THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 282 November 3 - 9, 2003
Highlights this week:
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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November 3, 2003
I am still working on a full essay on what to do about Iraq. I put up some thoughts yesterday. I revised them last night, so if you read it yesterday you probably ought to look at it again. If you didn't read it yet, do that first.
Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions
Of course the downing of a helicopter full of troopers about to go on leave isn't the equivalent of Varus's loss of three Legions in Tuetoberger Wald. We didn't lose a large part of the standing army. Three hundred troopers is about the number of young people killed on the highways over a single holiday weekend, and that's about the total lost since the official "end" to the war. However, the effect of Varus's loss was greater than just the loss of the troops. Recruiting among Roman citizens all but halted after that disaster. The mandatory military service of Romans of good family slid to a halt as most used various tricks to escape military duty, particularly in the ranks. From then on the Army was made up more of long term paid soldiers than citizens putting in a few years before going back to their farms or into politics.
I have letters from readers who admit to advising their children, or the neighbor's children, to avoid military service. Readers of good family, patriotic supporters of our war efforts. It gives one pause.
The Emperor Augustus was said to have awakened in the night and banged his head against walls shouting "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" I do not suppose President Bush will do anything like that. Still,
Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions
At least it is not likely that the Army will appoint an Emperor. We don't have a Julian-Claudian royal family to appoint them from, nor does the Army demand a permanent Imperator to protect them from the Senate.
Subject: Major Microsoft patch re-revisions ( priority one)
Microsoft is patching a patch. This is a critical update.
Rain in Los Angeles. That doesn't stop Sable, the Red Siberian Husky, from demanding her daily walk so we did our mile. She loves cold rainy weather. We survived..
I have installed Outlook 2003 (as part of the Office 2003 Suite) on Principessa, the main communications machine, and as I will report in more detail in the column, I am glad I did.
The license says you may install copies on both your main machine and a laptop, and I am putting Office 2003 on Lisabetta, the Tablet PC, largely because Outlook is so much better behaved in the 2003 edition than in the Office 2000 or Office XP versions. Again more in the column.
What I don't know is how to synchronize Outlook between the two machines, and I really would like to know how to do that. Actually one-way works all right for me: that is, I set the Tablet to "leave a copy on the server" and when I come home I download everything to the main machine. That, however, isn't really the right way to do it because it doesn't preserve what I have done on the road.
Since this must happen a lot, there must be people here who know how to do it. I'd really appreciate instructions.
Simply copying the Outlook.pst file to the laptop doesn't quite do the job, although it's the way I have been doing it on the way out. As I said, there must be more detailed ways to do this.
November 4, 2003
Begin with mail and the Court of Star Chamber: How Republics die.
It's late and I am stall very low on energy. Reading Neal Stephenson's new book, which is worth the effort, very much so, but it takes some work just now.
And it is COLUMN TIME.
Something else to worry about:
Still, only 2 lost to enemy action...
Well, I may not be at COMDEX after all. I got a form letter from the COMDEX press people saying my credentials are not satisfactory.
As it happens I am now the only person alive who has been to every Fall COMDEX, and of course Sheldon and I used to award the BEST OF COMDEX award, but apparently the new people running COMDEX want to protect those who are paying to display their products from people like me. This may be interesting.
Clearly I can to to all the side press events, and attend a COMDEX without ever going to LVCC, and I confess it is wryly amusing to think of doing it that way. At some point my guess is that someone in the COMDEX organization is going to realize what's going on, but perhaps not.
I thought COMDEX was in a spot of trouble: it's not at large as it used to be, is it? I can't imagine why. At least the people paying to have exhibit space will be protected.
Well, that was fast. By 10 PM I had my COMDEX registration confirmed. I suppose it was pretty wicked to put this up here, because I suspected that one or another reader would be one of the exhibitors. In any event it didn't take long for the COMDEX people to correct the situation. As I thought, someone in the COMDEX organization did realize what was going on.
