THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 238 December 30, 2002 -- January 5, 2003
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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 monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 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.
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December 30, 2002
Coming up on the New Year, but also on Column Time, and I am way behind on fiction. I'm dancing as fast as I can...
Call for Nominations
It is time for the annual Chaos Manor Orchids and Onions Parade, which will be in the January www.byte.com column. Readers are requested to nominate candidates with brief statements of why they deserve orchids or onions. All nominations are subject to publication. Normally we will include the nominator's name, but I am willing to leave that off for good and sufficient reasons.
All nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word Orchid or the word Onion in the subject line. If you include both, I prefer separate mail. All nominations become the property of J. E. Pournelle and Associates, none will be returned, and I may or may not acknowledge the nomination by email. All are subject to editing and publication. We will not change the substantial meaning of the text, but we do reserve the right to edit for brevity, grammar, and spelling.
If you missed the Deacon's Wonderful One Hoss Shay I put it up last night.
I hate Mozilla. It seems determined, so long as I leave it on my system, to change every web site icon on my desk top, and everywhere else, from the icon furnished by the game company to go with their web site to that Mozilla monster. The small icons in my Front Page archives seem to have become monsters.
If I uninstall this terrible thing, will that change my icons back? Or will I have to go through, one at a time, and do properties on everything? Mozilla, I am told, is wonderful. My experience has been uniformly horrible: it interferes with everything. Even when I try to run Microsoft PhotoDraw, or Front Page, I have to tell Mozilla no, I do not want you to be my default editor. Attempts to make it stop doing that have failed.
It may be I downloaded a bad version that has since been fixed, but I am afraid of the monster now. At the moment it looks like a good candidate for a big onion with garlic clusters.
What I have is 1.2b which was the one I was told to get at the time I got it. I want it to stop doing things it was not asked to do, and I want not to have that stupid Mozilla monster icon all over my desktop and elsewhere.
OK, Thanks to all. I have it. I think.
|This week:||Tuesday, December
Happy New Year
I have been told how to deal with Mozilla and it more or less works. IE and Mozilla do not like each other. I used Mozilla a couple of times because Norton found viruses and I wanted to look at the mail safely; Mozilla isn't as vulnerable at Internet Explorer.
But when you install Mozilla it REALLY wants to take over. Everything. And banish Internet Explorer. And frankly, I am used to Internet Explorer. It works OK for me, and with my firewalls that Roland set up, plus Norton frequently updated and on the job, I don't have any problems (that I am aware of anyway). IE has become a kind of standard.
Now one day I may go to a full Linux system, but the incentives are getting smaller: XP with IE and Outlook have been doing very well for me since I went to a faster machine (my old Regina box was a dual Compaq 750 Pro Workstation I had used for many years, and it was doing OK, but with all the mail filters I have on plus Norton it was getting bogged down; the new 2.54 GHz Pentium 4 works just fine with even more filters and sorting rules).
I was called today to go out to see the heart specialist. They keep telling me there is nothing to worry about, but they keep wanting to see me. Maybe today I'll find out. Since I can walk 5 miles including about 1500 foot up and down altitude change without being winded and without any pains, and my only "chest sensations" are that every time I think about this I know I have a heart and imagine it almost hurts or something only it doesn't -- amazing what you can imagine -- anyway, since I have no problems I don't think I have problems, but I'll let the specialists be sure. But that shoots my day's work.
There is a LOT to do including getting a New Year letter out to subscribers. I'll probably send that tomorrow, and maybe I'll have some pictures of Niven's party.
The Inspectors in Iraq have bupkis, which is about what you'd expect. Saddam has had years to hide everything. One of my sons (not the Navy officer) says it's public knowledge that there is evidence connecting al Queda to Saddam Hussein. If so I have been pretty absent of mind, since I don't know what it is. Iraq is Baathist, which is a secular fascism, not Islamic Jihad, and has fairly regional and predictable ambitions.
It's not a nice government, and I am sure that a liberal democracy would not choose it. It's a boss-ridden tyranny, but then almost all Arab countries are boss-ridden tyrannies. Turkey has a democracy, sort of, but only because the Army rigidly enforces secularism: an honest election in Turkey might well put the mullahs in charge. It might not, but the struggle would be horrible: the Turkish Army really does protect the Constitution, and that sort of reigning without ruling, but reign with actual supreme power, is unusual. Spain's monarchy seems to function in somewhat the same way.
Aristotle would have called Turkey a "timocracy", meaning "rule of honor"; most attempts at that sort of thing degenerate into corruption and rule by military junta of the sort we are familiar with in this hemisphere.
The US meanwhile wants to set up liberal democracy in Iraq, and seems to be headed that way in the Kurdish part. The success or failure of that will depend in part on how well they can convince Turkey they aren't going to foment problems in Turkish Kurdistan. The Kurds, an Aryan people (Iran = Land of the Aryans, after all), have their own agenda. I know it isn't fashionable to use terms like "Aryan" now, but Iran speaks an Aryan language, and those people are descended from Aryan invaders, just as Turks are descended from Turkish invaders, and neither are the same peoples as the Arabs. For that matter the Arabs aren't all the same people. Palestinians have a lot of Philistine roots, and those were Mediterranean peoples, not Arabs even if most Palestinians now call themselves Arabs. Ethnically and culturally the Near East has been a melting pot for a long time, but some ingredients remained "lumpy" and didn't melt.
