THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 500 January 6 - 13, 2008
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January 7, 2008
Good morning. The skies are clearing in Los Angeles. Blue skies, and the gutters are clear. Sable has just loved the cold but the wet bothered her -- not because she feels wet, because I am not sure she even knows that the outside of her fur is wet, but because it keeps the humans from walking as much as we usually do.
The international edition of the column is due tonight so I'll be working on that. It will be up tomorrow or Wednesday but it needs to be in Tokyo by tomorrow.
I continue to enroll subscriptions. If you sent in a NEW SUBSCRIPTION in the past few days and have not heard from me, please send me a note to that effect. I'm swamped! There are many renewals, and many address changes, and I'm grinding through them. Today I'll have to work on the column, and I guess I'll just have to let Mamelukes go another day, although I really want to get that book done and out the door.
I did not go to CES and I miss it. I confess: I like walking the floor of these big conventions, and seeing the exhibits and peep shows and making contacts and discussing high tech with colleagues and industry leaders. I think I'll go next year. Meanwhile, Alex and Peter are there, and it's not as if I won't be getting reports.
I haven't anything important to add to the election results. Both Thompson and Giuliani are depending on results in the Big States; until we see whether or if that strategy works there's little to be said. Iowa and New Hampshire have all the media space, but it's not at all clear that they ought to.
I still favor the nominating system we had when I was younger. Mechanisms differed, but it was basically one of party representation, with precinct voters selecting precinct committee, and the PC's electing District Leaders, and up. Then a state convention would select delegates. The National Convention would have a number of delegates, most chosen by the state convention but including many elected officials (Congress, Governor, Senator, often statewide elected office holders). Often they'd send a "favorite son" delegation pledged to their local candidate for the first ballot. In those times national conventions would then select the candidates. This worked pretty darned well and avoided all the Sound Bite Candidates. Of course it meant that the media didn't make as much money on elections, and the fund raisers weren't so important, and Party fund raising was important. It also meant that Iowa and New Hampshire were indicators but not as important as before.
But we are now saddled with national primaries, and that is, in my judgment, not a Good Thing. But I'm out of time.
|This week:||Tuesday, January
Coldest year on record. Record snowfalls in dozens of places. It must be global warming. Meanwhile, retreating glaciers in Canada show that trees grew where the glacier now stands. About 800 years ago. This near Calgary. But of course it wasn't really warmer during the ear of the Viking settlements in Greenland, that was a purely local phenomenon -- one that stretched west to Calgary. Interesting, but the scientists can't possibly be wrong. Big locality, I guess.
Let's see, they have met in Rio, in Kyoto, and in Bali. Where will the great climatologists hold their next big scientific meeting? Oh, the sacrifices they make for humanity!
Addendum: it's the warmest primary day in New Hampshire history. So the globe is warming after all. It's Global Warming!
So last year was the coldest year in some time, and the warming trend sort of stopped in 2001, but we have some record warms in some places, and record colds in others. Which sounds like the computer models are all fouled up.
If I had to guess -- and it would only be a guess, but one informed by a long time of thinking about this and some familiarity with the data as well as normal physics -- I'd say that world climate is driven by:
I believe the data support my hypothesis that items 1 and 2 above overwhelm item 3, but we can make some adjustments in albedo that will have a significant effect if we really work at it.
In looking at the climate models I find that the simplification assumptions (necessary to allow the mathematical models to be solved at all even given supercomputers and numeric analysis approximations) make the models, not entirely worthless perhaps, but useless as a guide to policy. No model I know of can take the data known in 1990 and produce the results observed in 2006; and the further back you go as the starting point, the worse the prediction of observed data.
The computer models don't seem to be any better for policy guidance -- date for planting crops, for example -- than the Farmer's Almanac, which uses a much simpler model.
There is a good discussion of the Huckabee "Fair Tax" in today's TCS Daily. http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010808A Arnold King (Cato Institute) looks at the effects on both revenue and "fairness" and presents data on the present situation in a calm and comprehensible analysis. He concludes that what we need is a "Semi-Fair Tax" that combines some "progressive" income tax features with a sales tax.
