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CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 334 November 1 - 7, 2004
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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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November 1, 2004
All Saints Day : Election Eve
Subject: Kissinger on the collapse of the Westphalian system.
5 pages, worth reading:
----- Roland Dobbins
Indeed. Henry does an excellent job of cutting to the vital issues, although he does so in his usual rather wordy manner. Worth reading indeed.
Subject: The War of 1812
As with most historical topics, the relevance of the War of 1812 depends on your viewpoint. In the US, it’s the Second War of Independence. Over here in Britain, it isn’t taught till degree level. (And I only got it taking a War Studies degree - as it happens I got rather interested in the topic, enough to do my dissertation on it).
The problems with the press gang were certainly one of the factors; however the British did have a valid point. A great many trained British sailors were moving to America, and working on American shipping; sailors badly needed by the Navy during the war. The problem with desertion was also extreme; in many cases, the sailors were simply being taken back into the service they had fled. It is somewhat telling that it was the US that launched an invasion of Canada, rather than the other way round; there were enough hotheads in the US government that believed they could take and hold Canada, many of whom believed that it should have been part of the US to begin with. They handily forgot that the population of Canada at the time consisted of French colonists, unsympathetic to the Revolution, and the thousands who had emigrated to escape the Revolution - which is largely why that attack failed. Britain certainly had little interest in fighting the war at the time; Napoleon was still occupying our attention. When we did dispatch regular soldiers, it was only at the end of the war.
As with many wars, it was more important for the lessons not learned than those learned; the US made a great mistake in not taking the naval lessons to heart - instead it very nearly abolished its navy. New Orleans was essentially the only success; and this success is not diminished by the fact that the war was over.
If Britain had wanted the US, it would have had a chance to take it; the fact that the White House was burned testified to that. I do not say it would have been successful, but certainly a serious attempt could have been made, and was not. Britain settled for a status quo ante bellum, despite the victories in the north; this is not a case .
I find the quote, “... the Battle of New Orleans--perhaps the most decisive battle in the shaping of the modern world between Trafalgar and Stalingrad…”, somewhat strange, also. It hardly seems fair to the American Civil War; one of the early heralds of modern conflict. Or the Balkan Wars of the early 1910s, that were a potential warning to the tactics of World War I.
A cynical war? Probably. Most wars are, at the end of the day. But if there is any blame, it resides in Washington rather than London; a war in North America was the last thing Britain wanted in 1812.
BA, War Studies, KCL
I hadn't really intended to be drawn into a discussion of 1812, which was more influential in the US than elsewhere, for many reasons including the near secession of some of the states over the issue, and Mr. Jefferson's Embargo which was as odd a way to "punish" the world as any we ever devised.
But while I agree that the Civil War was the decisive war for teaching the world the changed nature of modern warfare, New Orleans was where Lee learned about defense and defensive breastworks; his rifle pits at Cold Harbor came directly from study of Jackson. Of course Lee learned something of cavalry tactics in the Mexican War, but much of his defense of Richmond can be derived from New Orleans. Incidentally, apparently not even Cold Harbor convinced everyone: the French continued to believe in the power of elan and the notion that the attacker could always direct more fire on a single point than the defender and thus you could prove mathematically that an attack with sufficient elan would always carry the day. You can say this much for Grant, Cold Harbor taught him in one lesson. But Cold Harbor was a descendent of New Orleans.
The importance of New Orleans was more in the future of America than elsewhere, of course. It made Jackson president, and Jackson's presidency changed the very nature of the presidency. Adams saw to it that the President wasn't "His Excellency" or "His High Mightiness (seriously proposed) but merely Mr. President; but there was still a bit of awe of aristocracy about Mad Dog Adams. Jackson had none of that, and our history changed as a result.
We can continue to differ on the necessity of the Second War of Independence. Fortunately the US/British "special relationship" continued despite all that; although there were many in the Midwest who much resented begin drawn into The Great War by Britain.
Subject: Missing explosives
The missing explosives have been described not as a "bad decision" by the troops on the ground, but as a symptom of an undermanned occupation -- Rumsfeld's "war on the cheap". If there just weren't enough men to guard important captured sites, then the commanders on the ground cannot be faulted for not assigning those nonexistent men.
If this is the claim being made, then I consider it fair comment for presidential debate.
But I have zero military experience in real life, and much of my fictional "experience" comes from your writings. I would appreciate a comment on whether you think that the invasion was "undermanned" for the start of the occupation.
It would be a fair comment if there were any evidence that Kerry would have used overwhelming force in the invasion; which he would not. Clinton set a pattern for doing things on the cheap. It's not clear to me that Kerry would have gone into Afghanistan, and that was the key decision.
I did not want us in Iraq at all.
But the original battle plan had another division in Iraq at the crucial moment. Our friends the Turks, having assured us we could go in through Turkey and come down from the North, changed their minds; this was crucial.
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, but to have a substantial part of your force denied to you at the crucial moment of the battles, and to have to devise new plans while the enemy is crumbling faster than you believed would happen even if you had your heaviest division poised to strike, then to roll across vast areas that have been the historic graveyards of invaders: when the way develops that way, such mistakes are inevitable.