In my defense, I've been very much under the weather this week, the column is due, and this at least removes one thing to worry about. Thanks, COMDEX PR, and thanks to the readers who nudged them a bit.
More solar flares. Biggest string of them on record, someone said. Interesting.
November 5, 2003 Guy Fawkes Day
On the other hand, remembering was the excuse for a number of judicial murders. Lest we forget...
Aaaagh! I was googling for Star Chamber to get a bit of history, and suddenly the Internet died. All of it. For me. I reset the router and cable modem, and did a bunch of other stuff. Nothing. Machines were slow to reset (or so I thought) and another wouldn't come up at all. I looked outside for the black helicopters.
Now the problems are over as if they never happened. The machine that wouldn't come up had its keyboard cable disconnected. Slow resets were in part due to trying to get internet connections, and in part because I had reset the main server in my panic and it took it a while to get back on and it took the other machines a while to negotiate with the backup servers and...
And no black helicopters.
Now to do the column.
Roland predicts this will not work:
November 6, 2003
Everything happens at once. It's column time, Roberta's wonderful old Chrysler is pretty well caput so it's time to get a new high performance sedan (she likes the V8 Crown Victoria just now), our editor at Simon and Schuster is fascinated with Burning Tower and the emails flow back and forth every hour (a great way to edit a book!), and did I mention it's column time?
And this morning's paper says the medical evidence is clear: Jessica Lynch was raped in both major orifices; whether before or after her legs were broken is not entirely clear. It's as well for every male Iraqi alive within 50 miles of that city that I am not in command of the US Army just now.
This is a great civilization? One of the world's great religions? It becomes easier to see why my Norman Crusader ancestors boasted of wading in blood. Yes, I know: unlike the Plantagenets I have learned not to make final decisions in rage. What kind of men do we have among us that none will rid us of -- but no.
I have work to do, and there is mail posted and more to come later, and we need to go look at cars. Roberta has printed out the safety date of every major automobile made...
And if you liked the previous, the full version is here:
23:30 What a day!
Roberta is now driving a new Mercury Marquis V8, which she likes a lot. Our old Chrysler LHS was a wonderful car, but after 10 years and 100,000 miles it was getting unreliable, and quit on her on a freeway ramp. Reliability is important at this stage of our lives.
So today we took the Internet crash stats and other stuff, drove a couple of V6's to be sure there wasn't one we could live with (low performance compared to the LHS) and she ended up buying the Marquis, which now nestles in our garage. It's financed at 0%, than which it's hard to get lower.
Now back to work.
November 7, 2003
Several of us were wondering last night how we got into this mess.
First we had 911, and then Afghanistan which was a very appropriate response. We pretty well eliminated al Qaeda, chased bin Laden into the hills, and demonstrated that any regime that harbored our enemies was going to get a visit from the Special Forces and a rapid regime change. It was successful and appropriate.
So how did we get into Iraq where Saddam was not a nice guy, but sure wasn't any threat to the US? He had been deterred. There is still no convincing evidence that Iraqi agents aided or abetted the 911 plotters, or were involved in the Cole incident, or otherwise were involved in direct attacks on the US.
As near as I can tell, somewhere after 911, the "National Greatness" neo-conservatives, particularly the Weekly Standard crowd, managed to convince the President and his advisors that they were the true conservatives, and spoke to the best interests of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. How they did that is not known to me, but I guess I see some traces.
To begin with, they were persuasive for a while. A lot of people of conservative instincts read the Weekly Standard, liked what they saw, and had no time for deep thought on the subject. They had livings to make and children to raise. And I was myself an enthusiast for a while. Parts of the magazine are still very well done.
There were some odd warning signs. Aesthetics reviews by Thomas Disch, who I last encountered writing condemnations of my work for The Nation, including a 4 page review of Janissaries that showed in the review that he had not read past page 30 of the book: yet he wrote this very large review condemning what is, after all, mostly an action adventure story. For The Nation. Naturally neither Disch nor The Nation replied to my letters pointing out that the reviewer could not possibly have read the book he was condemning. Now Disch appears regularly in The Weekly Standard, his long service to The Nation and its readership apparently forgotten.
