THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 606 January 18 - 24, 2010
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January 18, 2010
I am sometimes appalled at Rush Limbaugh, but not this time: he's absolutely correct, if you want to donate money to the Haiti Relief Effort -- and you should -- do not, as Obama suggests, go to Whitehouse.gov. I presume that if you send the money through the government you will get the usual government efficiency, which is to say FEMA. I doubt the Legions will get any of the money sent through that email address, but I am certain your name will go into a database.
As an aside, I am astonished that Limbaugh can keep it up, day after day, essentially live, continuing to entertain, generally being on the right track, and with so few appalling moments.
The furor over the Haiti relief efforts continues. Some of it is simple. Then there is:
An overseas subscriber says:
Then I have from an American subscriber:
There do seem to be some misunderstandings here. The first is that the US Military does not exist in order to respond to disasters. The primary purpose of a military organization is to kill people and break things. Our Legions often find themselves called upon to do other things, but they seldom are given any appropriations for organizing for those purposes. They have to make do with what they have on hand when the disaster happens -- and they cannot abandon their primary purpose when they do it. Many of our troops being sent into Haiti have already been deployed to the Middle East, some several times. These Armed Clowns are now called on to leave their homes and go into Hell. Do we now send them without preparation?
Other countries may have different missions and purposes for their armed forces, but ours are intended for the national defense of the United States, and, unfortunately in my judgment, functioning as the effective military power of a number of entangling alliances that increase US obligations without adding to US security.
I do note that there was a UN contingent in Haiti. It did not have any US forces in it. The one thing I am certain it did was to evacuate the Belgian physicians and nurses from one of the larger hospitals. It does not seem to have set up any air traffic control system. This may well be because all their officers were killed in the earthquake itself. Local unit commanders had to make decisions without information, while trying to take care of their own. I do not envy them that task.
Individuals can be heroic, and rescue workers have saved hundreds from the rubble. Getting food and water to tens of thousands in a land without water and power is a bit more difficult than just filling the back of the pickup with canned goods and driving out into the countryside. As to whose airplane gets to land, I presume my correspondent has more experience at air traffic control on a single runway airport than I do. I don't want the job.
Apologies: I don't seem to be entirely coherent on this. Francis Hamit has some comments in mail.
It seems to be lost in the furor of armchair commander comments on the work of the US Red Cross and Salvation Army in Haiti, but something remarkable happened over the weekend: The President felt compelled to travel to Massachusetts in mid winter to hold a rally for a Democratic candidate for the US Senate. This is John F. Kennedy's old seat. Now it is unlikely that the Democrats will lose their hereditary seat, but the very fact that there's any doubt about it is remarkable. It is the best news I have heard for quite a long time.
Will the Republicans learn anything from this? They deserved to lose the last election; but did the Republic deserve the result? And will they learn?
The President chose to make fun of the fact that the Republican candidate drives a truck. This probably says all that needs to be said about the Democrat attitude toward people who drive trucks rather than something more fashionable among intellectuals. And see mail.
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|This week:||Tuesday, January
The Massachusetts election will be crucial. It will be interesting to see what happens -- and if it is at all close, where the extra boxes of undiscovered ballots will come from this time as we have recount after recount until Coakley wins. If that seems unduly cynical, I apologize, and I sure hope I am wrong.
I have a lot of notes for today.
Begin with the long term prospects for Haiti. Today's Wall Street Journal has an important article by Bret Stephens: "To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid." This proposal is in stark contrast to a number of my technocratic friends including fellow science fiction writers who see the Haiti disaster as a splendid opportunity for the US to "do things right" and rebuild Haiti along sound scientific and engineering principles.
Of course the "do it right with sound principles" plan has another name: Colonialism. Not the older kind of Colonialism in which Europeans settled in foreign lands as a governing aristocracy as they did in Rhodesia and other African areas (I deliberately do not say "nations"), but more like Singapore or Hong Kong which were Crown Colonies but were never intended to be places of residence for European families. The historical records for former colonies are mixed. Singapore and Hong Kong are doing very well, although the future of Hong Kong is murky and absolutely dependent on events on the Chinese mainland. China remains an Empire although there is no emperor; think of it as "The Lords Commissioners for Executing the Office of Emperor" and you'll be close enough, and the decisions of that committee are more important to Hong Kong's future than any majority of the people of Hong Kong.
