THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 383 October 10 - 16, 2005
Highlights this week:
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October 10, 2005
The column is filed. Chaos Manor is a wasteland.
Regarding Mier: the President trusts his own judgment more than he does that of his advisors. Given that they got us into Iraq this may be no bad thing. In any event we have had far less qualified judges on the Supreme Court, and this is one justice among nine. Bush, I suspect, is looking for a known quantity, someone who can be trusted not to "grow" once on the bench. The temptation to "grow in stature" (ie become a flaming liberal) is high: after all, an AJOTSC is at the top of the judicial tree; there's nowhere to go. And you can be made much of, or castigated, by the Washington Post. Every morning you can see something favorable about you, or every morning see yourself denounced as in idiot, static, unmoving, uncaring. All you have to do to get favorable mention every day in the paper that everyone you know reads is to grow...
The Constitution gives the President absolute discretion subject to confirmation by the Senate. Most presidents get their pick. Then there was the Bork case, in which the President didn't get his pick, and the Thomas case in which the nation went insane to the point of calling in people to testify about jokes about pubic hairs, as if the dignity of the office had not been irredeemably compromised by the Bork process and then the Thomas affair.
It is clear to Bush after Feinstein and the hapless toad that no qualifications whatever will prevent his nominees being savaged, so he has decided to choose someone he likes and trusts. Whether you trust his judgment or not -- but if not his, whose?
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Niven will be over at 1400 for a working hike.
You may find Mail interesting today; there's a letter about the costs of drugs, a rant by me, and a very interesting spam that may be relevant, all in a row.
Subject: Lost Opportunites
According to the Census Bureau, the median age of Americans is now 36.2 years (+/- 0.2 years).
36.2 years ago was July 1969. So the majority of Americans were born after Apollo 11 and cannot ever remember seeing a live transmission from the moon.
When I was writing the column I made the mistake of testing an audio system by playing MINUS TEN AND COUNTING. It's damned hard to type with tears streaming down your face.
On that score, my Intel D875XCV XP Professional system got an XP revision, restarted, and promptly forgot how to play sounds through USB headphones. I have got the latest sound drivers from Intel. There are fancy new ways to control speakers plugged into the sound system output jacks, but nothing I do or find will cause it to play through the USB headphones. Until this happened I could plug the USB headphones in, they would take over the sound, and I could play games that make lots of noise. Now I have to plug headphones into the regular sound output jack, and that's not very convenient. Besides, my Plantronic Internet Sounds Gamecom Pro headphones are more comfortable.
Does anyone know what I can do to get back where I was last week?
Over in mail (the earlier sequence has grown) I meant to use the word segue; that is, a transition (in journalism schools they teach how to 'tranisish' or at least I read articles on the subject in my early days as a writer; I never went to a J school so I don't know). When I typed segue though, my fingers put in segway, and of course the spell checker flagged it as not a word. Interesting how Dean Kamens and his Segway have changed the way we think about a word that came from music...
There is a letter about Luttwak's current article and how to get out of Iraq; it is referenced with my comments in mail.
October 12, 2005
Nothing new about it but the venue, but Murray's Commentary article is in today's Opinion Journal:http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007391
I am having dinner with Dr. Cochran tonight. It should be interesting.
We're cleaning up after the column, and part of the day was eaten convincing the CES Press Staff that I have been to previous CES events, and I am a legitimate member of the press. Some people seem to take a lot of convincing. Actually, it's that rules are set up to accomplish a particular purpose, but soon the rules become more important than the intent and even when the rules are clearly accomplishing a result you do not want accomplished, there is no way out of them. The Lords in BURNING CITY and BURNING TOWER had that problem but with them it was institutionalized. I fear that is how we are becoming, in both private and public organizations.
I know it is politically incorrect to point it out, but in the West particularly the noble savages were eating each other, and bitter wars between the Sioux and Aztecs were probably inevitable. The noblest tribe of the lot, the Cheyenne, were being progressively defeated. The Navajo were some of the toughest people alive and might have been the buffer to keep the Aztec empire from expansion; after all, the Anastazi had built a large and complex social structure (if we had found the Chaco ruins in Europe we would have called them palaces). But to lament the European discovery of the Americas and the introduction of Western Civilization seems an odd concession for the descendents of the Europeans to make to the descendents of the tribes. I am not sure why endless conquests mostly resulting in stasis, without the wheel, with waterworks done in the most primitive way, which would have been the result of the non-discovery of America, would be preferable to what we have now, even for the Native Americans. They held conquest to be a legitimate means of acquiring land. And so it was.
If you want to lament for anyone, make it the Navajo, who had the best part of the Southwest and had driven their enemies (such as the Apache) into land the Navajo didn't want; because they had the desirable river land, the full might of Western Civilization fell on them early, with horse artillery. And credit the Navajo being smart enough to know they were beaten. Some did rather well out of the surrender. Others did not fare so well.
Christopher Columbus, master adventurer, had the determination to first require that Isabella the Great give him his titles and his credits before he would set out; and the determination to keep sailing on when everyone else was certain they would never find land ahead.
Of course we learned this in 4th Grade: http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/11228/
And it is how some of us will always remember Columbus Day.