The President was persuaded that we could win the war with few casualties. That was correct. Unfortunately not many had though past the moment when Saddam's statues began to fall. There are many reasons for that and you can fault the Administration and the President for nearly every one of them; but I have seen no evidence whatever that Kerry would have done better, knows any different, or would have listened to anyone who knows better.
We should not be there at all; having decided to go we should have insisted on some kind of surrender ceremony even if all we could find was Baghdad Bob to sign; we should have opened the Language Schools the day we knew we were going to be involved, and begun training military government units the day after. We did none of those things, because we were deceived: we thought we would be welcomed as liberators (we were, at first) and that the Arabs would not act like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (and anyone who suggest that history indicated otherwise was sent to sensitivity training).
But political correctness and sensitivity training does not make for victorious occupations or even victories.
Now: of the two parties, which one is more likely to insist on political correctness and sensitivity training?
While we are on that subject, see
THis article assumes the shortfall in pension funds will be financed by legal immigration.
The Social Security Crisis—Solved! A Democratic economist's miraculous plan. By Daniel Gross
Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2004, at 2:24 PM PT http://slate.msn.com/id/2096880/
This is the fantasy of every Washington politician: You wake up one morning, and the Social Security crisis has vanished. Who knows where it went? Maybe a kind old wizard made it disappear. Who cares? It's gone! The magic solution—a Social Security fix with no tax increases and no benefit cuts—is the dream that will not die.
Last year, it was the Republicans who thought they had made the dream come true. In early 2003, Michael Boskin, head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bush the Elder, released a paper that hit upon a potential solution. Once the baby boomers start withdrawing funds from IRAs and 401(k)s and pay tax on that income, he suggested, it would send a $12 trillion gusher into federal coffers. And that would help cover any short-term shortfalls in entitlement programs. The tentative conclusion seemed too good to be true. In relatively short order, the Boskin thesis was debunked and withdrawn.
Now a moderate economist in the Democratic camp may have forged the magic bullet. Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon, in this paper issued under the auspices of the Brookings Institution, says the trustees of Social Security, whose most recent report can be seen here, are low-balling the economy's capacity for productivity and population growth over the next several decades. Tweak the numbers a little bit, Gordon suggests, and the Social Security picture doesn't look bleak. <snip>
Which is revealing...
I had the exact problem you described early last week with Norton. Your solution as described fixed my problem as well. It appears that uninstalling Service Pack 2 removes pointers from the start up menu and certain registry entries so that Autoprotect cannot start even from the program itself. I don't know if this helps, but this is my experience.
Thanks for the solution. I was about to uninstall and re-install Norton from scratch. And thanks for doing these things so I don't have to.
Thanks. I'll continue...
A rather expensive oops....
And on a more serious note:
Subject: RE: Second War of Independence
As a Canadian I thought I would wade in on this matter.
First off this is the first time I have ever heard it ever being called the Second War of Independence. Im afraid sucessive Liberal governments have managed to wipe out our military history from the eyes of most Canadians. Most people I know dont know nearly as much as I do about many of the conflicts and our history.
Anyways this is not a message about the stupidity of politicians. I would like to thank the US for declaring war on us and invading us the way they did. If they hadnt Im pretty sure that Canada would have joined the US of its own free will. Certainly the amount of Americans that were emigrating into Canada during the post-revolution would have allowed this to happen.
By invading Canada the US created a history of heros and allowed the loyalists to regain some pride after being crushed during the Revolutionary war.
The name's Brock and Tecumseh, the fall of Detroit and the successful defense of Queenston Heights gave us national character and unified Canadians like no other.
As for significant US victories. I would think that Winfields Scotts final failed campaign up the Niagara peninsula was of far more significance as it showed that the way for armys of the future would be the need for professional troops and not the poorly led and equipped militias that surrendered Detroit and the Michigan peninsula.
In all I think you should remember that this war was pretty much the war of Canadian Independence than that of American Independence.
Very likely. A good part of the country didn't want expansion to the north; after all, that was where the people who had not wanted independence from the crown had gone, and "consent of the governed" meant something to at least some. Wars of conquests are heady things, and it is probably well for both the US and Canada that the various expeditions failed.
We did get one "Those are regulars, by God!" recruiting poster that the US Army used to show cadets at West Point. The Sixth Infantry still carries that battle banner. Tecumseh and The Prophet figured later in our history...
And I almost missed this one!
From: Stephen M. St. Onge email@example.com
subject: Good For a Laugh
For some funny, if offkey, music, try Political Bohemian Rhapsody at http://www.flowgo.com/funpages/view.cfm/6019 . Freddy Mercury is turning in his grave.
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
Then we have
An important electoral perspective, from a group not often head from: http://fivehundredwords.com/multimedia/index.htm
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
November 2, 2004
*Brokaw: Kerry Blamed Low IQ Score on Drinking*
John Kerry told NBC newsman Tom Brokaw last week that the reason President Bush outscored him on military intelligence tests was that he had likely been drinking the night before his exam.
Brokaw revealed Kerry's off-camera excuse in an election-morning interview with radio host Don Imus.
"I asked the question of John Kerry because the New York Times had reported that a man by the name of David Sailer [ it was Steve Sailer. JEP] had analyzed their military aptitude tests < http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2004/10/26/82947.shtml > and then had had IQ experts do an analysis as well - or the Times did," the NBC anchorman explained. "And they concluded that George W. Bush might be a point or two higher than John Kerry in IQ."
