THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 350 February 21 - 27, 2005
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February 21, 2005
He has erected a multitude of New Offices,
and sent hither swarms of Officers
I am told that I must treat the TSA "officers" with respect, for they are only doing their jobs. See last week.
For reasons not clear -- I kept asking what I had done -- I was selected for numerous indignities as a condition of boarding my airplane home from Salt Lake City. My ticket had been purchased by Brigham Young University, which apparently expects good sense from the TSA.
I am told to quit whining about and get on with life; it was no more than inconvenience. Is that not a small price to pay for the increased security?
Is there a rational person in these United States who believes the TSA procedures cannot be circumvented? But one woman who said, "If I had hidden a bomb you would not find it," was shown they would have: they blew up her luggage. This AFTER the flight was completed, to the cost of delaying everyone on an airplane that had safely landed. Can anyone doubt what the real purpose of that stunt was? Is there anyone who supposes that all of us are safer as a result? Yet I have readers who said, "Well, yes, but she got what she deserved." A truthful remark deserves that treatment. But we were born free.
Tons of heroin are smuggled into the United States each year, much of it on commercial airline flights. Does anyone doubt that the same techniques could be used to introduce explosives onto the airplanes? Or that al Qaeda is insufficiently endowed with intelligence as to be able to find out how drugs and other substances are smuggled? Is there anyone past first year chemistry unaware of how to construct impermeable barriers to the effluvium of explosives (as well as of alkaloids)? I leave out the specifics as I left out the specifics of making war gasses in Lucifer's Hammer since I suppose there may be one person intelligent enough to read this but unable to discover how such things are done; but for each of those there are surely many who know exactly what I am talking about. Yet to say so will get your luggage blown up.
The fact of the matter is that there is no way to thwart someone intelligent and determined to destroy an airplane in flight if he does not care if he is killed in the process. Think upon smuggling by mules, emetics, and airplane restrooms.
The fact of the matter is that the procedures on September 10, 2001, were nearly sufficient to prevent what happened: the taking over of airplanes and the use of them as cruise missiles to destroy specific secondary targets. If the goal is to prevent THAT we do not need a multitude of New Offices and swarms of Officers to harass the people and eat out their substance. What we need is to prevent the potential kamikaze pilot from getting into the cockpit of the airplane. That requires strong doors, and a change in the rules of engagement: even if they are cutting the throats of your passengers and passenger service crew members, do not surrender control of the airplane to anyone, and admit no one into the cockpit; and secondly, tell the passengers they must defend themselves.
But that encourages VIGILANTISM! And vigilantism is the worst possible thing. Self government must never extend to the notion of self defense. If there is no Air Marshal or other designated Professional Law Enforcement Officer with The Proper Credentials aboard the airplane, then of course you should meekly submit to the terrorist, as you must meekly submit to the honorable Officers of the TSA who protect you.
And you must congregate into small and narrow places which are not protected, and which would be the targets of any rational terrorist effort. Make people afraid to go near airports and you can even more effectively cripple the airline industry in these United States. We must not think about the fact that someone can wheel a large carryon full of anything into the milling crowds meekly standing in line to get aboard airplanes in Los Vegas or Salt Lake City. Or have I given away a secret?
So. Honor the TSA, which consists of people who need the work, and think they are doing a good job of protecting us. Intentions are far more important than the actual result, which is to make us fit to be Imperial Subjects rather than self-reliant Citizens of a free Republic.
And Patrick Henry ought to have stopped whining. The King's forces were here to protect us from the French and Indians, and people like Mad Dog John Adams, and Patrick Henry, were whiners who just didn't get it.
And with that I will drop the subject. There is a good article on autism in the Sunday mail and I encourage you to read it. It presents a different view of that important subject.
There is a break in the rain and Sable needs a walk.
"I hate to advocate alcoholism, drug abuse, bizarre sex,
|This week:||Tuesday, February
Last night I made the dumbest mistake a Husky owner can make and got my left ring finger bitten. The dog is more upset than me. All's well but I am back on tetanus shot and antibiotics and aspirin, so a lot of typing doesn't get done.
Don't try to take things away from a wolf-dog when she has retreated under a table. Order her to come out and surrender it. It takes a bit longer but is much safer... And any idiot knows this. Color me idiot.
The cable modem is out. TV cable is all right so it must be the cable modem service. The satellite continues to work if a bit infuriatingly.
February 23, 2005
Still a bit out of it. More later, but let's correct one error
F. M. Busby, Jr., RIP He sent me my first fan letter. Fan and pro, and long time friend from Seattle. Go with God, old friend.
I don't listen to music while walking, but I would like to listen to the George Mosse Lectures. Now I need a device to do this with. I presume the Creative Zen would work, and that I can download those lectures and put them on the device. By tomorrow I ought to be smart enough to figure that out, but today I just don't feel up to it.