Other former colonies are doing horribly, and it is fairly easy to argue that many of the former colonies -- including some that were unabashedly colonial with permanent settlers taking over much of the best land -- were better off under the colonial government than they are now, and far better off than they are likely to be in future. The prospects for Rhodesia's return to being the breadbasket of Africa are very low; the probability that it will go from today's food-importing impoverished thugocracy into something worse is much higher. I could cite other examples, but surely the point it clear. Perhaps the former colonial governments didn't "do it right" and apply the proper engineering and scientific principles, but they did give pretty good government.
That didn't matter. When I was in college my political views were somewhat different from those I now hold. I was far more certain in those times that government was a science, and economics was a science, and central planning was the proper remedy for the waste of capitalism and its "creative destruction". Even so, I was as enthusiastic as my colleagues in unrelenting opposition to colonialism, and in shouting slogans like "Good Government is no substitute for Self Government!"
I make no doubt that if the US attempts to "do it right" in Haiti, there will be many Americans to take up that cry again. Good government is no substitute for self-government. The question is whether that's true. Rhodesia, for a time after the end of white supremacy, continued to have something like good government. When Niven and I finished Oath of Fealty I still had hopes that Zimbabwe would come through its birth pains and mature into a genuine multi-racial society, and that's reflected in the end of the novel. Were we writing it now, I would have to change the ending. I am not sure what I'd substitute.
In any event, if the US military is told to impose rule on Haiti so that American social engineers can "do it right" and rebuild the nation "properly", I make no doubt that the Legions will try. Semper Fi! How well they will succeed is another story. Fortunately, it is unlikely that they will be given this Sisyphean task; if we are to try to "do it right" in Haiti, we are more likely to turn to the UN, which will guarantee failure as the Iron Law takes hold.
We will, however, very likely succumb to the temptation to send whatever becomes the "government" in Haiti some very generous amounts of Foreign Aid extracted at the point of a gun from US taxpayers. The result will be as usual: the foreign aid funds will go to various US contractors selected by the earmark process; to the extent that money will be given to the Haitian "government" it will add to the capital assets deposited in Swiss and Cayman Islands banks; and there will, as there were many year ago, many projects, almost all built by US corporations with effective lobbyists (Brown and Root in the Johnson-Nixon-Carter days), and generally chosen by the corporations that will build them.
Stephens' point is that Foreign Aid seldom accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish, and often comes in with regulations that seem like a great idea in Turtle Bay; and it often ends up ruining domestic industries. If the UN is giving away free bags of wheat, farmers pretty well have to plant something else -- or stop farming altogether. And so it goes.
I am very glad that I have not been appointed Czar of Haiti. I suspect that someone, whether from Washington or Brussels or out of Turtle Bay will be. God help that person.
The Boston Globe has called the election for Coakley, 50 to 49. If it's that close then it almost certainly will be to Coakley, on one or another recount. It may take until next Flag Day, of course.
Cruise ships continue to stop in Northern Haiti (60 miles from the
earthquake damage zone), and passengers drink rum and enjoy the beaches and
luxury suites while bodies are stacked in Port a Prince, where people are
Clearly the best thing to do for Haiti is to shut down the only part of the economy that still works. Boycott Haiti. (Oh, but continue to send money.)
When I took ecology at the University of Iowa from Rufus King, in his first lecture he said "You cannot solve famines by feeding people." The rest of the lecture and some of the course was devoted to showing why this is true. You need systematic solutions to systemic problems. Many of them are not obvious. One thing is obvious: you need a source of income. Haiti has tourist resources. Cruise ships bring in tourists who spend money. Making people feel guilty is probably not the best way to induce them to go spend money in Haiti.