"And John Kerry was caught a little off guard, he said. 'Well, more power to him. I thought that that was not public.' And when the interview was over he said, 'I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test.'"
From another conference:
Subject: WEEKLY STANDARD has some appreciation of C-WMDs [Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction]
Our Neocon Newsweekly got everything right at the end of this article (e.g.,
Nimrod Raphaeli, an Iraqi who now works for MEMRI's Washington, D.C., office, further elucidates: "No Arab regime, not even Saudi Arabia, can keep up with the flow of information coming in from across the border. Don't look at the veiled woman, look behind the veil. Saudi television can be as religious as they want it to be. But they don't watch it. They watch Lebanese television with beautiful women dancing. They should continue to do that. You'll have a whole new generation coming up in the Middle East that is absorbing enormous amounts of Western culture, which competes against a school system in which teachers teach them martyrdom and jihad. Don't try to tell them all the time to be liberal and democratic. Continue to get these programs to them. It's more effective than speeches by the State Department and the president, saying 'democracy will come.' It is the most effective weapon." )
other than terminology--I think "Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction" is far more evocative than the words "programs" or "satellite dishes".
Again, these are *proven* "weapons". We used them on our own children so we *know* they work! We can stamp out Islam the same way we have (effectively) stamped out Christianity.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD
The Weekly Standard
When a Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss From the October 18, 2004 issue: Reality TV comes to the Arab world. by Matt Labash 10/18/2004, Volume 010, Issue 06
SIX MONTHS AGO, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, an interesting television experiment, broadcast throughout the Middle East, came and went without much fanfare. Reality TV, in the form of Big Brother Middle East, made its debut, was embraced by viewers, then in just over a week was shown the door by a radical Islamist minority. Over the last few years, there have been all kinds of promises, or Panglossian utterances if you're skeptically inclined, about what we occidentals will bring to the region. Democracy's missionaries, forever in search of receptive agents of change in the Middle East, are in the habit of directing their message to people's better angels, with whom only a small minority are acquainted. They might, however, do better to contemplate people's baser natures, with which most of us tend to be on a first-name basis. The "pursuit of happiness" or the "blessings of liberty" might seem like enigmatic abstractions. But everyone can get their head around the unalienable right to watch bad TV. Or almost everyone. Which is what brings us to Bahrain.
Cultural weapons of mass destruction indeed. Desperate Housewives, anyone? Uh -- whose culture?
Subject: FW: [IP] Bin Laden: Goal is to bankrupt U.S. buffy willow
Thought you'd enjoy this....
-Subject: [IP] Bin Laden: Goal is to bankrupt U.S.
Begin forwarded message:
And he has a perfect foil. It works very well with a conservative strategy to use “tax relief”, AKA starving the government of funds so it cannot afford social programs. But that is in conflict with fighting a war – so that detail is ignored.
From the article
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.
As part of the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan," bin Laden cited a British estimate that it cost al Qaeda about $500,000 to carry out the attacks of September 11, 2001, an amount that he said paled in comparison with the costs incurred by the United States.
"Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs," he said. "As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.
"You hear that Philip is in Thessaly and you send an expedition there. You hear that he is in the Chersonese and you vote to send one there. You march the length and breadth of Greece at Philip's command, and you take your marching orders from him." Demosthenes, Second Philippic
Subject: long legs
Why do "beasties" that we have to be delivered from have long legs instead of regular legs? Not kidding: curious.
Richard N Hunt
I have no clue...
November 3, 2004
The Day After
November 3rd, 2004
George Bush has won the election. The hopes of holding the line against the slide toward a corporate ran theocracy in this nation is all but complete. We have gone from the high point of secular democracy in this country down the slope to a Christian theocracy where the real power is in the hand of the extremely rich and corporate entities that control our administrative and legislative branch.
Soon the judicial shall follow. The republicans will change the rules of the senate to allow the conservative and racist appointments to be made. The last of moderate conservatives in the administration will be stripped away and neo-conservative thugs and ideologues will replace them. Moderate legislators will be more isolated, opposed at the primary level if the neo-conservative party of god line is not toed by them.
It is remarkably saddening that a once great nation founded on the principles of freedom of religion, speech and equal protection shall degenerate first to corporate theocracy and perhaps a empire building fascist state.
The days of American economic power in the world are numbered. Short term greed and a people blinded by, "god is on our side", will slip behind Europe and the rising Asian power blocks. This new theocracy shall suppress our freedoms and descent at home while spending lavishly on the military and propping up status qua industries in a cold war with Islam. The EU and Asia will expand their economic growth, keep military spending at a bare minimum and enhance their own standard of living.
America has started down the road to economic stagnation and corporate dictatorship, to be no longer a super power but in military might only. If this is our only power, it is the only tool that remains to solve disputes. We not of the party should be afraid, the rest of the world should be very afraid.
This one is more extreme than some, but it is illustrative. Incidentally, it was all one paragraph: paragraphing was done by me, but I made no other changes.