Remember the "domino effect" in southeast Asia? Well, maybe there's another domino effect -- this one working for us:
"'It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,' explains Jumblatt. 'I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.' Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. 'The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.'"
That is one view. Another is that we will have Iraq and Iran as Muslim Axes of Evil whereas Iraq was once a secular part of the Axis of Evil.
My guess is that Bush wakes up in the middle of the night shouting "Donald Rumsfeld, Give me back my $250 Billion!" but perhaps not, and I may be unduly cynical. We can hope the first view is correct. If they can get the oil pumping and world oil prices to no higher than before the war, we may yet be glad. May. But the price of oil drives much in this world. I wish I had $200 billion to spend on other energy sources.
Summers is rumored to have said while apologizing "Eppur si muove." We also have from another conference,
"It is rumored, in response to the assault upon his good name by proponents of mathematical sexual parity, that Lorenzo Estati was heard to murmur: "Eppur non si muove.""
February 24, 2005
I should write a longer epitaph for F. M. Buzz Busby, Jr., but it is exceedingly hard to write just at the moment due to a painful injury to one finger; and, I admit, I am weary of writing about dead friends. One by one, the people I knew are going. Buzz was 84, and that is a long life. If we do everything else right we get old, and when we get old we see first our elders, then our contemporaries, vanish one by one. Buzz was a good man, and thought I do not suppose I thought of him more than twice yearly most years, I will miss him.
Fred has some observations which, as he says, will astonish no one. I do like the pithiness of one of his early observations: that we cannot ensure that no child is left behind, but we can make sure no child gets ahead, and we prefer that anyway.
Over in mail there is also some note of the new invisible epidemic, raising the question of how do we bring up children? We cannot keep them oblivious of the world. We probably cannot protect them from evil companions (my wife has thought of a character so boring that even the evil companions want nothing to do with him, but that is hardly insurance either). We can perhaps, warn them of some of the things that are irreversible, which means that we can't pretend that the reversible is irreversible. That first pot or cocktail may, for some, be irreversible, but it will not be so for most. I think there is an essay in there but I am not up to writing it.
I just read your comment about listening to lectures, and wanted to throw my two cents in: iPod and iTunes. Any of the three kinds (shuffle, mini, or regular) should work for what you need, and all of them just simply create customer delight. Apple got it right. So much so, that a *lot* of Microsoft folks use them, to the point that the company has started writing memos:
"Hide your iPod, here comes Bill"
And Roland asks why I think I should consider anything else.
Will RealPlayer files work with an ipod? Or is there anything that will make them portable? The very fact that I have to ask should tell you my head isn't working.
February 25, 2005
The Emperor arrives...
(with the mandatory Canadian feelings of inferiority)
Quote of the day:
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
- Theodore Roosevelt
On the day after Porto Rican Independence terrorist shot up the White House and killed a guard, Harry Truman prepared for his morning walk through the streets of Washington. When the Secret Service complained Truman told them they didn't have to come. As for himself, "It comes with the job."
Still a bit under the weather. Roberta went to San Diego to the beach house to plot on our new technothriller she is doing research for. I'm here walking the dog...
February 26, 2005
So they are going to let Terry Schiavo die of thirst and starvation, that being a legal way to kill people. It would be illegal simply to blow her brains out or give her morphine, or whatever they use to kill prisoners in Florida. Perhaps they could activate Florida's electric chair known as Old Sparky as a more humane way to kill her? Leave out giving her husband, who has spent the proceeds of her insurance policies and now lives with his other significant other and the children of this extra-marital relationship, the right to say she dies. It's such a waste!
Of course keeping her alive is expensive, and the public must pay. The state legislature with one vote cast against it made a law forbidding her husband to kill her, but judges have held that the people of Florida have no say in the matter other than to pay if judges decide to keep her alive. Still do they not have a fiduciary responsibility as lawyers are fond of saying?
Me, I would wall the husband and those judges into a room and brick it around and leave them there until they come to some decision regarding the use of thirst and starvation as a means of killing someone who is now inconvenient. God knows they are inconvenient, at least to some. Leave a small hole big enough for them to throw out a judicial decree and check back in a week or two to see if they have had anything to say. I bet when we get around to tearing down the wall they would have changed their minds and specified some other means of execution. I suggest a better way to kill her below.
Makes me proud to be an American with a Constitution that allows judges to order someone starved after the legislature has voted life. If they will do this to someone whose crime is to have had "a chemical imbalance" that put her in a coma (does anyone know how she got that "imbalance"? what is a chemical imbalance, how does one acquire it, and did she have any help getting it?) -- if they will do this to an innocent what may they do to someone who deserves punishment? If the legislature cannot prevent someone from being put to death by dehydration and starvation, presumably on television, what can it do? And who owns the video rights to the murder of a Catholic woman on television? Perhaps we could outsource the murder to al Qaeda or a Saudi executioner with a sharp sword? Bring back the guillotine? Surely Florida can think of a more humane means of execution of someone for the crime of being inconvenient and only minimally responsive? They finish off full brain dead people for their organs by means less lingering than starvation and dehydration.
