THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 358 April 18 - 24, 2005
Highlights this week:
For boiler plate, search engine, and notes on what in the world this place is, see below.
If you are not paying for this place, click here...
For information on COURSE materials, click here
For Previous Weeks of the View, SEE VIEW HOME PAGE
If you intend to send MAIL to me, see the INSTRUCTIONS.
April 18, 2005
Yesterday we went to the MWA meeting, with guest speaker Gene Riehl. I used to go to local Mystery Writers Association meetings, but somehow dropped away. This was pleasant as well as interesting and we will probably keep going to them in future since our next book is likely to be more mystery than SF.
Today the Explorer had to go to the shop; a few weeks after the extended warranty expired, the ABS system light goes on; some speed sensor will need replacing at $150. Why not? But I have to say I have been happy enough with the Explorer. Unlike its predecessors including a Bronco II and an International Harvester Scout (I have been driving SUV's since long before there was a name for them; my Scout used to carry as many as 12 Boy Scouts and 31 backpacks to the High Sierra and out into the middle of the Mojave Desert; we also towed canoes to back country) unlike its predecessors the Explorer is a bit more comfortable on the highway than in the desert, but it has done well in desert and mountain country -- and at the end of the day the interior is clean even though we've been going up the gravel and dirt tracks to Fort Apache. Anyway, that used the morning - out to the shop, then the Metro back (why bother someone to take me back? the Metro is fast enough). I was able to work on mail on the Metro. TabletPCs are great for that.
Now to work. I have to uninstall my spam filters and backup system software and start over.
I do these silly things so you don't have to. Reports in the column.
April 19, 2005
Habemus Papem. In interregnum in effect, at his age, while the forces of liberalism, reform, change, destruction, and preservation reconsider. Benedict XVI will carry on the work of his old friend and predecessor, but as John Paul II's "enforcer" hs is not likely to change his spots, so to speak, and make any changes in doctrine; or in procedure for that matter. Nor to shift any major issues from doctrine to tradition and procedure.
That is: doctrine is fundamental, part of The Faith Once Received, and cannot be changed. Procedure and tradition are means of implementing and enforcing doctrines. Some highly controversial matters are procedural: celibacy being one of them. St. Paul says clearly that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. The Roman practice is to have a celibate clergy, although the Eastern Rites clergy can be married (but married can't become bishops). Literalists say that the bishops must be married at appointment, and can only have been married once; ultra literalists say that if a bishop's wife dies he has to give up the post of bishop. I don't intend to settle any of this: I merely point out that the issue is not an essential one to the Faith Once Received.
Abortion is a different matter. There is still the possibility of interpretation: the Church once had the notion of "quickening," the point at which an unborn becomes human (the concept still exists in many legal systems: prior to a certain stage of development killing a pregnant woman results in a charge of one murder, not two). However, the whole view of "life" vs. "choice" has shifted, and while an absolute ban on abortion is likely to remain as doctrine, it wasn't always. There is a similar situation regarding contraception. While the ban on contraception is doctrine now, it is conceivable (no pun intended) that it will become doctrinal in future.
None of this will happen in the reign of this pope. There may even be a tightening of rules regarding homosexuals in seminaries. (There is no doctrine against homosexual priests: celibacy is celibacy, and success in resisting temptation is more important than the exact nature of the temptation.) But given the recent scandals, there may be changes in rules. There will also be new Cardinals. For the most part, though, we may expect a few years (no more, the office is a killer) of continuation.
I say this, but of course I have no great power of insight, and predicting the actions of the Holy See is a risky business.
There is a lot of mail on trade deficits. Note that trade deficits and moving from being a creditor to a debtor nation are closely related concepts but they are not identical. For example, my foreign royalties, while clearly bringing in foreign currency for an American produced product, are not counted in figuring the balance of trade, but monies owed me by foreign publishers are counted in the net creditor/debtor calculations. At least so I have been told: it makes no sense to me, but the concept of whether we, as a nation, are a creditor or a debtor nation, seems both clear and important.
Also, if we don't make things, and we continue to consume things, we have to import them; the imports have to be paid for; and if we aren't exporting enough products (goods and services) we have to sell off assets (capital and resources) or go into debt (give obligations against future goods, services, or capital). The US won't go bankrupt and have a foreign government come in and collect tariffs at the ports to pay off our foreign debts (as the US did with some hemispheric nations: the Monroe Doctrine said other Great Powers could not do that in our hemisphere, the Great Powers said "we want our money", and logic took over, which is how the Navy and Marines came to be the government of, for instance, the Dominican Republic).
