now...
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November 30, 2010
.I have done a release candidate of the November Mailbag, so if I can get that finished and up by midnight I will officially have caught up, sort of, on Chaos Manor Reviews for November. Niven is coming over and maybe we'll make some progress on the novel. I am up to working again.
If you want to see what the Climate Change Believers are saying now, see
"Heaven on Earth -- Melting Away" by Fen Montaigne
I suppose I can comment on it, but that may not be needed. It's pretty clear where the flaws are. If this is the new Believer position, and they are certain that the Science Is Settled, then it really is time for them to think again.
The Korean situation is stable I think. It is clear that it was a planned event, with NK bringing up mobile rocket launchers (having apparently put their standard artillery into protective shelters). They they fired salvos of rockets, knocking out three of the six 155's the South Koreans have on the island. Then, while the SK gunners were getting permission to shoot back, the rocket launchers were withdrawn. What target list the SK gunners used to fire their missions with their three remaining guns I do not know; it could hardly be counter battery since the NK rocket launchers were long gone. One now wonders just what targets the SK gunners had? Public buildings? The NK revetments holding their big guns? What targets would you choose for retaliatory fire?
"Europe's Single Debt Zone" (link) in today's Wall Street is worth your time. The Euro has become a way for spendthrift countries to swindle money out of Germany. How long the Germans will put up with this is not clear to me.
Meanwhile, Wikileak is bringing the first Point of Wilson's Fourteen Points to reality: Open Covenants Openly Arrived At. Secret diplomacy was, according to Liberal/Progressives like Wilson, a main reason for war. Making diplomacy absolutely open would insure peace. Just to be certain, there was the Kellogg Briand Pact that outlawed war. This was signed in 1928, and contributed to some of the pacifism that restricted the rearming of the democracies that lead to Munich. So it goes. So we will now have open covenants openly arrived at. Hurrah.
Wikileak raises a number of difficult issues I haven't time to deal with before Niven gets here. I'm open to suggestions.
And Niven is here.
Good lunch. Lots of work.
There is mail in the usual place here. The November Mailbag should be up at Chaos Manor Reviews tonight. I am almost caught up. Whew.
December 1, 2010
The November Mailbag is up at Chaos Manor Reviews, so I am sort of caught up, practically almost. I also got a good night's sleep, which means it's late in the morning, and I'm still trying to think of a way to be brief in addressing the can of worms that Wikileak has opened. Nothing about this is simple.
Edward Teller once said that except for military operations nothing ought to be secret: it was better that information be available all through your own organization than that it be compartmented in an attempt to keep secrets that would be lost to intelligence work anyway: security was better at restricting information flow within your organization than it was at keeping it from getting out, and the cost of that flow restriction would be higher than the damage caused by leaks. Obviously certain operations had to be kept secret, but not for any great length of time.
Of course Teller was thinking more about science and technology than diplomacy, and there are plenty of operational aspects to diplomacy: diplomatic cables are sent in code for good reasons. Frederick the Great had a spy in the Austrian chancellery who served him well (until he was caught and ended up spending 18 years in a dungeon).
Anyway, there are many aspects to this. Who should have access to what? What good does it do to have this fire hose of information available at field and even company grade levels throughout the military? There are damned few outfits that have a slot for a tech sergeant or above to be an intelligence analyst, and it is a mystery to me what anyone expects a PFC to get from having access to 250,000 reports and documents. And of course there is no way at all to do a full field check on every PFC assigned to "intelligence analysis". Such field checks even for the SECRET level are quite expensive, or were in my day. More, you can't know what people need for their jobs. When I was doing ballistic missile intelligence analysis, I ended up with a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with my job, but it might have, so I got it. Sometimes it was a stretch: some country had served as a base for Soviet missiles, and might again, and missiles are missiles, so here's access to what we know about that country including some operations we've carried out there. That sort of thing. I worked damned hard to keep separate in my head what I knew from such access and what I thought about the politics of the situation, and it was never easy. On the other hand, I was dealing with physical documents, tens of pounds of paper, not tens of thousands of electronic documents.