John Bogle "Restoring
Faith in Financial Markets" is ironically in the same issue of the Wall
Street Journal as an op ed by Deven Sharma, CEO of Standard and Poor, on
"Why Rating Requirements Don't Make Sense.
Of course the ratings agencies, which gave the Credit Default Swap financial "products" AAA ratings, right up there with Treasury Bonds, were instrumental in creating the mess we are in, and pretty well responsible for the understandable loss of faith in financial markets.
Bogle speaks of innovation in financial "products" like
Credit Default Swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. Calling those
innovative schemes "products" makes it sound as if they are useful, like
toasters or cars or cell phones, but in fact they are schemes, not products.
They allowed the injection of a great deal of money into the real estate
market. Whenever more money chases the same goods, the prices rise. When
that happens rapidly it is called a bubble, and when bubbles collapse,
economies often follow. These innovative financial products pretty well
guaranteed that a Black Swan would appear. Of course I told you about that
long ago (See Chaos Manor Reviews
Bogle writes about financial engineering and financial products. Some of those are "products" in the same way that kiting checks was an innovative financial product. The current "remedy" for all this is regulation. Think what good regulation did. As for example, the regulators went after Bill Gates, who had until then ignored Washington and politics. He learned that just because you don't take an interest in politics but instead concentrate on actual products that are actually sold and exported, it doesn't mean that politics doesn't take an interest in you. The upshot of all that was that Microsoft, which had no presence in Washington other than a sales office, now has one of the largest lobbyist efforts in DC. Clearly the plan worked: the regulators get the benefit as do the Congressional staffs who enjoy the informational event (sometimes indistinguishable from Washington parties with free food and drink) and other lobby events. Microsoft then adds these costs to overhead when it contemplates prices for its actual products.
Lobbyist activities are now part of financial engineering.
Be of great cheer. Regulators will take care of you. Of course they were supposed to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but Barney Frank and Chris Dodd sort of exempted them from commonsense regulation, and indeed mandated that they collateralize debt into capital assets, and make loans to marginal applicants in order to increase home ownership. Alas, the collapse of the bubble seems to be diminishing the numbers of home owners, but their hearts were in the right place. What counts is good intentions, not results. When I was a lad, prudence was considered a primary virtue, but now I find more and more people are unaware of what prudence is. Alas.
I suspect I have done more than enough to cheer you up.
With luck we will have good news from Massachusetts tonight. Indeed. we already have good news in that there's even a question about who will win Ted Kennedy's old seat. Perhaps, perhaps, it's not the Kennedy seat at all. Perhaps it actually belongs to the voters.
The Republicans did not deserve to be elected, so the people threw the rascals out. In came the Democrats -- and their leadership. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid interpreted the 2008 election as a Democratic win. It wasn't. It was a Republican loss.
The Democrats decided they had a mandate to ram through their Socialist program. "Guess what, we won." No, Mr. Obama, you didn't win. The Republicans deserved to lose and they did. You were the beneficiary of that. The voters turned the rascals out and you were in line to come in. But in interpreting that as a Socialist mandate you rammed through a program that the American people didn't and don't want.
And, I make no doubt, you are not likely to have learned much from the loss of the Ted Kennedy seat. Now, I gather, you're going to continue with your program.
The next few months will be interesting. Clearly the Democrats learned nothing; the question is, did the Republicans learn anything?
January 20, 2010
.Hurrah. Now the real work begins. I have medical appointments all morning, back after noon. Hurrah again. The work of restoring the Republic can begin. Whether or not it will I do not know. But to Obama the message is clear: "Guess what. You lost."
Governing from the left doesn't work, even to retain the hereditary Kennedy seat.
I heard someone say "A pickup truck has beaten Air Force One." Amusing. Obama bet his all on this race.
1300: Back from medical appointments. All is well. I seem to be in pretty good shape. I need to write that down, because I still have the problem that my short term memory is basically my log book, but I'm no worse off than some of my absent minded professors were, and Niven has been this way all his life. Incidentally, if you didn't see yesterday's musings, some of which was posted rather late in the day, have a look.