And the Kurds did, after all, liberate Jerusalem and overthrow the Latin Kingdom, under Saladdin, back in the days of Richard Lionheart. They were important in the old days of the Persian Empire, and they haven't forgotten it.
But all that is for another essay on another day.
If the United States hopes to make Iraq a showcase of Western Democracy -- and that surely is the intent of many of Bush's advisors -- we had better learn some of that history. And we had better make some gestures of friendship to the Turks. Harry Truman sent the USS Missouri, then the most powerful warship in the world and famous in the Surrender of Japan, as the hearse for the Turkish Ambassador; a gesture of friendship that saved a lot of American troops in Korea, because the Turks saved our bacon more than once in the long retreat from the Yalu.
If Harry Truman could think of something like that, can't someone in Colin Powell's office? Or does no one read history, even of recent times? Ah. Well.
Now I need to clean up some stuff.
And I note that Norton has just updated itself. I do like Norton Anti-Virus even if sometimes it goes a bit mad and becomes too aggressive.
Happy New Year. I may be back after my medical appointment.
Go read it and tell me what you think. This may be important. (See mail.)
Three years into the Millennium. Astonishing. It doesn't seem all that long since I was getting hate mail accusing me of gross irresponsibility for suggesting that the coming Y2K disaster wouldn't be a disaster.
I seem to have caught a cold for the New Year. Why not? At least I have had my flu shots.
I'm up late. We left Niven's party early: Roberta's cold developed this afternoon, mine seems to have manifested itself about the time we were leaving Niven's house, and kept me from getting more than an hour of sleep. So, since it is pointless to lie awake and learn to be awake in bed, I got up and came up here to deal with mail. I'll go to bed when I feel sleepy. The problem is that a stuffy head isn't conducive to coherent thoughts about anything important. I've done what deep thinking I am likely to do over in Mail, which see.
January 2, 2002
We are sort of recovering from colds. Meanwhile the heart people have consulted and we're doing another test, but this time I'm quite certain there's nothing to worry about. Indeed, this may have caused me to discover yet another pill I ought to be taking as preventative rather than when needed...
Nobody is going to cheat The Old Man for long no matter what pills we take. That's not quite true: I suspect "natural death" is a treatable disease, but I don't suppose I will live to see that. On the other hand my life expectancy seems to go up about a year every year...
My real goal is to be like the Wonderful One Hoss Shay.
What ought we do about Cuba? The Cuban Exile Community is fairly powerful in a key state, much as the Jews are powerful in some key states, and their sentiments will have more influence than the views of others. Jews in America are likely to feel more strongly about Israel than everyone else, as the Cubans in America are likely to feel more strongly about Cuba; and while neither group is entirely monolithic, the overwhelming majority of each has a definite policy in mind.
It takes a strong will on the part of the President to make nice to Castro in any way. Nor, indeed, is there all that much reason to: he is a ruthless dictator of the old caudillo model who got lucky in finding the Soviets shopping for a hemispheric ally; there's no evidence that Castro is really all that convinced a Marxist. Like many intellectuals he has leftist preferences, but when it comes to revolutionary zeal, he sent Che off to be killed and hasn't been very zealous in exporting his revolution. Cuba is a backwater dictatorship much like North Korea, but with the difference that it's 90 miles off our shores, it's an island in which we have had considerable interest -- it was very nearly annexed as we did Puerto Rico -- and it might have been our first non-English speaking state had things gone just a bit differently.
We have more legitimate interest there than many places. There's also more there: more resources, a better educated population, considerable contact with a large Cuban community in the United States, and a fairly close similarity of customs and cultures.
So what ought we be doing? Continuing the blockade and embargo doesn't seem productive, or even to make much sense: Cuba is not allied with enemies of the United States, and certainly is no threat to the United States.
One problem with "trade" is credit: Castro has a habit of stiffing his suppliers. One thing the US has always been worried about is the probability that Castro will owe huge sums to American businesses, and the Americans will ask their government for help collecting the debts. This is why we approve of food and medical supply sales to Cuba but for cash only. The Cubans, of course, complain that this is discrimination, and in a sense it is; but they have a very poor record of paying their debts.
Nor does it make a lot of sense for the US Treasury to "insure" US exports, since that is merely a hidden subsidy to Castro, and in fact would encourage him to stiff his suppliers.
A thorny problem. Our present policies don't hurt the regime all that much, and certainly make life unpleasant for Cubans. Castro lets the exiles send money to their relatives under his paw, and of course extracts a fair amount from those remittances, some of which go to public services if there's anything left over after paying the security forces.
He's an old fashioned caudillo, perhaps not quite as unsavory as Papa Doc but not a lot nicer. We invaded Haiti to force them to install a different crook from the one they had; how much good that did for Haiti isn't clear. It is not likely to work better for Cuba. But meanwhile the embargo certainly hurts Cubans while doing little harm to Castro and his minions.
We are prepared to go to war in Iraq and go to the mat in Korea. Cuba is a lot closer.
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