The issue has brought in a lot of mail, and I'll be putting that up: I intend to collect it into one section, rather than scatter it everywhere, so do watch the Highlights at the top of the mail page. I will begin with a link to yesterday's mail which started the discussion of free trade.
And of course there's lots of interesting mail on other subjects. For those new to this place, mail and comments are a big part of what we do...
And on the Mac scene, Tracy the Mac Expert sends this:
Apple, I don't know if you've seen this yet, but here's a list of the 200
new features included in Tiger, available the 29th:
Essay: The Calvinist Manifesto http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/books/review/013FUKUYA.html
By FRANCIS FUKUYAMA
THIS year is the 100th anniversary of the most famous sociological tract ever written, ''The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,'' by Max Weber. It was a book that stood Karl Marx on his head. Religion, according to Weber, was not an ideology produced by economic interests (the ''opiate of the masses,'' as Marx had put it); rather, it was what had made the modern capitalist world possible. In the present decade, when cultures seem to be clashing and religion is frequently blamed for the failures of modernization and democracy in the Muslim world, Weber's book and ideas deserve a fresh look.
Weber's argument centered on ascetic Protestantism. He said that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination led believers to seek to demonstrate their elect status, which they did by engaging in commerce and worldly accumulation. In this way, Protestantism created a work ethic -- that is, the valuing of work for its own sake rather than for its results -- and demolished the older Aristotelian-Roman Catholic doctrine that one should acquire only as much wealth as one needed to live well. In addition, Protestantism admonished its believers to behave morally outside the boundaries of the family, which was crucial in creating a system of social trust. <snip>
There's more. Worth reading. I recall my first discovery of Max Weber, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Iowa -- the old Iowa University that required a liberal arts background as well as a major; where I had Philosophy of Science from Gustav Bergmann, Semantics from Wendell Johnson and Sam Hayakawa, undergraduate physics from Van Allen, history from George Mosse. A wonderful institution. The old Core Course curriculum is now long gone; I was fortunate to get there at just the right time, and not to need bonehead English and math so I could go directly into the real course work in literature and algebra. But that's another story.
If you have not read Max Weber's little book, do so. And I find there is a whole web page devoted to Weber, although I am not familiar with it. But do read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
April 20, 2005
Started the day with a medical appointment. Roberta wasn't happy with the color of my feet. Fortunately the doctors are. An unpleasant side effect is that my records show I am due for a routine sigmoidoscopy or whatever they call it. I suppose there is nothing for it but to schedule that. But apparently I am in great shape for someone my age.
If you are looking for something to do
Subject: Rising Dragon and the American Eagle, Part I.
----- Roland Dobbins
will be a useful way to spend some time. Think of it in connection with
Subject: China and Trade
When the Chinese depress the value of the RMB below what it would be if it were freely tradable, they boost their own exports and discourage imports. The main reason for doing this is to stimulate production and keep Chinese workers employed. (And with the huge inefficiencies associated with its state-owned sector this sort of stimulation is probably pretty important).
One problem I see with this is that while it keeps workers employed, a great deal of their production is exported overseas to the benefit of foreign (primarily US?) consumers. One wonders how long this can be sustained. From the point of view of a typical Chinese worker it seems like a bit of a raw deal, though Iím sure thatís not the primary concern of the Chinese authorities.
In the short-run this seems like a good deal for US consumers. But it does seem odd that the Chinese government would feel obligated to subsidize consumption by rich foreigners at the expense of their own people.
And then go read Strategy of Technology again.
Why Spam will prevail: see mail.
April 21, 2005
An urgent warning: DO NOT OPEN UNKNOWN EMAILS in HTML. There is a new attack going the rounds. I got one yesterday from systemadministrator@ jerrypournelle.com. Of course there is no such account. This told me to install some security updates that it thoughtfully attached. Another such message wanted to send me to a "secure web site" that would furnish my updates. Needless to say I did neither. Note that I don't "open" email, and my preview panel is set to show me email only in plaintext; if I want to see it in html I have to convert it, and I don't often do that, and never automatically. Thus I don't have links to follow including drive-by download links.
The new attack looks VERY authentic; if I didn't know I didn't have a systems administrator I might have believed the message I got. So BEWARE.
Though only to be fair, it must be admitted that most media/activist/elected Democrats are instead focusing their attention and energy on other extremely important matters, such as the burning issue of whether spousal benefits must necessarily be extended to Wiccans who marry oak trees.
Which got me to thinking.
The Republicans are the party of big business and big government in the service of big business. They are not interested in enforcing the immigration laws. Most of their policies make sense, so long as you understand that their purpose is to facilitate big business.