If anyone contemplates ordering a system from Lenovo: my t42p was wearing out, and I ordered a replacement on December 26. They told me it would ship immediately, then the ship date was January 19. Today when I look at the order I find that the ship date is February 20. If you need a machine, it is probably not best to order from Lenovo. I see absolutely no information on how to inquire about this, or discuss canceling the order in favor of ordering something I may actually be able to get and use, or do anything but sit here and wait.
I cannot recommend dealing with Lenovo. Telephone calls end up in Bombay with someone named Bill who speaks heavily accented English and has no actual information. I suppose it serves me right: I ought to have installed Windows 7 on the Mac Book Pro. I ordered the Lenovo because the t42p worked fine and I thought this would be quick and easy and simple and I wouldn't have to worry about getting Office 2007 running on the Mac Book Pro.
There is a lot more to this story. See below.
January 21, 2010
NO NEW TAXES.
The Democrats are now talking about "reaching across the aisle" and "cooperation"; and I presume there will be some Republicans silly enough to welcome this. The problem is that there are two kinds of "cooperation". One is genuine compromise, politics as the art of the possible, with the national interest put ahead of any partisan politics. That wasn't as common as would have been best for the country, but it did happen sometimes. Alas, things changed after World War II.
During the Cold War the United States was faced with an existential threat. There were 26,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the US, and the Red Army poised on the other side of the Fulda Gap ready to be on the Rhine in days. This no idle threat, although historians today tell us that it wasn't real. It certainly seemed real to those of us involved at the time. The missiles were real. The tanks were real. The Hungarians in 1956 understood that the Red Army was real. The Czechs understood that it was real. The East Germans had no doubt of it. In Asia the South Koreans understood that the threat of a Russian supplied North Korean Inmun Gun was real. So did the Legions dispatched to Korea.
The strategy of containment required that Communism be contained, required to stew in its own juices, so that it had to subsist off economies it had wrecked. (Bombed out and looted East Germany was still more productive than the mother of the working class USSR.) But containment required resources. It gave most of the initiative to the other side which could probe where we were weak and allocate resources to places it thought we were vulnerable. Over time containment worked, and eventually although Communism was still the official established church of the Soviet theocracy, there were only a handful of Communists in Russia. Most had long ago lost their enthusiasm for the ideological conquest of the world, and what remained was old fashioned imperialism -- still, that too had to be resisted. The essence of containment was that Russia could not be allowed successful conquest; they could not be allowed to let war feed war in the classic pattern.
This was pretty well understood by all those who seriously looked at the problem: but American Liberals went further. Since the threat was, in their judgment, minimal, the costs of the Cold War must not be allowed to halt the Progress of Liberalism which would lead to the end of history. Therefore, any resources allocated to the Cold War had to be at least matched by resources dedicated to Progress. One result was The Great Society. This horse trading continued all through the Cold War until its end, after which the neo-conservatives continued with No Child Left Behind, Americans With Disabilities Act, and other progressive measures.
In essence the Republicans became the tax collectors for the Progressives, and most "reaching across the aisle" consisted of Progressives in both parties reaching across to take money raised by fiscal conservatives horrified at the deficits run up by the Great Society and other Progressive measures.
Be assured: that's what Pelosi and Reid mean by "compromise". It means raising taxes.
And that is what those concerned about the future of the Republic must understand. Brown's victory has caused the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to reassess; and looking back they are now fond of the era of good feelings when Republicans were the tax collectors for Democratic/Progressive spending projects. And when the Republicans got in the Country Club and Progressive wing of the Republican Party became the spenders. The nation turned those rascals out.
No new taxes. Cut spending. Balance the budget by shrinking government. And while we are at it, try to get something for our money. Government is enormous, government service is minimal, our roads are disintegrating, travel service is horrible, unemployment is over 10%, and the public is enraged. For something more see Daniel Henninger "The Fall of the House of Kennedy" .
The American people do not want more government and higher taxes. Alas, there are plenty of country club Republicans who are willing to reach across the aisle to make that happen. This is a critical year: this is the year to return to the simple principle that government is not the solution, government is the problem. With luck the New York congressional election that returned a Democrat rather than a big government Republican will have sent a salutary lesson.
