THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 385 October 24 - 30, 2005
Highlights this week:
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October 24, 2005
I am driving home. See weekend particularly mail.
Home safe. Getting to the mail now.
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Today was devoured by locusts. There was a fair amount of mail posted yesterday and today I will try to catch up.
October 26, 2005
Subject: Damn cool optical illusion. Lots of limiting things about our senses, eh?
If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, you will only
see one color, pink.
It's amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot, and the
pink ones really don't disappear.
We are discussing Video from Chaos Manor. David Em, Alex, Dan, and I are thinking of possible formats. We have information that short segments get more viewers, but that format doesn't suit the kind of thing we do. One possibility is a show in two segments, something on trends in the industry, and a neat new gadget, computer, accessory, peripheral, whatever that we like a lot. Would that be of interest to the readership here?
It has been a long day, and it is not over yet. I seem to have more to do all the time. Yesterday was devoured by locusts. Today was a more important set of distractions, but they were still distractions. I am dancing as fast as I can...
I am often asked about a reading list for people who want an education. Macaulay is sometimes tough sledding, but recall that Churchill read Macaulay before writing and making his major speeches. Indeed he would not compose a speech until he had read a chapter or two of Macaulay's History of England. The prefaces to the Lays, and the Lays themselves are equally valuable.
October 27, 2005
Well the news is that Miers has withdrawn -- who can blame her? Now the egregious Frum will crow. Rush Limbaugh is trying to make the best of this, and doing fairly well; but the fact remains that the egregious Frum will lord it up, and a number of electoral shock troops who helped produce the Republican majority in 2004 will quietly go home and say to hell with it.
The choice of Miers was perhaps unfortunate and perhaps not, but she had this virtue: she was very unlikely to have wanted what the Left can give, dinner parties in Georgetown, commencement speeches at big universities, and accolade for "growing" in office. We can hope that the next candidate has that virtue. It may be unlikely.
I will continue to say it is no bad thing to have members of the US Supreme Court who did not rise through the judicial route. The American judiciary is a rarefied atmosphere and encourages the habits of power; a judge in his courtroom has very great powers, all of the low justice and much of the middle justice, and becomes used to having that power. Some enjoy it. Judges who came up through the political process have different views. Yes, Earl Warren, perhaps the most destructive Chief Justice this nation has ever had (Taney can vie for the appellation, but we need not debate that here) was without judicial experience; but so were John Marshal and Rehnquist.
We will see what happens next. The President may remember who his friends were. Perhaps.
Both the egregious Frum and the abominable Schumer are crowing. My favorite scenario is that the President appoints Bork. Alas, Bork is too old, so it won't happen. But my favorite scenario would be appointment of someone who will really horrify the Democrats, and then stand behind her. Unlikely, I know.
The Gang of Fourteen will have its influence.
I found this in my private correspondence from a month ago. It was in answer to a letter asking about neoconservatives and realism in foreign policy. The "realist" position was probably best exemplified by Hans Morganthau, and has a long history. Anyway, I answered:
Once the cold war was over, some of us wanted to revert to the notion of avoiding entangling alliances and not being involved in the territorial disputes in Europe. This was American realism in foreign policy.
The idiocy -- sheer stupid idiocy -- of our involvement in former Yugoslavia, a place where we had no conceivable national interest and where we were unlikely to do any good whatever, should have been the tip-off when it was supported by the neoconservatives. Then too there was the Israeli matter: never a criticism of Israel, always the notion that without the USSR in the pictures we had some great stake in settling the Israel/Palestine mess. Why?
The neo-cons ceased to be realists in foreign policy in the mid nineties. Moreover, they continued to agitate for continued US subsidies to keep Israel socialist. Leave out the notion that it is Israel: keeping them socialist through subsidies is an ideological matter. Israel would be a lot better off without all the socialism. Conservatives know that. Neocons do not seem to. From the collapse of the Soviet Union on the neocon strategy diverged from traditional conservatism.
Eventually the egregious Frum was permitted to read out of the Conservative movement all those who did not support the new neocon Imperialism. I gather National Review has begun to regret that, but not enough to apologize to Stephen Tonsor for allowing the egregious Frum to insult him in the pages of NR.
It was easy to see that the neocons were Jacobins after about 1995.