The Democrats are the party of big government in the service of big government and government service unions. They are not interested in enforcing the immigration laws. There is no party with actual political power that is interested in lower taxes, less government, and national defense without global expeditions. Most of their policies are reactive to the Republicans, and many of them make no sense under any set of assumptions.
Sigh. The Goldwater Republicans are gone. I recall the elation I felt when my wife and I, a pair of Goldwater Republicans, became County co-Chairs of the regular Republican Party; but that party seems long gone now.
People ask me if I am conservative or neo-conservative or arch conservative or religious right. None of those label entirely fits, although plain old "conservative" is probably closer than most. I believe in:
Leaving most matters to the states: these include education, abortion, whether to display a manger in the public square, and whether to ban display of pornographic materials offered for sale.
Self government: subsidiarity and fiscal responsibility. Make the decisions that affect live most directly (other than defense) at the local level, and make certain that the people who pay taxes can see where their money goes and have some means of influencing that allocation of resource. This mean I may well favor "socialist" schemes of one kind or another so long as the money is collected locally and spent locally and is under local control.
A foreign policy: We are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own.
I have no objection to vigorous support of the sciences through institutions such as the National Science Foundation which I consider one of the best investments the government makes for me. I have no objection to Federal institutions for finding information: I would take ordinary enforcement away from the FDA but keep the labs and testing facilities; and give the FDA full power to enforce truth in advertising. But if someone wants to sell a product that says "The FDA believes that this stuff will kill you and you are an idiot if you take it" then let them sell it. But any kind of ban would have to be a state matter.
And so forth. I am not at all sure what that makes me. I believe government ought to be strong; very strong; strong enough to enforce the laws; but limited in scope. What we have now is a government with wide scope, but no power to enforce the laws, of which there are so many that no one can get through a day without breaking one or more; and we have made Federal cases of matters that ought to be left to the county sheriff or the dog catcher.
And enough. I need to get to work.
April 22, 2005
Niven and I are at work on Purgatorio
April 23, 2005
Your tax dollars at work:
Subject: things are way out of hand --- now livestock are forced tro submit to metal dectectors at airports
Two Seaworld penguins flying out of San Diego airport were sent walking through the metal detector. I feel safer already
April 24, 2005
in Burbank Airport or Tmohile. Piggy outlook makes for problems.
The TSA has been No problem this time other than 21 people at This gate, most, with Nothing to do. There are Continuous messages over the Loud speakers but They are themselves interrupted by other announcements. this is in part an exercise in handwriting recognition. Three main problem is Capitalization but otherwise it is Very good.
Then we have:
This time they've gone too far.
As my daughter says, "He's the Cookie Monster, not the Vegetable Monster!"
The rumors, they are rampant. Taken together, in dark tones, and one could fear that the beloved boulevard is rapidly transforming into the Avenue of the Politically Correct Puppetariat.</snip>
Next, I supposed they'll abandon phonics for Whole Language.
Nathaniel Weyl R.I.P. He and Possony did The Geography of Intellect & Some papers. An influential intellectual. He had not written much in the past few years, but he will be remembered.
I received word that Nathaniel Weyl who wrote widely on Communism (as a former communist), race, ethnicity, and eugenics in the last century died April 13, 2005. He was born July 20 (my birthday as well), 1910 and was the author of many essays in Mankind Quarterly and many other publications. He wrote or co-authored over a dozen books including The Geography of the Intellect with Stefan Possony. He first wife, Sylvia (Jewish), died in the 1990s and he married a Jewish woman who silenced him on ethnicity matters. Weyl was 1/4 or 1/2 Jewish himself (through his father) and was quite interested in Jewish/gentile differences. He wrote in several places on the possible origins of the relatively high IQ of American Jews and a book on Jews and politics entitled _The Jew in American Politics_(1968).
Like many part Jews, he tended to self-identify as a Jew. Perhaps Surprising, Sylvia, the love of his life who was fully Jewish in known ancestry did not.
Weyl was at his prime in the 1960s and 1970s when I was in my teens and twenties and he had a strong impact on my intellectual development. His _The Negro in American Civilization_ (1960) was my introduction and I followed his writings until his last book in 1989, _The Geography of American Achievement_.
Louis Andrews Stalking the Wild Taboo http://lrainc.com/swtaboo/
In Seattle for WinHEC. We have connected to the hotel high-speed with a Dlink router. All seems to be working fine.
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, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
For the BYTE story, click here.
Search: type in string and press return.
The freefind search remains:
Entire Site Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.