Amazon is offering a 70% royalty for e-books published through Amazon. This terrifies book publishers. The entire future of the publishing business is in chaos. Publishers are terrified over the future of printed books. Working authors (other than big best sellers) have made most of their money from paperback books, and the paperback industry is in collapse as the distribution network devoured itself like the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat. Trade books (hardbound and "trade paper") continue to be profitable but profit in the publishing industry almost never exceeds 5% return on investment. The traditional royalty structure was supposed to give equal "profit" to authors and publishers -- that is, the publishers took on the expenses of editing, publicity, printing, distribution, more publicity, inventor maintenance, and such like; authors paid for their own expenses from "profits" but that was ameliorated by the advance system in which publishers paid non-returnable advances against the royalties that the books would earn. Some books "earned out" which is to say the authors earned royalties greater than the advance. Most mid-list books did not. The mid-list books kept authors going, but to actually make a living they had to write books that, if not best-sellers, came close.
That system is in chaos now because very few mid-list books ever came close to earning out in hardbound. The paperback industry, which isn't particularly profitable for publishers (authors often get more "profit" out of paperbacks than publishers now) is in ruins. Everyone is hoping that e-books will change this. There is also the "enhanced" book phenomenon: an e-book that contains other stuff like cut scenes, notes from authors, pictures, maps, illustrations well beyond traditional, music -- the possibilities are great. Long time readers may remember I wrote about such things thirty years ago. That too looms large.
More another time, but the publishing business is changing rapidly. Regarding the Amazon royalty offer and e-book publishing, there is considerably more on the second page of the Business Section of today's Wall Street Journal. Note that the article says 4% of US publishing revenue came from ebooks in 2009. And see below.
Not unconnected with the rise of e-books and the collapse of paperbacks: Hulu may start charging subscription fees, and most on-line services are trying to see how to get revenue from subscribers.
This place remains a "public radio" site: it's free, but it can continue only if a reasonable percentage of you subscribe. So far that has happened, and my great thanks to all the regular, patron, and platinum subscriber who have recently renewed your subscriptions. We have an enviable renewal rate here, so we must be doing something right. My thanks to the new subscribers as well. I know the economy is a wreck and the Christmas credit card bills are flowing in: thanks for including me in your budget. And that's enough until KUSC has its next pledge drive, at which point I will be back to nag those who haven't subscribed...
ThinkPad Update (Continued from above)
I have a no-reply message from Lenovo which leads to a link that informs me that my new laptop shipped this morning. It says there will be a shipping tracking button on that page tomorrow. Presumably it will arrive Saturday or Monday. With any luck I can set it up quickly and without having to think about it. I use a laptop as the principal fiction machine by carrying it up to what I call the Monk's Cell, which is the upstairs bedroom used by the oldest boy left in the house, but which mostly contains stuff Alex left behind. It has a wireless but not Ethernet connection so I can do research but not games, no telephone, and no books unconnected with the current fiction project other than old high school textbooks. I have finished five novels up there: I carry up the laptop, connect it to a ViewSonic 20" square screen and a Microsoft Comfort Curve wireless keyboard and mouse, and I write. My current IBM (pre-Lenovo) t42p ThinkPad has served that purpose for many years; alas it no longer has a screen display. The external works fine, but I don't dare continue that situation for long. And all this is column material so for the rest of the story see the next column. Anyway, apparently Lenovo has shipped the replacement system, and with any luck I'll be able to install Office 2007 and transfer the fiction files, and transfer all the FireFox connections to Renaissance history sites (I need to figure that one out but it ought to be easy enough) and forget thinking about computers until I finish this darned novel. After that I intend to set the MacBook Pro up with both Boot Camp and either VMware or Parallels to Windows 7, and I will then have two working laptops, one of which (the MacBook Pro) ought to connect really easily to the Apple Tablet when that comes out, and this paragraph has run quite far enough.
I want to thank all those who have recently subscribed, renewed, or upgraded their levels of subscription. Thanks!