And Weekly Standard argues for National Greatness, which they conceive in ways that would be familiar to the Emperor Augustus. To Protect the Weak and Make Humble the Strong. Freedom Follows The Flag, These Colors Don't Run, and up the empire!
By the time the more traditional 'republican' conservatives (meaning those of us who opt for a republic, not an empire, and who think National Greatness is more to be achieved by expeditions to the Moon and Mars, and ending energy dependence, and providing good decent middle class life for our citizens rather than trying to export jobs to all the world and level the entire global playing field) realized what was happening it was a bit late.
And there was some razzle dazzle. Saddam was represented as having all these weapons just poised to be used in the Middle East. Conjure up pictures of nerve gas attacks on Tel Aviv. Did the anthrax attacks that accompanied 911 originate with weaponized anthrax from Iraq? There were lots of hints, and more than hints, that this was so.
And the invasion was on. One problem was that some of those opposed to the war really thought it would go badly, that we would leave a lot of troopers dead. I didn't. I had thought Gulf War I under Bush I would go worse than it did (I figured about 1,000 casualties) but by Gulf War II it was pretty clear that it would be a cakewalk at first. And that was euphoric, and the neo-conservatives really came into their own, and National Review had Frum read out of the conservative movement all those who didn't enthusiastically support the war.
And then came the neo-conservative articles about "big government conservatism". I translate that as empire, and it scares the liver out of me. But that seems to be where they are now.
So: the question is, what do we do now? We're in Iraq. To just "declare victory and leave" -- i.e. cut and run -- would leave the area in a mess and us worse off than before we went in. (Not to mention the Iraqis, who would be in a state of anarchy and civil war.) We can't justify the invasion of Iraq on the grounds of eliminating a threat to us because Saddam was desperately trying NOT to be a threat to us while maintaining his blustery importance in his region. We can't justify it on the grounds of an orderly regime change because that is not the way we went in there, and was not the basis of our negotiations with their army and leadership.
("Soldiers of Iraq: we have determined Saddam Hussein and his sons, and the following others, to be reasonably suspected of war crimes; they will be apprehended and tried. Prepare for an orderly transition of government in the absence of these named individuals. Turn them over to us and our invasion will cease. Otherwise we will come and take them.)
We did not do that. We went in to conquer the country.
We went in for the wrong reasons. Now that we are there, what reasons do we have for staying? What do we want to accomplish?
None of this is increasing our National Greatness, and I certainly can think of things to do with $87 billion that would be more useful to mankind, our descendents, and our National Greatness than simply occupying Iraq.
That's my analysis, anyway.
So what do we do now? (And see mail.)
Another Black Hawk down, 6 more troopers dead today, making 32 for the week. And according to NBC News, the Army is now bombarding the area where the attacks came from. That will certainly make the soldiers feel better. The effect on the Iraqis isn't as clear cut.
Also on NBC News, anarcho-tyranny is in force in Goose Creek, South Carolina, where the police raided a high school, guns drawn, forcing students to the floor with threats of deadly force. This certainly poses no danger to the police, and it will certainly send a message to the students and population.
No drugs or weapons were found. I don't think the cops there tried to justify these warrantless searches, handcuffs, and intimidations with deadly force by appealing to the Patriot Act, but one supposes it will not be long before that occurs to someone.
It's certainly a lot easier to intimidate students in a "zero tolerance" situation than it is to do real police work and actually catch someone selling drugs. Whether that is what the people want isn't so clear, but then the people aren't often consulted. We may look for a lot more of this.
And there was another anthrax scare today. Where were Hatfill and Butler?
Hhhmm... This looks awfully familiar. Prelude to a
November 8, 2003
The column has to get done today.
November 9, 2003
The column has to be on the wire tonight.
about Spamhaus, fighting spam, and the emerging spammer/cracker coalition. It's worth registering with the NYT (which costs nothing) to read this.
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