To begin with, he may be right, but if so it's by emotion; intellectually he doesn't know what he's talking about. Neo-Conservatives are not "the party of God"; they are mostly secular Jews. It's us paleo conservatives who go to church and actually worry about such things as morality, and most of us want to go back to the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof," and leave all those questions -- including establishing a tax-paid clergy if that's what they want although very few do -- to the states. After all, we had established churches (tax paid clergy) in most of the states until decades after the founding of the Republic, and the states voluntarily disestablished them without help from the Supreme Court.
If the actual conservatives including religious conservatives have anything to say about judicial appointments, we'll get a court more inclined to leave things to the states and get the feds out of our hair. The Republic lasted a very long time without all the fresh new "rights" that Earl Warren and his ill-advised successors made up out of emanations from the penumbra and other such legal nonsense.
Moreover, the people who espouse "corporate greed" (i.e. the business of business is business, and the business of America is business) are hardly the "Christian theocrats". Isn't that rather a contradiction in terms? Me, I think the country would be better off if we had some well defined rules, and stuck to them, and left corporations to do their corporate work. For that matter if the government got out of much of the welfare business and left more money to taxpayers, I suspect private charity would take over a lot of what's done by the very inefficient process of sucking money to Washington, giving it a night on the town there, paying a lot of civil servants and Public Service Union members to spread it around, and finally handing it out to people in Ottumwa, Iowa according to rules made by people who have never been outside the Beltway.
Of course a lot of Public Service Union members would have to find productive jobs rather than living on the government payroll, but perhaps that would be a benefit, not a detriment.
I don't know what it means to suppress our freedoms and descent.
He also hasn't read much economics: most of Europe would love our economic growth and unemployment rates despite the expense of the army; I do agree that we ought to let Europe defend itself and bring our army home. Heck, the EU can pay for its defense, and we don't need an army over there to sit on Fritz for the French. As to economic envy, does anyone remember when the "Japanese System" was so much admired? It was just before Japan lost about half its capital value in a bust that made the dot bust look rather tame.
And finally: gold may not get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold. If our problem is running an empire competently, which many seem to want, we can do that. I prefer the old Republic, myself, but then us crazy religious conservatives who just want the state to leave us the heck alone to be our own potty little selves aren't likely to be running things in Washington either. It will be interesting to see who does go up and who does go down in the new administration, but it is hardly time to panic.
And at least we will not have Lawrence Tribe as Chief Justice of the United States. There are some things to be thankful for.
Of course there ARE those who ought to worry about the election:
One could say that the American People have implicitly voted to approve the attack on Fallujah, 58 million to 55 Million.
There are reports < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1340437,00.html > we are about to make good on our long-ago threat!
Robin Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired)
I would think the Marines are eager for the orders. They were ready before when the chicken hawks first told them to stop their carrot and stick ("No better friend. No worse enemy.") approach and ordered an all out assault, then got nervous and said stop, stop, go make a deal with your enemies. I suppose all that idiocy had to be tried. Now it's down to sending in the Corps again. Semper Fi.
On the new iMAC:
Well, you can't accuse me of giving advice I don't myself follow: three days ago I bought a 20" iMac G5 at an Apple Store here in Georgia.
I got the Bluetooth edition, which comes with the wireless keyboard & mouse; had them add memory to 1 gig, and stuck in an Airport Extreme card. It was a very pleasant experience; the people were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. When I noticed a very small flaw in the pure white in the front they offered me $100 off on the Photo iPod I'd been eying, so I got it too. They had "open box" specials on the Airport card and extra memory so I saved some there as well.
Anyway I'm extremely pleased with the machine: more than just about any other computer I've owned it's grown on me since I got it home. At first I was a bit abashed at the styling: it seemed very monolithic and chunky, for lack of better words. But after using it for some hours I have to say I now think the design is brilliant, and I begin to wonder why ALL computers don't look like this. Obviously the computer takes up very little desk or storage space.
Performance is impressive, speedy even by Intel HT and AMD 64 standards. Some of the screen animations happen so fast you can't really see them - that's always a good sign that the software is not being constrained by the hardware. It's incredibly quiet - the hard disk makes NO noise I can hear, the fans come on rarely and are very well muted, and the DVD only makes noise when spinning heavily printed disks that have balance issues.
I love the Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, and am even starting to find the Apple one-button mouse design somewhat less annoying than before.
The 20" screen is a marvel of brightness; no bad pixels, and the color is deep & lustrous. The computer in its box is not a super lightweight, but is easily transportable; the 17 inch model is much lighter and I think would be great for you to easily take with you to the beach.
The only thing I've found so far that I'd like to change is the built-in speakers: the clarity and stereo separation are outstanding but they do not play very loudly at all.
I never really imagined I could conveniently have a full desktop system with a 20 inch screen in the RV with me but the iMac makes it not only possible but a genuine pleasure.
Hope you had a great Halloween and the ghouls didn't get you; I also fervently hope Lurch doesn't get elected President on Tuesday - he was entertaining on The Addams Family but I don't think he'll be one bit amusing in the White House.
All the best--
The speakers on my PowerBook Mac are very soft, and I have to use earphones, which means in practice that I watch DVD movies on a Windows box with Intel motherboard and built in sound, with good external speakers. Macs don't seem to like external speakers as much as PC's. I am not sure why. But I agree, Macs are competitive and can be fun.