Regarding the Amazon royalty offer and e-book publishing, there is considerably more on the second page of the Business Section of today's Wall Street Journal. (I have copied this note up to the earlier section if you wonder why you are seeing it twice.) I recommend the article. Among other things it says that it is now estimated that 4% of the publishing industry revenue came from ebooks in 2009. That's a low percentage but higher than the zero of a couple of years ago. Apparently Microsoft and Apple are working together to come up with a way to compete against Amazon's wireless delivery system. Other publishers find themselves being romanced by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft... This could all be good news for content providers -- mostly writers -- who can tell stories.
Being prolific is important in this game. Those who have a lot of works to point to generally do better than those who have just one or two works out in the cloud. This story isn't going away, but I have to get to work.
Update to Lenovo story: a Lenovo official, informed of my plight, has called. The unit is shipping from China, which means it will probably arrive next week. With luck this all had a happy ending. As to the February 20 shipping date, apparently someone changed it from 1/19 to 1/20, only they managed to put in 2/20, and Billy in Mumbai wasn't able to discern this from his screens. I'll have more on this in the column, since there are lessons in the story -- assuming it has a happy ending. Meanwhile my goal now is to install a new Solid State Disk drive in the MacBook Pro and get Windows 7 running on that; then I'll put the old on back in, set it up for VMware or Parallels, and get Snow Leopard running with Windows 7 as an "application." Should make for a good story, and it will be interesting to compare ThinkPad and MacBook Pro as Windows 7 systems.
January 22, 2010
Microsoft updated all the Windows 7 systems last night, and as usual, HP Home Server began to natter at me about how my network was in danger when I restarted Emily, the Intel Extreme system. HP then delivered me into the hands of the Tzolkin company which wants ten dollars to stop nattering at me. Full story in the February column.
Meanwhile, we don't have the full story of the Chinese government war on American business. Google was attacked -- how successfully we don't know, but apparently some individual email accounts were penetrated, which means that if you have a Google email account you have no idea of what Peking knows about you now. Northrup Grumman was hacked. I would be astonished if there were not many other targets, possibly including US government data bases. The Chinese attacks were sophisticated enough that apparently we don't know the full extent of what they were after -- or what they got.
If you keep your data in the cloud, all your data are belong to us. Or maybe not. How can you tell? Put your proprietary data in the cloud. There's an interesting WSJ piece on this today, "China, Google, and the Cloud Wars" which is worth your attention. I had it in my notes after breakfast and came upstairs to find that I have my own story.
Does the Tzolkin Company have access to my private home server? They sure asked for a lot of information. When I restarted Emily, the Intel Extreme system that serves as the home console for my HP Home Server, I got a warning that my home server was at risk. I opened that and HP told me my Home Serve Address was going to expire, and I should use the Home Server Console to go out and buy (renew) "Dynamic DNS Service"; I rather stupidly did that. I sort of wish I hadn't, because I don't know what "Dynamic DNS Service" is, but I sure had to give Tzolkin a lot of information about me. I thought the Home Server was an HP operation, and I am not sure why I am now entrusting The Tzolkin Company. I don't really have much on my Home Server that is truly private -- or didn't. Can the Tzolkin Company now get access to my HP Home Server? Probably not, but again, how can you know? Just what is this "Dynamic DNS Service" that HP told me I had to have or my home network would be at risk?
If I were truly paranoid I can think of another scenario: someone creates a "cloud" account for me, then uploads a bunch of kiddie porn into it, then tips off the authorities. Or even hacks into my home server and puts the stuff there, then gets a search warrant. How would I know? When HP exposes me to the Tzolkin Company and tells me to send them ten bucks to stop them from nattering at me about my home network being in danger, I worry. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I do, and I rather regret giving them any information. Not to mention the ten bucks. Perhaps a reader knows more about this than I do.
The morning compulsory restart also restarted Firefox. I had in Firefox an open YouTube window. That meant that the YouTube video began to play, but of course that wasn't the tab that Firefox was aimed at. I have about 50 tabs open -- I use them as a kind of memo pad -- so it took a while to find which window was open. It happened to be me on the Tom Snyder Tomorrow Show some years ago. I've pointed to it here before, but it's still amusing. I got some of it right, anyway. If you haven't seen it, go have a look.