And I'm rambling, which is easy to do when principles of this magnitude are involved. It's time for my walk.
Those who want something to read might find this worth while:
We got the poem about the Heather Ale in about 8th grade, and I have never forgotten it. The Ticonderoga legend is also haunting.
Contemplating Oswald Spengler is always depressing. Spengler's Decline of the West, a non-Marxist but decidedly Hegelian analysis of history, is something undergraduates ought to read while they are forming their views of the world; Spengler is still relevant, but he's also wrong in many respects, and one needs time to contemplate what he is saying. Spengler is not useful for those looking for incidental reading.. His reflections on technology are worth reading, but his Technology book -- the last he ever wrote -- is typical Germanic scholarship, meaning that you will have to much want getting through it. It's worth while but it needs reflecting.
On the other hand, today's Wall Street Journal headline is "Europe's Crisis Widens" (link). Among other things it shows the student riots in Britain. There are other riots in Europe. Since the debt and entitlement obligations of the United States are about the same as the failing states in Europe -- California and New York are certainly about as bad off as much of Europe -- one can worry about the United States as much as one wants to. Money is betraying Western civilization.
So is technology in that it is making many people redundant by taking up their jobs. Then there is the concentration of income into smaller groups, while the notion of domestic service as a career is way out of favor -- and given the income distributions in the West well beyond what the middle class can afford. (And note that Meg Whitman was unable to get loyal service at $23 an hour, a wage that many would think rather generous for a nanny.)
We have encouraged many to believe that going into debt to "get and education" would solve their economic problems for life; actually it has reduced much of the coming middle class to eternal bondage. That is very much worth worrying about. The "education" isn't worth much, because we are so beset with the notion of equality rather than freedom that we give a lousy education to everyone -- lousy top worthless, actually -- with only small exceptions in technology and the sciences. But the science and technology students still get a lousy education in history and philosophy, with evident results.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. You won't learn that in many of our educational institutions, but you can become a bondsman. Salve Sclave.
Relevant to that:
Perhaps they ought to read the Constitution to the Senators as we once read the Articles of War to the troops...
December 2, 2010
Still Catching up. The Wikipedia story continues. Now some other nations are embarrassed. I do wonder if the unreleased diplomatic cables name sources. Quite possibly.
Open Covenants Openly Arrived At: every diplomat's nightmare.
Sam Cohen, one of the original Los Alamos Manhattan Project technical staff, was an old friend of my friend and mentor Stefan T. Possony and sometimes joined us for lunch when Steve was in town. Sam was generous of his time and several times participated in my senior seminars when I was a professor at Pepperdine. Cohen and Feynman were old friends from Manhattan Project days. I haven't seen Sam Cohen since the Millennium.
Sam invented and championed the Neutron Bomb. This was a way to partition the energy release from a thermonuclear weapon for minimum blast and heat, and maximum emission of neutrons. Neutrons destroy tissue. They kill people without destroying cities. You can take refuge from neutron weapons in properly designed shelters, but you can't hide from them in the open. They are very effective against advancing troops whether leg infantry, armored infantry, or full armor. Tanks don't shield from neutrons, and while the weapon won't destroy the tank, it will give its crew a heavy dose of radiation poisoning.
The Neutron Bomb was instrumental in buffing up deterrence: a deterrent threat can't work if there is no chance that anyone will use the weapons. Neutron weapons were scary because they were believable. In those long ago days a "tactical nuclear weapon" was one that went off in Germany: France had the force de frappe, England had nukes, Poland and points east had the Warsaw Pact, but everyone thought Germany west of the Fulda Gap was a potential battlefield. Neutron weapons were a credible threat to Red hordes sweeping west; and the threat of the Russian on the Rhine was certainly greater than zero.
He will not get the credit that is due him. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/us/02cohen.html
Sam's neutron weapon was the cause of his enemies developing what was one of the silliest Cold War arguments of all time, one that was manifestly so absurd that I had trouble accepting that some supposedly very intelligent people believed it. The notion was that an army advancing into a neutron burst would now be an army of walking dead, and knowing that would fight all the harder, thus making their success all the more likely. I called it the "Zombies make great tankers" argument, and usually labeling it that would cause at least some intelligent people not so much to change their minds as to stop talking about it.