Subject: No-click phising,
Windows is fun!
-- Roland Dobbins
I don't open mail, and Outlook 2003 converts all mail into plaintext before displaying it in the preview window. I'll have something on that in the column. This is a danger only to those not paying a lot of attention and allowing mail to run scripts.
November 4, 2004
The analysis proffered below by Dick Morris may help. "Money quote":
Republican Party is an intellectual and economic
Thus, the Republican Party is the party of the societally secure and the Democratic Party is the party of the societally insecure. Other than its thin crust of anti-American liberal elitists, the hard core of the Evil Party are "dependents"--"lifetime-net-tax-users", while the hard core of the Republican Party are "lifetime-net-tax-payers". Taxing the latter to buy the votes of the former has been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the days of the Great Society, and it was affordable due to the huge bulge of Baby Boomers of the Productive Classes entering America's labor force just when LBJ launched that initiative.
I am trying to discern how the politics will work out when the Boomers start retiring and there are no longer enough active workers to support so many retirees *and* non-old members of our Dependent Classes. But there is no doubt who will have the votes and who will exercise those votes and what they will vote in favor of (*not* cutting subsidies to the old).
I am also trying to figure out how, exactly, the de-funding of people who are not making it in American society will occur. Perhaps all the current federal subventions for societal dysfunction, from Food Stamps to EITC to TANF to Section 8 Vouchers to (... I think there are literally hundreds of separate "welfare" and "training" and "education" programs of this kind) will be capped in nominal dollars and block-granted to the states, and then we will have a bout of inflation that will make the total yearly sum worth the price of a Happy Meal.
But if the Republican Party is (remains/) the Party willing to cut benefits for the poor and the Democrats won't do it, then the retiring Boomers will all vote Republican.
Wow, will this be ugly...
Note: he uses the standard "insider" nicknames: Republicans = The Stupid Party, Democrats = The Evil Party. Note also that Clinton understood those numbers very well, and was willing to go for Welfare Reform and other such measures. Morris's observation has been well known by most political scientists for a decade or more, and is the key to why this last campaign, although it takes some thought to see it.
One need not accept the rhetoric to see the basic facts at work here.
It doesn't have to be ugly if the Democrat Leadership Council gains strength. If it doesn't, the Democrats are doomed: the aging baby boomers will not give up their retirement to support people who don't pay into the system. Note also that on purely demographic grounds the Libertarians are not going to win without compromises: someone has to pay for all those aging baby boomers. The Stupid Party thinks unlimited immigration will stave off the coming disaster. The Evil Party is trying to make up its mind.
Note also the utter truth here: there was so much money to spend because the baby boomers were paying into the social security system, but the social security funds went into the general treasury to be spent: the only "savings" are in US Treasury Bonds, which is a book keeping measure since revenue from bonds is general treasury money burning holes in Congressional pockets. If the money be there, Congress will spend it. Depend upon it.
Moynahan saw all this coming a long time ago, and so did some New Democrats; but they didn't get far. The Clintons understand it.
See also my observations on parties and political power over in view.
Latest vote, county by county
This is one reason why we have an Electoral College ...
I think the comparison of the population of counties won is telling.
Cheers, Rod Schaffter -- "1918's now just another year we won the World Series." -- Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.
Dear Doctor Pournelle- I have been an admirer of yours so long that I can still remember reading the old 'Destinies' books.
In "Destinies", Senator William Proxmire was the enemy. He didn't respect NASA. He said it was a boondoggle. It soaked up money. It was a refuge for fatso bureaucrats. One 'Destinies' contributor (I don't remember who) suggested that science fiction fans should boycott Wisconsin cheese, and send the wrappers from the cheese we did eat to the Wisconsin state house. I guess in those days it would be okay to even eat French cheese.
Nowadays, I hate NASA because of the mess its made of the space program. We could have had cities in space, and on the moon. Instead of ...
Was Proxmire right? Was he being a visionary, and was I the flat-earther?
Carl Zeichner firstname.lastname@example.org
Good question. I wrote that long ago when I had some hopes for NASA, and for that matter thought I could influence them. I was wrong on all counts. Apparently Proxmire was right.
I recall many years ago a long and rather virulent argument with David Friedman over the same issue. David, you were right...
Guy Fawkes Day
Remember, remember the
fifth of November,
"BTW, I really like the easy to read format of your daily log. Please persuade Jerry P. to do something like this. His log is barely readable."
I know you don't have time to waste on prettifying your journal page, but enough people have commented to me about it over the years that I figured I should at least let you know. I'm thinking of redesigning my journal page appearance for 2005, which'd be mainly just a simplification and some cleaning up.
I'll bet you have a lot of readers who'd love to contribute example layouts for your site. You could make it clear to them that you don't guarantee to accept any proposed layout, that any reader who offers an example layout is offering you the right to use it without obligation, that the layout must be completely compatible with FrontPage, and that your decision is final. You could even have a contest, with the winner getting a free subscription to your site or whatever. For that matter, you could post the proposed layouts and let all your readers vote and comment on them.
-- Robert Bruce Thompson email@example.com
---- Roland Dobbins
Gosh, now how could that happen?
Proxmire's Golden Fleece
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Here's hoping you and Roberta are on the mend!