They're getting the port open in Haiti, but it's taking time. Meanwhile, there's a limit to the number of airplanes the single runway can handle, and despite efforts to expand air travel that's going to be true for a while -- and of course anyone turned away will say that the US is occupying Haiti and putting the US military first. Any stick will do to beat our troops with.
I note that most of the whining doesn't come from Haitians, who are trying to cope. Most of it comes from press people who whine for them. I can understand their motives. They can't do anything much either -- when faced with 100 people trapped in the rubble there's something to face, but 100,000 people without water is a far more daunting challenge.
God bless the Legions.
It's raining off and on in Los Angeles. The big storms are supposedly over, but it's still a rainy season until next Thursday. Maybe. We had a short walk this morning. Sable gets awful cabin fever and she was happy to get outside, but we only got a few blocks before the rain started again, and it's raining now. The humming bird feeder outside is pale in color: that is, apparently the rain was so hard that it diluted the humming bird food. I am wondering if I need to dump what's in it and refill with fresh sugar and coloring. It doesn't seem to me that it diluted it that much, but I don't see many humming birds. The blue jays, sparrows, finches, and doves are out looking for anything I might put out for them such as old popcorn and bird seeds. I get various kinds of birdseed at Ralph's and Petco, and add a few raisins. Lately no one is eating the raisins. Sometimes someone does, I suspect mocking birds. I have a family of blue jays who essentially have taken over as masters of the bird feeding operations here. They have been here for fifty years -- literally, same family, continuously -- and would be tame if I didn't deliberately scare them once in a while just so they don't get that trusting. They watch the place and while they tolerate finches and doves, they try to drive off mocking birds. They don't eat raisins, and I am not sure who does. Anyway the largest jay is out there picking through whatever the others have left. And the sun is out for a few moments.
Speculation continues on the "true meaning" of the Massachusetts upset. I would have thought it pretty clear. People who voted to turn the rascals out in November 2008 continue to vote to turn the rascals out. There weren't any other choices. Brown now has to earn their trust; the Massachusetts voters didn't vote for Brown, or even against Coakely; they voted against Barney Frank and Harry Reid and Chris Dodd, and some of them voted against Obama.
This is not a turn to Republicanism in Massachusetts, and the Republicans had better not think it was. This was a big tea party. Or so it seems to me.
Apparently the point of the HP Dynamic DNS Service which they have shopped off to the Tzolkin Company is to allow me to access my home server from outside the house out on the web. That does not turn out to be anything I want to do, so I have that capability turned off. Why HP nags me unless I pay ten bucks to Tzolkin isn't entirely clear. But if you want outside access to your HP Home Server you'll need a way to keep track of your IP Address since most of us do not have permanent ISP address numbers. I need to think about the security implications of all this, but it's not an immediate problem.
January 23, 2010
She takes longer to say it than I would, but Peggy Noonan in today's WSJ has a very good analysis of the Bay State Election. I particularly like her characterization of the political parties as the Nuts (Democrats after Clinton) vs. the Creeps (Republicans in the post Gingrich era).
I had started today's View in notes at my breakfast table, and came upstairs after my walk to find this from long time friend Robert Bruce Thompson, a hard core libertarian. He begins by quoting me in View:
I replied, then expanded that into today's View:
Fund raising and getting out the vote is the sinew of politics. GooGoo movements -- Good Government, non-partisan -- emerges often enough and sometimes sweeps in, but flashes past. The parties remain. Now much of that political history is from the days when the important politics was local, city machines and such like, and increasingly all the importance is being turned to national; but the history is applicable all the same. GooGoos don't last and party bosses know this. Getting the vote out and raising money wins elections.
The big problem is described by Peggy Noonan in today's WSJ : people see the parties now as the Nuts -- Democrats -- vs. the Creeps -- Republicans. Both parties have been captured, the Creeps by the Country Club crowd who think they have an hereditary right to rule and to the spoils of election, and the Nuts by a bunch of political theorists who dig Marx or his intellectual descendents allied with the union leaders who just want more and provide much of the ground game power.