Decades later I was exposed to a non-lethal dose of hard radiation in my brain cancer treatments, and I can tell you, radiation exposure does not leave you much energy to fight hard or easy; it was all I could do to get home. Zombies would not make great tankers...
Sam was the inventor of the neutron weapon, and the author of the neutron weapon briefing which he gave many times to relevant Congressional committees as well as to any sincere inquiries; he did not hesitate to discuss the subject with intellectual opponents so long as the discussion remained a discussion; he would never participate in a shouting match, which was what many of his opponents were soon reduced to. Sam and I were on several discussion panels in the Carter era.
Sam's book, The Truth About Neutron Weapons (I think that's the title) was once required reading for Cold War strategists. He was also known for accurate technology predictions, which he made with pencil and paper and as he put it "a ruler and a number two pencil." He was far more important in maintaining the delicate balance of terror than most will ever realize.
December 3, 2010
At lunch yesterday I broke off a tooth, so I suspect it's dentists for a while. I have an appointment in half an hour. Things here will be delayed until I get back. And here I thought I was catching up.
Well, there go another couple of days. Nothing serious, just tedious.
I am bombarded by conflicting reports of the 2010 weather. On the one hand it is said to have been a cold year, with record colds in many places. On the other hand, the IPCC is predicting that 2010 will be one of the three hottest years of all time. (Here also) And on the gripping hand, I doubt that those who say it was cold, and those who say it was hot, will be very specific about the means used to report the average annual global temperature. I do note that the places where it is said to have been very much hotter than it has ever been are also among the least reliable in past reports, but perhaps that is a coincidence.
Regarding averages: I would think that a year in which the winters were very cold, and the summers were very hot, so that you end with a more moderate average temperature would be an entirely different climate from a year in which there were few extremes of any kind, but the average was a bit higher than the year before. Average annual temperature of a planet may be of interest to astronomers and climate modelers concerned with trends, but it's useless to people trying to plan their lives. Moreover, I'd think that a climate model that doesn't distinguish between extreme weather that averages out and more moderate ways of producing the same average is not likely to be a very good model. Of course we can assume some climate relationships that don't have to account for extremes vs. moderates producing the same average, but surely when we do that we are relying on stationary time series or some other kind of statistical predictions rather than an accurate model of processes. Statistical prediction models can be quite accurate, but since they are not based on an understanding of what's going on, they are subject to black swans: some unexpected event like a volcano eruption may happen to disrupt continuity; those who have physical models of climate will see a weather change coming (like the Year Without a Summer); those using statistical models will not predict that at all.
In any event we have reports of very cold weather in various places in 2010, and the IPCC prediction that 2010 will prove to be the hottest in history, largely because it was so very much hotter in Africa and Siberia and that will raise the global average. I note also a reference to Pakistan and the heavy monsoon rains, but I am not sure I have ever seen a climate model that attempts to predict or explain monsoons or predict rainfall, and I have yet to see trend charts showing a relationship between global annual average temperature and global average rainfall. Moreover, from what I have read of what the Believers are saying, dryness and dying plants due to drought are taken to be evidence of the dangers of global warming.
What I would really like to see is a good undergraduate level exposition on how global average annual temperatures are conducted: data sources, regions, what weights are given to what observations, what kind of "adjustments" are made and how they are made, what is done when data from a given day, or week, or month is missing -- what substitutions are made for missing data -- and other such factors. I'd be glad of a good book on "How to measure the temperature of the earth." It need not be very complex. Just a narrative on why air temperatures are used instead of, say, the interior temperature of a given rock; do they use water temperatures or do they take the temperature of the air above the water; given use of air temperatures, what techniques are used, and what altitudes are chosen and why, and these are averages of what measures? I really don't know how I would go about getting "the average annual temperature" of Los Angeles to any real accuracy for any given day, much less an average for the year. What about nights? Clear nights are a lot colder than cloudy nights. Do we make any kind of adjustment for cloud cover? Or do we take night temperatures "in the shade", that is without exposing the instrument to the -270 radiant environment of the night sky? What do we shade it with? Is that a standard structure?