I don't think Senator Proxmire was correct. At the time! NASA has changed a bit from those days, and probably because of him. I'm sure they hired deskloads of bureaucrats to combat Proxmire's negative press. NASA, at one time, was the hope of the future, and I recall with great clarity watching the Apollo project begin, and sadly, end. Ah, the dreams we had!
The benefits of the space program far outweighed that costs Proxmire complained about. I still have a copy of RAH's report to Congress on why they should continue the space program. Shame no-one really listened...
Well that's what I argued in those days. I just didn't see how rapidly NASA would deteriorate. After all, I worked on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, and I was planning Apollo 23 when I left aerospace. Of course there never was an Apollo 23.
Subject: today's Mail on NASA
In response to Carl Zeichner's email on Thursday, it's called the creeping crude of the government. I was a simple servant at KSC for 11 years from 78 to 89. I was lucky enough to be trained by 2 of the best engineers I've ever known, Frank Byrne and George Matthews from the NACA era. The first thing they taught me was that the "creeping crude of the government will get us" and they were right. When I started in 78, it took 27 signatures to buy anything the "normal" way. By the time I left , after 51L, I was a GS13/14 (a 13 in a 14 job), and spent most of my time trying to get around the procurement regulations so that my team could get it's job done. I had no authority to promote, fire, reward, or punish - I could only plead. Once and only once (thank God) I was a voting member of a source evaluation board for a small (by government standards) procurement. The final request for proposal had at least 1/2" paper containing what we called boiler plate - the current sum total of rules placed on any offerer above and beyond the technical requirements of the project. We even had a special, small type font so that less paper was needed. Anyone other than a large, aerospace company would have been out of their mind to bid on such a project. The end result, a 15 million dollar project became a 60 million dollar project. Instead of 2 years to develop in house, it took 10.
The other thing you learn as a fresh out of college engineer at NASA, is that you're not going to be an engineer, you're going to be a manager of engineers. In the 16 years I've been in silicon valley, I've not met one good engineering manager who had also not been a good engineer. Being a good engineer takes time, lots of it. To be fair, I've met lots of good engineers who were bad managers, but I have never met a good non-engineering manger who could get engineers to do anything. So what happens to most new blood at NASA? They never get any real engineering experience. I was an exception, but I was lucky, most are not.
Both Frank and George remembered Von Braun very well, but also remembered how quickly NASA wanted to get rid of him and "those Germans" he brought with him. ( I mentioned this in response to Burt Rattan's comment about us needing another Von Braun).
One last comment. The 0th problem of the space program is that practically no one gets to go into space. No matter how starry eyed you start out, for most people, it eventually becomes just a job. By the time I had left, I had not been to a launch pad in 10 years. You just lose touch.
Hope this was not too much of a ramble, but I just had to say it.
Phil Tharp Mountain View, CA
Thanks. I was around much earlier. We could see it coming then.
It all comes down to this: "The problem is not Muslim immigration, but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society." It's hard to say which is worse, that sentence or the last one.
New York Times EDITORIAL
Deadly Hatreds in the Netherlands
Published: November 5, 2004
Something sad and terrible is happening to the Netherlands, long one of Europe's most tolerant, decent and multicultural societies. The latest warning sign is this week's brazen murder of Theo van Gogh, a daring filmmaker and columnist descended from the same family as Vincent van Gogh. This summer, Dutch television showed a 10-minute film by Theo van Gogh calling attention to the horrific violence that Muslim women can be subjected to by family members in the name of religion. The chief suspect is believed to be an Islamist extremist, as are eight other men also arrested in connection with the case.
The Netherlands used to be a country where artists and politicians dared to raise even the most controversial issues without fear of physical retaliation. But the screenwriter who worked with Mr. van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who was elected as a member of the Dutch Parliament, is now under police protection. It's just been a little more than two years since a Dutch extremist shot Pim Fortuyn, a rising populist politician who portrayed Muslim immigration as a grave threat to the nation's traditions of tolerance.
Urgent efforts are needed to better manage the cultural tensions perilously close to the surface of Dutch public life. The problem is not Muslim immigration, but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society. One very real danger is that the public trauma over the van Gogh murder may lead to a clamor for anti-Muslim policies that could victimize thousands of innocent refugees and immigrants.
The challenge for Dutch political leaders is to find ways to reverse this disturbing trend of politically motivated violence without making it harder to achieve cultural harmony.
As Willmoore Kendall pointed out a long time ago, the American "melting pot" works very well to make Americans of immigrants; but it can do only so much, and is susceptible of being overwhelmed. It's a bit like military recruitment/replacement: how many new recruits can you add to an elite outfit before it ceases to be elite?
How many non-Westerners can you add to a Western society before it ceases to be a Western Society? How many people who don't understand the notions of rule of law and consent of the governed can you mix into a Western Society before it collapses? And why doesn't anyone seem to understand this? The usual epithet for even thinking about the subject is "racist" followed by the traditional accusations of fascism. And that's for discussing the subject.
Some of your subscribers should enjoy this link.
Subject: Brit intrusion in election
I'm a former Brit myself, and this is embarassing. Let me emphasize the "former."