Who can blame the union leaders? If the government is going to tax and spend, the logical position is "Don't tax me, spend on me, and I'll vote for you." The problem is that what the nation needs is people who do NOT directly benefit from government, and don't vote for a party for what they can get out of it, but for what it will do for the country. That's a hard position to take if you're unemployed and your health care runs out and you can't afford COBRA and your kids are sick. Even if you know better, even if you know that in the long run we can't exist by having government workers be the only people with secure employment and a real income, the temptation to take something from the government -- hell I paid taxes for all those years -- and vote to continue, or simply to get into the secure employment sector, is enormous.
What is needed is a restructure, taking the power to Do Good as well as to Tax and Spend out of Washington and handing it back to the States, where the inevitable result of tax and spend is bankruptcy. We can afford to have California and Michigan go bankrupt. We cannot afford to have the Federal Government collapse in an big Atlas Shrugged spasm. Ayn Rand didn't tell us what happens after you trace the sign of the dollar in the air; but it wasn't likely to be pretty. Think of Detroit writ large, only the regulators continue to be on the payroll and are now desperate to raise their department budget through fines and closer enforcement. Anarchy ain't pretty; degenerate democracy is even less so.
In other words, what is needed is that the Democrats stop being run by the Nuts, and the Republicans understand that the purpose of government isn't to let the Creeps run riot, and the only way to do that will be to really believe in transparency and subsidiarity and to understand that each man really is the best judge of his own interest; to return to a point when each election isn't so vital, you can afford to lose one, and the professional politicians are tamed down to where they used to be. That won't be easy. The natural course for a professional politician is to become a rapacious wolf and offer the voters more than his opponent can offer: in other words to promise largesse from the public treasury, and I don't give a damn about Snopes debunking that phrase: democracies really can't survive if the elections turn out to be contests for largesse from the public treasury, and that has been known since Aristotle and Cicero.
Without a party organization the tea party movement will go to hell. It's going to have to build a party structure because we aren't going to stand down from the mad era of Americans with Disabilities Act and No Child Left Behind: and it's going to take more than just deregulation. Some things have to be regulated. Anti-trust is important. Things too big to fail ought not exist, and that has to be fixed. It won't be easy. The Nuts and the Creeps will make common cause to stop any such movement.
The tea parties need a real Party structure, a permanent way to raise money and get out the vote. Whatever is built will be subject to the Iron Law, and that has to be understood as well. The best remedy for all that is to make the prize less worthwhile: so that winning an election isn't paradise and losing it is not ruin. One ought to have more power over one's life than that, which was the original notion of the United States. Of course none of that is taught in the schools, and the teachers generally don't even know it; how many civics teachers have read The Federalist? It's considered too hard now, even for undergraduates. I was told that when I assigned the Federalist to sophomores; reminding my academic colleagues that the Federalist was originally a bunch of letters to the editors of newspapers got derisive laughter, probably because they didn't believe me.
Sorry for the ramble. My point is that for a while the tea party movement can continue in typical GooGoo fashion, but if it wants to dismantle some of the blob it will need to have a Party. It's easier to take over a party than to build a new one, or at least historically that has been the case. But the movement will need people who will reliably turn out to raise money and get out the vote.
I'd think the tea party has a better chance of getting control of the Democrat Party myself, but that's a guess based largely on 50 years of trying to keep the Republicans somewhere near their principles, and eventually losing to the Creeps every time. The day after Reagan left office there was not a Reagan appointee left in Washington. The Bush Dynasty had never forgotten anything except the pledge "Read my lips, no new taxes." That one Bush forgot very quickly. The Country Club is well entrenched. Ask anyone from the Reagan movement. Taking some of the control from the Country Club and returning to Reagan Repubicanism will not be easy.
But it's worth a try. For something more see my introduction to Take Back Your Government.
January 24, 2010
.I took the day off. See yesterday's View.
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