I have often advocated Grand Prizes for space development. A $10 billion Prize for the first US company to put 31 Americans on the Moon and keep them there, continuously, alive and well, for three years and a day would stimulate all the space development we would need, and build the technological base for solar power satellites. For that matter, a $5 billion prize for the first American company to beam a megawatt of power from space to the continental US for a year would be worth a very great deal, perhaps as much as our expensive involvement in the Middle East.
But in fact why should prizes be confined to space? If Grand Prizes and Grand Challenges are a good idea, why confine them to space?
One objection to prizes is that the US constitution isn't set up to allow them: money has to be authorized and appropriated, and how is that to be done for accomplishments that haven't happened and can't be scheduled?
When I discussed this with Congressman Rohrabacher he suggested a National Space Foundation to which the money could be appropriated and which would award the money when the conditions were fulfilled.
On reflection that is a great idea but it can be carried further than space. Imagine a National Technology Goals Foundation, with an annual $2.01 billion a year appropriation. The $.01 billion is the entire operating budget of the Foundation. The Foundation sets prizes and amounts. Once a Prize is announced, the money is set aside. Interest from the money (if any) reverts to the Treasury. Prize money not obligated can be added to the total so that prizes larger than $2 billion can be announced.
One suspects that for something like a Moon Colony, Congress could be persuaded to replenish the prize fund, but this is for another discussion, as would be a discussion of studying the economic impact of the Foundation to see if it's worth the money.
It looks like a good idea from here.
October 28, 2005
Having just listened to the press conference I find that the Libby case is not quite like Martha Stewart's case. Libby is said to have lied under oath to a grand jury. This is quite different from "making a false statement to an investigator." If Libby went into a grand jury room and flat out lied under oath, he's stuck on stupid. I don't have much use for investigations of non-crimes that result in criminal charges, but lying to a grand jury is indeed a serious matter. Libby ought either to have told the truth or refused to testify on grounds of possible self-incrimination. Of course that would have cost him his job.
This will distract everyone from Wilson's outrageous performance.
And it leaves some of us in the same dilemma we have been in since 911.
Most of my friends in Washington were fired the day Bush I took office. The last of them left when Speaker Gingrich resigned. It has never been easy to be enthusiastic for Bush II. Then came 911. And after that the Afghan War, which could have been a good idea, and the Iraqi War which didn't seem to be in the national interest. The President has been surrounded by a crowd that urged him into the Iraqi War on grounds I can't agree with. Shortly after that, the egregious Frum was given the National Review forum to excommunicate all those who weren't enthusiasts for the War.
For a while the war went well, and everyone cheered. Then, inevitably, it soured. Armies are good at breaking things and killing people. There have been a few armies in history that were good at constabulary duties and "nation building" but not many, and the number of successful nation building projects is well under half of those attempted. It is hard to find a single success in an Arab country, if we mean by "success" a nation we can enthusiastically support.
As the war became more difficult, many of those who pushed the President into it began to bug out, but prior to that they began this campaign for "big government conservatism", a contradiction in itself.
Despair is a sin. I have to keep telling myself that.
Looking at the Libby situation again:
Whatever her previous status, Valerie Plame was no longer a convert agent of the CIA. She had a desk job, and was raising twins. The "National Security" theme played by the prosecutor is exaggeration at best. I won't speculate on what it is at worst.
Therefore, nothing Libby could have said about the situation would have been useful in convicting him of a crime because there was no crime. The law makes that pretty clear: she would have to be a covert agent, Libby would have to know it, Libby would have to disclose that with deliberate intent to do so, and the intent would have to include intent to harm. None of that can be proved because disclosing that she worked as some kind of analyst at Langley isn't a crime. There may be some technical rule that non-overt employee identities are "classified" information, but it's not "classified" in any sense I know of. You don't have to sign out documents with warning that disclosure is ground for prosecution. The prosecutor kept talking about "classified" but never gave the classification.
The real question is whether Libby deliberately lied to the grand jury or not. But there wasn't a crime to be investigated, and it is a bit odd that the investigation continued once it was clear that Plame was no longer a covert agent of the CIA.
In fact that's the fundamental question: is it reasonable to set up "special prosecutors" to harass people until they contradict themselves when there was no crime as a matter of law in the first place?
Wilson is crowing now, but he is clearly guilty of "false and misleading statements." He will be lionized, wined and dined, treated as a hero.
For those who think graduate schools of education are a good idea,http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007469
may give you a different view. Thanks to Mike Flynn for pointing this one out.