-- Mike -- Recent titles: THE HERO with John Ringo, June 2004 from Baen Books THE SCOPE OF JUSTICE, July 2004 from Avon TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY, March 2005 from Avon THE WEAPON, August 2005 from Baen Books
http://www.MichaelZWilliamson.com http://www.SharpPointyThings.com Custom knives and historical costumes -- Considering the events of recent years, the world has a long way to go to regain its credibility and reputation with the US.
Fascinating. I never saw that one...
Yet another PHISHING scheme. BEWARE!
From collectibles to cars, buy and sell all kinds of items on eBay<http://pics.ebaystatic.com/aw/pics/register/HeaderRegister_387x40.gif>
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Jerry, can you name an internet site with good info on the TO&E of the Roman Army? I know I should have learned this in school but it's never too late, is it?
I don't know web sites on this. I have a fairly extensive library. Peter Connolly GREECE AND ROME AT WAR is very good, and there are dozens of other works.
But of course it depends on the era. The Republic, pre-Marius, was one kind of army. After Marius it changes to a more uniform system, but over the next 500 years there were adaptations; and eventually heavy cavalry dominated. We are talking about a span of 1000 years after all! (More than, 1000 actually. Twelve ravens...)
November 6, 2004
Subject: Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
The news has a lot of speculation about what might happen during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Since Saudi Arabia is strictly Muslim by law and enforces the rules of Ramadan, you might be interested in how it is handled.
I arrived in Riyadh during Ramadan. It was daytime, and very little was happening. The two of us on my flight processed in, then wandered around lost for a bit, because nothing was open. My associate had a small amount of Arabian currency and used information from our papers to call our employer. A driver came out to take us to headquarters, then drove us to a hotel after we had been briefed.
During Ramadan, the populace must refrain from eating, drinking liquids (alcohol is always forbidden), smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
Muslims not forced to do business by custom or law sleep in all day. The time is supposed to be used in religious studies and devotion, but sleep is the preferred activity. They can eat at evening prayer time, and shopping centers like the popular Euromarche have long lines at the food counters waiting for the call of the Mullah to signal sunset. The prayer normally held at this time is delayed for thirty minutes during Ramadan so the faithful can eat. The Air Force school where I taught does not hold classes.
Some Muslims must work during daylight hours. They are never seen to break the rules, because penalties are harsh. I do not know how the lower class Pakistanis that do grounds maintenance survive at this time, but they do.
Non-Muslims must also not be seen breaking the rules. Eating areas for foreigners on base and in hotels are blocked from outside view by drapes or paper over windows. Water fountains are turned off. Signs prohibit smoking in public areas. Work continues, and a lot can be done without the distractions of Arabs, like our school officers and students, stopping by for visits. The royal family has arranged that the religious police will not barge in unannounced simply because a room is closed.
The first month was tough, having to adjust to this with no practice, but it was a good time to observe. After sunset prayer time, Arabian society opens up. Festive foods, served only during Ramadan, appear everywhere. The school dinig hall fills with students and officers. It is a good time. Only the daylight hours are bad.
My last month there also included Ramadan. I had a hospital appointment in the afternoon, but the door guard would not let me in. There was a nearby market open, and visiting the market until after sunset was very pleasant. Arabians tend to be very hospitable if it does not interfere with Muslim customs and mores, and they are most friendly during Ramadan after sunset. Alas, the hospital appointment still waited, and I left. The admitting nurse was exasperated, but explained that during Ramadan all admissions were through the emergency room, which never closed, and the guards should have sent me there. I am just as happy they did not.
William L. Jones
Democrat reaction to the election
I've seen a number of stories like this one: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,137763,00.html
The democrats have their heads in the sand. In all of the comments I've heard so far, they point to a failure to get their message out. They refuse to consider that maybe they did get it out, and that it was rejected. On the other side though, Bush won not because of 'compassionate conservatism' (whatever that is), but because the Dems had a candidate who was an anti-defense east coast liberal. Bush's plan to outspend the Dems in a misguided attempt to buy votes from the tax-receivers is only going to alienate his base even further.
Either the Republicans move back to their small-government roots, the Democrats rediscover theirs, or the country will continue to endure close elections between the lesser of evils.
Reagan must be shaking his head at the abandonment of his revolution.
Hope you're feeling better,
Doug Lhotka doug[@]lhotka[.]com
"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager
Well, attempts to outspend the Democrats will certainly alienate me, and I guess I'd be considered part of the base. I am weary of governments attempting to buy my vote with my money. But then I have said all that before. We'll see what happens now. And there's the immigration issue, which is the rhino in the living room that neither the Donkey nor the Elephant wants to talk about.
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
Although your observations are well-taken, the situation you describe has been in effect pretty much as long as I've been alive. The last time the Republican establishment was in firm control of the nominating process was 1960: in 1964, a well-organized grass-roots insurgency allowed Barry Goldwater to take the nomination away from the likely choice of the establishment, Nelson Rockefeller. For the Democrats, it lasted just a bit longer: they last had an old-fashioned convention in 1968. By 1972, the structural reforms put in place during the intervening years allowed George McGovern to emerge as the party's candidate.