October 13, 2005
I have received a letter regarding, and quoting from, Murray's article (recently published in Commentary and now republished in Opinion Journal). That letter has caused me to write a reply on the subject. You can read it all in Mail.
I suspect it will generate considerable controversy.
At dinner last night, we were discussing a well known popular political philosopher. Steve Sailer said "If he hadn't spent so much time studying Hegel, he'd be a lot more sound."
To which Greg Cochran remarked, "That's true of everyone."
A very interesting evening. Cochran and his partner look to have genetic data that will go far toward explaining a number of cultural trends and the explosion of Western Civilization; their theory is falsifiable and so far fits the historical record quite well. Fascinating.
Continuing the discussion, Cochran said "If philosophers had developed anything useful, physicists would use it."
Which is of course true, and a capsule summary of the history of Western philosophy. Magic and Science were born twins. One of them worked. Philosophy, "natural philosophy," and science were at one time all one thing, as Neal Stephenson has so brilliantly shown in his huge three volume "Baroque Cycle" (the third volume is called The System of the World; the characters are Newton and Leibnitz). Science moved away from philosophy, and what is now called philosophy tends to be studies of all the theories of the world that didn't work very well. That's not universally true, but it's a first approximation.
And let me recommend:
Subject: The Second Amendment in Action
My Dear Dr Pournelle,
May I call to your kind attention the following. I think you will find it amusing as well as a proper use of weapons in self defense.
Warning! Do not listen to this while drinking coffee!!
A number of you suggested that I look into Netmeeting, which is built into Windows software. I find that it certainly was built into Windows 2000, but I have been unable to get a clue as to how to make it work in Windows XP Professional. Anyone know more about this? It might be handy indeed.
[THANKS FOR ALL THE ANSWERS. I'll have a definitive answer on this posted shortly.]
Subject: Schopenhauer on Hegel
Sailer's and Cochran's remarks on Hegel bring to mind Schopenhauer's timeless remark on Dr. Dialectic as quoted in Vol. 2 of Popper's "The Open Society and Its Enemies":
Should you ever intend to dull the wits of a
young man and
Thus any ability to think is so thoroughly
destroyed that the
October 14, 2005
Jim Campbell, Editor-In-Chief
Rocket Racing Team X-Racer Mk 1 Rocket Pilot
Notice: the SECURITY UPDATES and discussion page has been moved to Special Reports. This is purely administrative. I haven't been updating that page as often as I should. There's only one of me...
It began here
and continues here, and the topic is important. Think of what I have put there as my mini-essay for the week.
Signs of the Times
Like other single women who have found themselves sifting through online profiles of anonymous sperm donors recently, Ms. Carr, a real estate broker in Atlanta, was quickly convinced that buying sperm was the easiest way to have a baby without a partner. She also concluded that it has quietly become a socially acceptable choice, if only because so many are making it. <snip>
And here is a novel suggestion:
How governments could beat the people-smugglers at their own game
IN AMERICA, they are called "coyotes"; in China, "snakeheads". Whether they be wild dogs or serpents, people-smugglers are a thriving species with no shortage of prey. They herd Mexican hopefuls over the parched expanses of the Arizona desert; they pack Chinese immigrants into airless crates on transpacific container ships; and they ferry Africans across the Mediterranean, evading Italian coastal patrols. Thanks in part to their efforts, up to 350,000 illegal immigrants steal across America's border from Mexico each year, and as many as 800,000 enter the European Union.<snip> =====
If you lie flattened on Pakistan's plains
And a P-wave comes by, to mix gravel and brains
Just scroll to Dow's website, for there Seitz explains
Why the Hindu Kush is raining boulders :http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007392
For those curious about Mr. Seitz, there is a story hinting at one of our joint adventures over in mail.
Pictures and a short report from at sea.
October 15, 2005
It's Open Mail Saturday over in mail: every variety of topic discussed.
Subject: Schneier on the Spyware Embedded in World of Warcraft
He's not too pleased.
I can think of a number of ways this could be exploited by a hacker.
-- Harry Erwin
Check out "Big Box Mart"-it could have been written by you...
Cheers, Rod Schaffter
-- "I find, for some odd psychological reason, that I can deal better with a man's exercise of free will if I believe that he has got it." --G.K. Chesterton
I know the arguments for free trade. My view is that a 15% across the board tariff would be a good compromise between cheaper prices for stuff and at the same time allow us to retain some beneficial regulations and pay somewhat higher wages than our offshore competition.
October 16, 2005
Nominations for the Chaos Manor annual Orchids and Onions Parade are now open. Please send your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "Orchid" or the word "Onion" as the subject. If possible, please use a separate message for each recommendation, and in particular please don't combine orchids and onions in the same message. If you wish your recommendation to be anonymous please say so. Messages become the property of J. E. Pournelle and Associates and may be published with or without attribution. Requests for anonymity will be honored. Give the name of the product, company, or individual, and if possible a link to where more information can be found, and state at reasonable length your reasons for wishing orchids or onions to the nominee.
I promise to read all the recommendations. In general I will not be able to make an individual response.
The annual Chaos Manor Orchids and Onions Parade has been a regular feature of the Chaos Manor column, and has appeared with the User's Choice Awards in BYTE since 1981. The 2005 results will be in the January, 2006 column.
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