There may be such discussions, but I haven't found many. I have seen a number of reports on the air temperature gauges at various airports, and the changing conditions under which they operate, but rarely is that accompanied by any kind of narrative on how to compensate for changing conditions so that data can be compared from year to year. Yet, with billions, yea trillions, at stake, surely it is worth discussing how we know that 2010 was the hottest year forever? Is there a Believer out there who can address these questions? I have read through a number of the sections of the IPCC report, and it may be due to my defects but I can't figure out the answers to these questions. I am willing to read baby talk. Indeed, I'd prefer it. I know a bit about temperature instrumentation: I needed the temperatures in an environment chamber, the temperature of the incoming gasses in breathing oxygen tubes going through a 400 degree F sea level environment (as well as a 50,000 feet altitude equivalent environment; those I needed to a degree or so. I also needed the temperature of a human in a full pressure suit: hand, face, crotch, abdomen, chest, and most important, the "core" or internal temperature. Those needed to be at worst 0.1 C accuracy, especially the core temperature, which, incidentally, the flight surgeon preferred to have displayed in degrees F. I have some war stories about instrumentation. I'd like to hear some of those from the data gatherers who need to get air and sea temperatures at various places around the globe, and how they smooth over holes in the data patterns.
I never find such accounts. The climate modelers seem to accept the data given them without much question of how it was obtained, and the IPCC reports are mostly written by scientists concerned with models, and seldom by people who actually gather data. So it goes. I know that in astronomy the theorists look down on people who actually look through telescopes...
December 4, 2010
Still catching up. We have opera tickets for tonight. I am not really looking forward to the performance: the singers are said to be good, but the performance is in the modern stupid style. It's Lohengrin, and as far as I can see, the management of LA Opera hates Wagner. They find they have to put on some Wagner operas -- they triumphantly present a Ring Cycle last year at enormous cost -- but when they do, they seem to have a mission: make sure no one actually enjoys it. Sometimes they fail in that mission, as with Tannhauser a few years ago, but mostly they succeed. The Ring cycle was done in "fantasy silly" style, with puppets and a raked stage and incomprehensible costumes and no attempt whatever to allow the singers to do any acting: one suggested that given the masks and raked stage and inability to move, perhaps they'd do better to play her CD of her performance, and hire a dancer to walk through the part.
I haven't seen this Lohengrin, but the newspaper pictures of the costumes tell me all I need to know: there won't be a swan, it won't be set in a medieval principality, it won't try to invoke sentiments. Just as this company's Parsifal and Ring worked very hard at ignoring Wagner's stage notes and performance suggestions, and making certain that there was no possibility of creating a fantasy wonderland, I can see from the costumes alone that the point of this Lohengrin will be to negate Wagner's intentions. There won't be any swan. As the Times reviewer said, nowadays there never is. Ah well, I can close my eyes and pretend they did it in concert, which would have been a lot cheaper.
Anyway, I am trying to catch up.
If you need something to read, "In Defense of Scanners and Pat-Downs", an interview of John Pistole by Matthew Kaminski (link) makes as good a case for what TSA is doing as you are likely to find. Pistole is a career FBI man and he argues his case about as well as anyone can.
Then you can watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a8jGVXOMsw for the other side of the story.
You can also read the education article by Joe Klein, the retiring chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, "What I Learned at the Education Barricades" (link). Now that he's leaving he's a bit more frank about what's going on, but he claims to have made more changes than most have noticed.
Unemployment is growing. In Christmas season. After the November election. And Harry Reid tells us that the Democrats mean it when they say they want to create jobs, and it's all the Republicans fault for holding the Democrat programs hostage. Odd that he didn't try for those programs when he had the means to bring them about. The weird Washington games continue.
And I have to go get dressed for the opera.