I note that if we want you not to do something -- don't speed, for example, and if you do speed don't really cut loose and rip -- we fine you. Progressive fines for multiple offenses and more severe expenses, and such like. So if you improve your house, we fine you by raising your taxes; and if you make more money, we fine you by increasing your income tax. If you save money, we fine you by taxing the interest income.
Clearly the message is that society doesn't want you to increase your income, improve your property, or save money. Instead, we want you to spend it all lest we fine you for keeping it.
The "Fair Tax" would change that by abolishing the income and payroll taxes (i.e. income tax and FICA) and putting all revenue on a sales tax of -- they say 23%, but you and I would call it 30%. King looks at the effect of this to come up with his conclusions. His essay is worth reading.
As for me, I'd accept King's analysis and try it his way, but I would also impose a 10% across the board tariff on all imports. All imports. If that requires renegotiating all our treaties, so be it; that's better than the European "Value Added Tax" which has a major feature of being nearly invisible.
A fixed "progressive" income tax that can't be changed and is adjusted for inflation; a 10% tariff with the option of adjusting it between 5% and 15% since its purpose is to make US goods produced under US regulations competitive with imported stuff produced by slaves and environmental negligence; and a national sales tax that is easy to see and hurts like hell. That ought to work.
Of course we will never try it. Both parties are conspiracies of elites against the voters and taxpayers. But at least we would be discussing something that could work, and who knows, maybe one or more of the conspirators would bolt and come out on our side...
Niven called in the middle of breakfast and suggested a hike, and then lunch, so I got a late start with this. We did the full 5 miles and 800 foot climb, then lunch, and now I've GOT to finish this column and get to work on Mamelukes. It's a bit strenuous his time of the year.
Next year I am going to CES. I just hate not getting to one major computer show a year, and that's the right one to go to. I'll do WinHEC this fall for depth but I really need CES for the broad picture.
In trying to put together the Chaos Manor User Choice Awards, I discovered that I have almost nothing new for 2007. Everything I used -- at least that I like and depend on -- I already had this time last year, and it all remains Good Enough. That was, as I said, a bit astonishing. To make it worse, the best hardware I have is running Vista, and Vista annoyances are quite real. I would like Vista if it didn't have really bad networking problems. Details in the column.
Of course she is. Obama led in the polls, but people don't always tell the truth to pollsters. In particular, liberal democrats are terrified of being called racists, and so have a tendency to tell pollsters they will vote for the minority candidate even if they have no intention of doing so. That certainly seems to have been the case in New Hampshire, where the liberal democrats told pollsters one thing and did another in the privacy of the voting booth. It's a well known phenomenon; indeed it was in some of my political science textbooks in the 1950's.
On my hike with Niven we got to talking about copyrights. I said "Cory Doctorow gets paid a salary to tell people they ought not have copyrights." Niven instantly answered, "How much would I have to pay him to tell people I ought to have my copyrights?"
Of course my summarization of Doctorow is unfair, and Niven was flippant, but I found the exchange invigorating, bracing even.
This afternoon I have an MRI, which ought to show whether my problems are only Bell's Palsey or something worse.
I am also getting ready for next week, which is the Homeland Security conference in the LA Convention Center. Niven and I will be going, and there are other sf writers coming to town for the conference. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-05-29-deviant-thinkers-security_N.htm
This affects my schedule. I will get the first column of the year done tonight and tomorrow, probably to be posted next Monday along with the Chaos Manor Reviews mailbag. I will also see if I can't get a CES report our of the troops who went; next year I am just going to have to go.
The Homeland Security thing prevents me from getting to MacWorld. Given they already announced the Mac Pro, and a darned good machine that is, I have abated breath awaiting what Jobs will announce at MacWorld.
Next year I will try to get to both MacWorld and CES.
I have finally caught up with the renewals and new subscriptions that poured in. My great thanks to all of you. I have NOT acknowledged all the renewals; there were just too many. I do believe I have processed all the new subscriptions, and that you have welcome messages. However: a couple of payments to Roberta's web site seem to be new subs for which I have no email address. If you subscribed through her and have not heard from me, send me email to that effect. I'll take care of it immediately.