But I have a way to satisfy everyone! Auction off her organs. When they go to remove them, they will make it a lot quicker, so better for her, and meanwhile she will have been kept comfortable until the surgeons begin their work. And think on those who will benefit! The money can go to the Florida Treasury to compensate for having kept her alive all this time. We can sell the TV rights separately, and use the proceeds to promote organ donation advertisements.
Save Terry from a painful death. Join the movement to Auction Terry's Organs now!
I am told that Terry's husband is not the villain here. I can well believe that. One does get on with one's life. Let him. He need do nothing but abdicate... He may feel she wanted to die but she didn't make that clear; and I would bet money that few have ever said they want to die by dehydration and starvation, possibly on national TV.
None of which relieves us of the problem: why death by starvation and dehydration? And why waste perfectly good organs?
February 27, 2005
Yesterday's ramble -- it's not structured enough to be called an essay or even a disquisition -- on Terry Schiavo seems to have generated passions, but part of it was misunderstood, probably because I was not as clear as usual.
First, one of the oldest maxims in legal theory is that no man may judge in his own cause. Schiavo has a financial stake in the outcome. That appears to be the only stake he has now, since he is married to Terry only in the legal sense. Why is he given the life and death decision power? He may be a saint, he may not be, he may be her murderer and he may be a hero, but he has a stake in the outcome. It is not a decision most of us would want.
Still, he is legal next of kin, and the law usually makes, even requires, that decisions regarding treatment of comatose persons be made by next of kin, many of whom do have financial stakes in the outcomes, so that argument does not hold unless we want to reconsider all of family law; in my judgment a task well beyond my competence, and one we need not undertake.
Second, and perhaps the deciding factor: leaving out all ethical and moral considerations, if we purport to make decisions of life and death on the grounds of following the comatose person's wishes, is it not important that we have unambiguous evidence of those wishes? If there were a signed document on file stating Terry's wishes regarding treatment in this circumstance, there would be no conversation. Those with moral scruples might want to talk people out of leaving such documents, but that does not concern us (and no, I am not arguing that we should talk people out of such; I merely wish to settle the supposed moral issues as irrelevant to this discussion). If the wishes of the person affected are unambiguously clear, that is the end of the matter.
However, in this case we are back to Point One: the only evidence we have of the victim's wishes come from the husband, an interested party; and the parents, not entirely rational; and her religion, which is ambiguous since the doctrine of the Church on heroic measures is not entirely clear to me: it forbids suicide but not risky actions, and the usual summary for others is "thou canst not kill but needst not strive, officiously to keep alive."
Now why is it important to determine the wishes of the affected person? Because if we do not insist on that, then we are all at the mercy of those who find us inconvenient. "Ol' Gramma didn't want to live if she got Alzheimers. Told us so a dozen times. Then she got it and it come on fast and now she isn't competent to decide. She wants to die but can't tell us." And the physicians, prompted by the Hospital Administrator and HMO Board of Directors, begin preparing the needles. (One presumes that by then we will not longer starve the old gal to death.) Now that may be the Enlightened way to treat people, but it is clearly a slippery slope: from comatose to barely conscious to responds to stimuli but is a living vegetable to non compos mentis to clearly unable to make rational decisions on this matter is a continuum with few sharp dividing lines. At least let us insist on unambiguous evidence of Gramma's wishes before starting our work.
Enlightenment rationalists do not see any problems here. She's no use to herself or the world, so turn her off for her (and our) good. From there to harvesting organs as waste prevention isn't anywhere near as long a path as you might think. Niven's Jigsaw Man was prediction as well as warning. And why not? Particularly if we are dealing with disease free healthy organs, of which there is always a shortage. Isn't it the rational position? Waste not, want not. Take the case of a 28 year old comatose traffic victim, good health, rare blood type, prime of life, organ donor card signed but no Living Will giving someone else the decision to pull the plug. In 90% of such cases she will never wake up, and the organs will deteriorate to uselessness. In the 10% of cases where she does wake up, most of the time she will not really recover and be a burden to her relatives and the society. What is the reasonable thing to do here? And who should decide?
In Terry Schiavo's case, different observers see different things. Few put her chances of recovery above "miraculous" level ( < 1% is a miracle, no?). Her parents see it differently. And anyone watching the tapes sees that she avoids pain. Earthworms do that, of course.
If she could swallow -- and some physical therapists think she can be taught to do so -- so had to be spoon fed, would we be content to watch her die of starvation? Her husband won't authorize the physical therapy that might or might not work (or might or might not have worked years and years ago). Is this relevant? If she miraculously learns to swallow -- I presume the court order doesn't forbid her parents to try feeing her -- what then?