2330: Wow. Was I wrong. I still prefer medieval fairy tale operas be staged with traditional costumes and sets, and I think some of the state business got in the way, but the singing and acting were superb. I went to Lohengrin expecting to hate it, and I was -- appointed? I had expected to dislike it and I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved it. It started at 6:30 and ended at just about 11 even with two intermissions. It was especially enjoyable because we saw a lot of old friends. They all loved it too. Jim and Judy Perzik -- Jim is the General Counsel and Secretary of the Lakers -- sit next to us, and Jim brought his Lakers ring to show me, so I can say I have held an NBA championship ring. And Joe and Alice Coloumbe -- Trader Joe -- were there with Charlotte, a daughter we have known since well before she was married and haven't seen for a while.
So it was a great evening, both on stage and at intermissions. I generally expect to have a good time at the opera even if I disapprove of the staging.
LA Opera put all the money in the voices, and sort of made do with sets and costumes. Actually I expect they spent a bit on those, too, although they didn't spring for a swan, and there was really only one set, which served as both the inside and the outside of the Cathedral. They put a tent in the Cathedral to be the wedding night bedroom, and oddly enough that worked although they had a couple of chorus girls helping Lohengrin and Elsa undress, and I couldn't get rid of the thought that this was a new TSA inspection. Fortunately the music overcame that whimsical thought before it spoiled everything else.
Lohengrin's first appearance is in a dirty undershirt, wool pants that might have once been a uniform, a nondescript left shoe, and shining plate armor from right toes to right knee. The program notes, or maybe it was in an interview with a reviewer, say that the leg is supposed to be an artificial limb. This denotes some sacrifice or another, as if the Grail can't afford to cure its knights or clothe them much less furnish them with armor. He doesn't have a sword with him, either, having to borrow one from a soldier in what looks to be a Prussian uniform of perhaps the period of Bismarck. Some of the other soldiers are dressed in similar uniforms, but Friedrich's bully boy knights are dressed in 1940's business suits with hats of the period. Friedrich first appears costumed in what is apparently a bloody surgical gown, but later in the same scene he has changed into a shapeless middle class brown business suit. This is not explained at all. Much of the stage business is just plain silly, as when a group of soldiers and veterans pummel a amputee veteran for no reason other than the director told them to.
In a word, the staging by Director Lydia Steier is designed to show how clever she is, and perhaps to illustrate that she has a deeper understanding of the story than we -- or Wagner -- ever had. Perhaps so, but there are other interpretations.
And yet none of this nonsense can take anything away from Music Director and Conductor James Conlon, who had the LA Opera orchestra timed to perfection, holding down the volume enough to allow the singers voices to come through without their having to strain to compete with the Wagnerian notes -- but loud enough when called for, as with the wedding march. And the always superb LA Opera chorus was splendid.
I'm told that Ben Heppner is currently the world's best heroic tenor, and I have no reason to doubt that. Delora Zajick was a powerfully evil Ortrud, master of passive aggression (and as it turn out fairly powerful witchcraft), and Kristinn Sigmundsson was outstanding as King Heinrich, known to historians as Henry the Fowler, who rebuilt the Holy Roman Empire although he never took the title of Emperor; he left that to his son Otto, who revived the Empire 0f Charles the Great, and defeated the Hungarians at the Lechfeld and thus made it possible for western Europe to accumulate some capital and begin to climb out of the Dark Ages. You'd think the court of Henry the Fowler exotic enough as an operatic setting (it certainly was for Wagner) but modern intellectuals prefer to set their stories in an oddly mixed neverland of their own imagination, probably because they know no history and can't be bothered to learn any. I still resent the sets and costumes and general stage direction; but even the silly costumer and director couldn't spoil this tale and the magnificent music.
Malware in One Of Your Links
This link in your Decline of The West post was just flagged in my IE 8 as delivering malware.
http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/ <http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip-recession-is-real.html?PageNr=1> mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/ <http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip-recession-is-real.html?PageNr=1> the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip- <http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip-recession-is-real.html?PageNr=1> recession-is-real.html?PageNr=1 <http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip-recession-is-real.html?PageNr=1>
Thanks. I have no idea which one does what and for whom.
December 5, 2010
I took the day off for internal Chaos Manor housekeeping.
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 COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 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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