And again, thanks to all who subscribed or renewed. For those who didn't renew, there will be another nag in the future. Depend on it. For those who haven't subscribed yet, it's never too late. Once again, this place operates on the Public Radio model. If you think it ought to stay open, you should subscribe. And enough begging.
I have the copyedited manuscript of the original Inferno, with about a dozen inquiries from our copy editor, all very reasonable. I've been dealing with those in my copious free time. Tor will be issuing the original Inferno in near future as well as Inferno II Escape from Hell. The original went into some 20 printings at Pocket Books ( I am astonished that they let it revert). The new Tor edition will have some new notes from Niven and me, but is essentially the same book as we originally wrote. We thought of revising it, but decided not to. It reads damned well, if I do say so myself. Robert Bloch called it A HELL OF A BOOK, and I rather appreciate that. I miss Bob Bloch.
So it's MRI time in an hour or so, and I'm catching up here.
I don't have much to say about the political race because I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen. The primary structure has been changed a lot; Thompson and Giuliani have bet that you can ignore Iowa and New Hampshire and go straight for the big primaries and still win the nomination. I have no idea whether that will work, but I don't think any of the other pundits know either.
Until we have more information on this, it's pretty silly to spend a lot of time speculating.
I know what the country needs, but I have no idea of what we will get. I wish I did. But before we can decide what must be done, we have to decide what we want. Do we want a nanny state? Most of the voters seem to want that. Do we want a nation that lives mostly by soaking the rich and using the proceeds to pay for services including supporting tens of millions of illegal aliens?
Do we want competent empire or a Republic? These are questions that don't go away, although at the moment we don't address them as we slouch toward incompetent empire, the worst of all choices.
That trend cannot continue.
Those who pay the piper call the tunes. At the moment a tiny minority at the top of our social structure pays most of the taxes. Guess who will continue to call the tunes.
Mike Flynn calls attention to this one:http://ncwatch.typepad.com/dalton
It will be interesting to see what comes next. Is the Solar Cycle taking an unusual step? We know there are greater cycles; we don't know a lot more about them. Is this another?
January 11, 2008
The MRI went off without incident. I'll have some pictures later this morning.
Do the Republicans have a clue? Thompson does. He caught fire last night, although no one seems to have noticed. I only heard him on radio, but he was just fine: Huckabee is an old fashioned me-too liberal Republican. Unlike Rockefeller, Huckabee is very much a social conservative: but what that means is not so clear. Is it conservative to nationalize issues like smoking and education? I would not have thought so. I would have thought that conservatism was more about what you let local communities do than what you force them to do or not do.
The nationalization of abortion is a good example. Without a single legislative vote the Courts decided to undercut the states on a matter that has not one hint of reference in the Constitution -- and indeed do that at a time when the Congress hadn't got around to enacting abortion rights in the District of Columbia, where they had the undoubted authority to do so. The result was to tear the country apart on an issue that ought to have been left to the states. Suppose California had legalized abortion, and the US Supreme Court said they could not do so?
The Reagan coalition was based on lower taxes, economic conservatism at home, strong on national security, and less federal meddling in everything. Reagan tried to abolish the Department of Education, which would have done as much for his legacy as his actions that resulted in the dismantling of the USSR. Unfortunately he failed in that latter task. Now the Republicans have built that Soviet-style bureaucracy into something so mighty it may take the military to disband it.
Despair is a sin. Hope springs eternal. As I listened to the debates on the way home from LASFS last night, and caught Fred Thompson, I caught a bit of hope myself.
The old ways of gaining delegates to a national convention are disrupted; we don't know what will work. But the nominations are not over, and we have at least one candidate who sounds like a conservative.
It was an interesting experience, although hardly alarming. They didn't do much more than my head and neck.
Three views of the MRI facility. It's all operated by one technician, who has a system running Windows XP so far as I can tell.
The chamber looks like a Medieval torture chamber, but in fact the only stress is a lot of loud noises and having to be still for about ten minutes.
January 12, 2008
Oprah has just endorsed sinus pumps. They're selling like fury. Of course we've talked about them here for years.
I'll have more news about the results of that MRI next week. It's statistically good news.
|This week:||Sunday, January
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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