Was the old system better? Perhaps: if it had still held up, it's possible that we'd still be having elections between Great Society liberal Democrats and "me-too" "moderate" Republicans. It's hard to imagine that such a system would have produced a Reagan: certainly it gamely tried to repress Goldwater, a far less radical candidate and--perhaps more significantly--a Republican first and a conservative second. Personally, I don't seem to recall the 1950s through 1970s as some idyll of limited government and restraint in our foreign affairs: perhaps I've forgotten something you remember better.
And that's the best case: the worst case is that our party system would have become more "European": because it would have been nearly impossible to change things from the bottom up, the party elites would have become more and more decoupled from the people they represented, and we might have seen a whole raft of volatile, single-issue parties emerge and then collapse, disrupting the (relatively) consensus politics of the two-party system. If you think the immigration issue is taboo now, imagine what it would be if there were no way to shake up the party structure: it would be like in EuroLand, where just talking about immigration restrictions gets you branded a fascist and worse.
As to George Bush, let's remember why he emerged as the "consensus" candidate in 2000, even before the first primary: elected governor of the second-most populous state, and only the second Republican to win the Texas governorship since Reconstruction, he was a formidable party-builder in Texas: at the same time, he managed to execute his legislative program despite the Texas legislature being in Democratic hands, and despite the structural weaknesses of the governorship. We forget it now, but it wasn't that long ago that Texas, while voting Republican for President, was largely Democratic at the level of state and local offices: Bush changed all that.
On the Democratic side, I agree that Kerry is something of an empty suit: but who are the plausible alternatives? One of the reasons the Democratic field was weak this year was that several of the potential candidates ducked the race, believing that Bush would be too strong: the same happened in 1992, when both Sam Nunn and Mario Cuomo could have made the race but declined. No tinkering with the party apparatus can make people run for offices they don't think they can win.
You are never going to see a restoration of the Old Republic, and for the most obvious possible reason: the people don't want it. If there were a groundswell of opinion favoring such a thing, a political faction would emerge as its spokesman: just as Perot did when people became concerned about the budget deficit. But the fact is, people like middle-class entitlements: and so, they are largely here to stay.
David G.D. Hecht
I was a Republican county chairman in 1964 (which was a bigger deal then than now), and note: Goldwater was nominated, and in fact that was at the behest of the party precinct people, not the national committee and their minions. Direct primaries are generally won by those with early money, and outfits like The Club for Growth and Emily become more important than the party base; but the precinct workers are still the key to getting out the vote, and the present system leaves them little importance in the process. I am not sure what to do about it, which is why I keep looking at alternatives.
In 1964 the regular party apparatus didn't like Goldwater, while the enthusiasts did. There was also a bi-partisan outfit called Citizens for Goldwater, and Republican precinct people were defecting to that. The split got so bad in San Bernardino (the largest county in the world) that they solved the problem by making me County Chairman of the Republican Party and Co-chairman of Citizens for Goldwater (which was actually my base); and Roberta became County Co-Chairman of the Party and Chairman of Citizens... That at least saw to it that that the two organizations talked to each other. Roberta did all the work, including bringing in Reagan to make The Speech (it was the third time he had given it; she had been to one of the presentations and was impressed). I was far too involved in Project 75, an Air Force study of missile technology forecasting the strategic missile situation in 1975. Incidentally that study developed the requirement for on-board guidance computers for Minuteman, which led to lots of work in integrated circuits which led to -- well you get the idea. We lost the election (although we carried the county for both Goldwater and the ticket including George Murphy and a house seat) but Project 75 was quite successful. So here we are.
It may be that the Old Republic is gone, but some of us will go on trying to keep as much of it as we can.
Thanks for your comments.
The following is long, and rather blood-curdling. It is a translation of the memo attached to the knife that was plunged into Van Gogh. Next week we will consider the implications. For now, here it is:
OPEN LETTER TO HIRSHI [sic; the correct spelling is "Hirsi"] ALI In the
Name of Allah the CoMpassionate, the Merciful.
November 7, 2004
RE: How organized religion, not net religion, won it for Bush
Dr. Pournelle, As a veteran blogger you should find this interesting.
Enjoy, Douglas Knapp
Well the numbers are interesting, but I think the subject title isn't.
Subject: There is hope for the younger generation
Scroll down to the entry by "paultaele". The author is Paul Taele, an upper-division undergraduate in Computer Science at UT Austin. (Paul is a very nice guy; I was in a class with him last Spring - robotics, while doing refresher work - and he is active in the ACM student chapter.)
Quoting: "Why would one get rid of the electoral college? Those who want to get rid of it forget why we had it in the first place. Getting rid of the Electoral College would be like getting rid of the Senate, decreasing the representation of the states. Popular votes do make sense if we lived in a democracy, but we don't. We live in a republic/federation, where we vote for people who make the decisions for us, like we had for the past three centuries."
So not ALL of the students are partying their way through their four years. Some of them are paying attention.
Ralph Falkenburg may find this site of interest regarding the history of the Roman army, at least as a starting point:
I also heartily agree with the recommendation of Connolly's "Greece and Rome at War."
Cheers, Chris Lake
A review of an article where Francis Fukuyama criticizes some of Neo-Conservatism's current positions and statements.
Hope it's interesting and enjoyable!
This is an important report. The analysis needs close attention, and it is worth your time.
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