October 29, 2005
We are off to Larry Niven's Halloween party shortly.
Over in mail we have an account from one of the MacMartin witnesses. He lied. He knew he was lying. He was suborned in this perjury by the police, his parents, and a number of "experts". None of those people will be prosecuted although the destroyed a good school and ruined lives. The experts will go on selling their expert opinions as if they knew what they were talking about. And yet it was obvious to anyone paying attention to the case that something terrible was wrong. When children solemnly testified that teachers at MacMartin took them to Forest Lawn and showed them open graves, and Forest Lawn officials said that did not happen and could not have happened -- and Forest Lawn is a good thirty miles from the school site, so the transport logistics problem might have raised some red flags -- instead of throwing the whole case out, the acts were just labeled "doubtful". After all, it might have been another cemetery. Of course no other cemetery noticed open graves, teachers with robes, pre-school children, and robed priests standing around their open graves in the bright sunshine of a Los Angeles afternoon. But that didn't matter. The children don't lie. Why would they lie?
Well, some of us at the time pointed out that if you take a small child and make it clear he will never get out of an uncomfortable situation until he tells you what he wants; if you refuse to believe him when he says nothing happened; if you keep this up day after day; you will eventually get the story you want to hear. In fact you must have got the story or you'd still be interrogating the child. If you then ignore the physical impossibility of much of what is alleged, and you admit that the witnesses have all been coached, you don't have much of a case. But it's enough. 'Tis enough, 'twill serve.
Of course it's only a small story, even if it did dominate Los Angeles headlines for weeks. Only a few lives were ruined.
The story is told in some detail at: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mcmartin/mcmartinaccount.html where they tell about "expert" Kee MacFarlane, a child psychology expert at the Children's International Institute.
"...The defense repeatedly tried to raise questions as to how abuse on such a massive scale could have gone undetected for years and suggested that much of the testimony of the prosecution's child witnesses was flatly unbelievable.There's more. Don't read it unless you have a strong stomach. Now, finally, one of the child witnesses tells the truth: he was lying. He knew he was lying. And he tells how they got him to lie.
Of course Kee MacFarlane remains a successful author, apparently licensed to "help" children who have been abused. After all, she meant well, as she bullied children into telling lies. I'm sure those children now feel better knowing they destroyed several people's lives. And Dr. Astrid Heger is doing very well. Her testimony was important in keeping the farce going. Fortunately the prosecutor and persecutors, all of whom meant well, are not suffering. We can't speak for the children who grew up knowing they destroyed lives through their lies. If they are suffering, then shouldn't MacFarlane be prosecuted for child abuse? So they must not be suffering. All is well, all is serene. (And see mail.)
For some new thoughts on Dark Matter, see mail. The universe is not only a queerer place than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine -- but perhaps not so in this case.
October 30, 2005
From ghosties and ghoulies, and things that
go bump in the night,
Well that's actually from the All Souls Day litany, but it's well to get it posted while I am thinking of it.
For the week, let me recommend to you Jay P. Greene
and Marcus A. Winters, Five Myths (on Modern Education).
This is an excellent article, and is one of several for the week of October 24, 2005 that make me glad I did not drop my National Review subscription in reaction to the odd episode in which they allowed the egregious Frum to excommunicate half the Conservatives in the US, and dump all over Stephen Tonsor, in some odd fit of Frumish pique.
Another article from the same issue is by Victor Davis Hanson writing about higher education, a field he has a great deal more experience with than with modern war and politics. http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson102505.html His observations are very much worth your time and consideration. (Note: I do not at all despise a classical education as a necessary introduction to understanding statecraft and the Western Way of War; I do think it is an incomplete study of the subject. Both war and social organization have changed a lot since Thucydides. We have been through the era of mass warfare and the levee en masse, and are moving back to the era of specialization and professionalism. But that is for another discussion. Whatever ones agreements and disagreements with Hanson on modern warfare, his observations are worth attention; but his expertise on education is direct and highly relevant, and I recommend his article.)
And, also in the same issue -- as I said, this issue alone makes me glad I did not drop my subscription in reaction to the egregious Frum -- there is a further story on what has happened to higher education in these United States, John Miller on Pariahs and Martyrs http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1604664,00.html
All told an excellent issue with some meat in it. Now if Frum would only apologize to Tonsor...
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