Finally: the unthinkable, which prompted this subject. If we are going to let people die, but we want to avoid the responsibility -- "it's in God's hands now that we have removed the tubes" -- then -- then -- why? Is there a difference between starving someone to death (and allowing dehydration? or will they inject saline intravenously to keep that balance? or is that forbidden lest someone sneak in some glucose? -- is there a difference between starving someone to death and simply pumping in the morphine for one last rush and oblivion? And if there is such a difference, will someone explain it to me? Be certain you do not let religious arguments creep into your explanation.
I fear there is a decided lack of clear thinking on these matters. Which is not surprising. Victor Frankenstein would have understood. As did Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Clearly if we take equal quantities of hot and cold water, take their temperatures, pour them together, and measure the temperature of the result, the result will be pretty nearly the mathematical average of the measures we had before we started. This assumes that the two buckets were well stirred just before we took the temperatures: let them sit a while and where in the bucket we had the sensor can be important.
Now what is the temperature of the Earth? To 3 significant digits, .1 degree C, please.
Where do I put my sensors? Having placed them, and decided on the weights to give each measure I take, what happens if someone builds a big city near one of my measurement stations? There are unusual ocean currents this year? On what day of the year do I take my for the record measurements, or if I am averaging over a year, do I average all my dailies? And having got my temperature for the year 2001, and seeing a bunch of changes in the landscape and ocean currents, exactly what do I do to get a year 2005 measure that compares with my 2001 temperature?
And then I discover that someone else using a different heat capacity pattern model has come up with a different average for the year 2001.
Now: I do not pretend expertise in these matters. I do pretend some expertise in similar problems (what is the average temperature of re-entry? Does it make sense to combine a bunch of measures into a single figure of merit, and if so, what does that measure mean?).
There are two things to consider about a global average. The first is the operational definition of how it was obtained: will two independent teams get the same number to the required accuracy? If each does it twice will we have 4 identical (to 3 significant digits) measures? If not, what now?
That is the first definition of an average: the procedures used to obtain it.
The second is its interpretation: what does it all mean? What, for instance, does it mean to average the temperature at the South Pole, two sea level places on the Equator, two high mountain places on the Equator, and at the North Pole? It's an average in that I can tell you how I got it and how I arrived at the resulting number. Is it a meaningful average?
Throw in some more. Take the temperature of the ocean in the Marianas Trench. Throw in the temperature inside and outside Mauna Loa. Throw in Pinatubo, and heave in a few taken at high altitudes in various latitudes. Is it meaningful yet? What else might we do to give it more meaning?
And understand that while the absolute number may not be important, the number's variance from year to year will certainly be.
When people model Global Warming and come up with an average temperature of the Earth, and I ask how they got it and they don't really explain that, I get suspicious.
This all arose when Greg Cochran, for whom I have some respect, declared Essex and McIntyre as not worth listening to because they have said some things he took to be nonsense. Leaving out the possibility of being misquoted -- it has happened to both Cochran and myself -- it is not the case that questions asked are meaningless even when they come from a source you might not rely on for data? But leave that and conclude with Cochran that you may safely ignore anything Essex and McIntyre say on the grounds that anyone who says an RMS temperature is "just as good" as a linear average can't possibly know enough to be worth listening to. Questions about the Earth's Average Temperature remain.
Reporting an "average" without some discourse on how it was obtained and why that particular formulation is worth paying attention to does not impress me. If you want to tell me the Earth's temperature I want some assurance that your measure won't change next year because of some random factor.
We know the Earth's temperature over long periods of time to about 1.5 significant digits simply by history. Crop records, growing seasons, dairy farms in Greenland at one time and rivers frozen over solid enough to drag cannon across at another time, and so forth. Getting it closer than that takes a lot of assumptions. Even with recent measures we must make assumptions. How accurate were HMS Beagle's measures of ocean and air temperatures? I think they didn't do globe temperatures: should they have? (A globe temperature is useful in human factors work: it's the temperature inside a black copper globe of standard size, and thus is an average itself of air and radiant environment temperatures.) Globe temperatures change with cloud cover especially at night. Is that significant? And so forth.
A note on the above: taking an air temperature in a windy place can be tricky. In Pasadena a few years ago the temperature at the base of the mountains was exactly the same to 3 significant digits (fraction of a degree) for, I believe it was 37 consecutive hours. A Santa Ana Wind was pouring down the slope and the compressive heating produced that result. Elsewhere in the LA Basin there were variations as winds mixed. What was the average temperature of the LA Basin that day? Globe temperatures would have had day/night variations. Would that be important?
I do not envy climate scientists their job. I do wonder at their assurance when they begin rolling dice down the table in a Congressional hearing.
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