THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 549 December 15 - 21, 2008
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December 15, 2008
Today's Wall Street Journal renews the debate on "Net neutrality." In the past I have thought legislation needless. My friend John Dvorak thinks just the opposite and is rather passionate on the subject. Microsoft used to be very much in favor of net neutrality legislation and/or regulation; the powerful Microsoft Lobby is now working in the opposite direction (and that alone may be enough to kill NN legislation -- the Microsoft lobby is very skilled and powerful if somewhat quiet about its abilities.
There is considerable controversy over the accuracy of the WSJ report, and has Internet chatters, some of it silly; but the subject is important, and I should do a column segment on the matter. Input is invited.
I'll select the best letters on this subject to include in the column I will write on the subject. PLEASE sign letters on this subject AS YOU WANT YOUR NAME TO APPEAR. In other words, if you want to be anonymous, leave it unsigned; or you may use an initial or pseudonym. As usual all mail is subject to publication.
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|This week:||Tuesday, December
My cold is back but it's mostly a productive cough now. There seems to be a persistent but not severe strain of cold prevalent in Southern California. I hear many complaints about it. Better than being laid out, I guess. I have errands today, including getting out to the Kaiser lab to let them spear a corpuscle and make it talk about my kidney functions so that I van get the goop that make the MRI work this Friday. Of course my imagination conjures up scenarios I'll never write and which I hope are figments of my imagination. Actually except for my cold I feel pretty good. I have memory lapses -- I am becoming the prefect example of the absent minded professor -- but nothing severe and Niven has been this way all his life. I suppose what I should do is count my blessings: for most of my life I have had a much better memory than most people. And as far as I can tell I can still think. I haven't fallen for the snake oil that seems to be a bug on the market just now...
I note that the science community is jazzed by Obama's appointments, but that includes Union of Concerned Scientists which has a problematical relationship to actual science -- about the same relationship that the Sierra Club now has with the community of High Sierra hikers. I also note that Obama's appointments seem more and more to indicate that his administration will take the Man Mad Global Warming hypothesis seriously, and will hamper domestic energy production, at least in fossil fuels. What the nuclear policy will be remains to be seen.
I continue to point out that economic growth correlates high and negative with energy prices.
Now I am off for errands.
December 17, 2008
Yesterday was consumed with errands, and Tuesday night is a TV night. I confess to enjoying NCIS and The Mentalist although I can't really say why. And of course whenever there is a Lakers game Roberta watches it, and if I'm going to have any time with her I have to watch it too. It's not an ordeal, and we switch between the game and my TV programs. Actually I like basketball games, but apparently I'm no longer geared for that sort of thing, which is to say I seem to be disturbed by uncertainties in situations where I care about the outcome. That doesn't bode well for life in this decade.
I see that Obama has appointed a Certified Green as Secretary of Agriculture. Not sure what that means. Alternate Energy is in a bad way now that oil prices are down again. Even T. Boone Pickens is packing it in. And Obama says that if we drill we won't have any new oil in the pipelines for ten years. Ten years from now someone will be saying the same thing, of course. The only way out of our energy dilemma is to pursue all fronts: domestic production, nuclear power, and some of the "alternate" "soft path" alternatives even when they are not cost/effective as insurance. And research. But this means an integrated energy strategy that allows the market a fair amount of influence while guiding the nation toward, not energy independence in normal times, but a capability of survival when energy sources are interrupted, and ways to ease economic disaster when oil prices skyrocket.
None of this is impossible or even all that difficult, but it does require attention to reality and priorities. Man made Global Warming has to be put well down on the list of problems: a bankrupt America will do nothing to help Save The Earth because it will be able to do nothing. It's getting clearer all the time that Man Made Global Warming and the responses demanded to it are part of a colossal fraud: whether or not Man Made Global Warming is a significant problem, it is very clear that the responses demanded wouldn't do much on their own models. It's energy theater, and that's worse than security theater.
The real question is, how much of this is known to Our Masters? As more and more actual scientists go over to the "we can't prove man made global warming, and we now wonder if we can prove global warming at all: we may be headed for a new Ice Age, and we can't tell", the residual left in the Kyoto Now camp gets louder and more shrill. Most of them are True Believers: they are also dependent for their jobs and/or prestige on the standard Global Warming Hysteria, so they have an incentive to keep shouting for their follies.
Meanwhile, it remains true that economic recovery depends on energy prices. Do Our Masters know this? They're certainly smart enough to know it. They can know it if they choose to know -- which is to say if they choose to consider the evidence. Politically it's good to be green. It's not easy, not being green....
Most Republican or anti-Obama commentators have already concluded that he is no more than a Chicago politician of a very liberal stripe, and we can expect nothing not predictable from those parameters. I suppose I ought to go along with that consensus, but hope springs eternal. Obama is an intelligent man. If anyone has a mandate to get us out of the big government fallacy, the mindless green fallacy, and the other primary hampers we have imposed on ourselves it is he. Of course that doesn't mean that he's not just a Chicago politician of very liberal stripe; but we can hope. Until he takes office we won't know, so we may as well be hopeful for the holidays.
December 18, 2008
Apologies: it was my understanding that Lori Garver is married to an astronaut. Apparently that is a mistaken impression. I have never met the gentleman. In any event, I do recall her enthusiasm for DC/X.
Late last night I posted a number of mail items on education, piracy, and other matters of importance.
It's late and time for bed. More tomorrow.
I sent a parcel out -- by FedEx as it happens -- and got a notice from UPS that what I tried to deliver couldn't be sent on time because the address was bad, open the attachment for details. I darned near bit on that! But of course it would have had a payload to zombify my computer. Since I see everything in plaintext no harm was done, but they almost got me! Be careful out there.
Arthur Laffer has in today's Wall Street Journal proclaimed that the US ought to forget about energy independence. While Dr. Laffer is always worth paying attention to, I think he proves too much. Yes, instant energy independence would be costly; but as a goal over a decade or more, it's worth pursuing. Of course if Obama has ruled out nuclear, then any talk of independence is political theater with no basis in reality; nuclear is the only way we can achieve anything like independence. And of course total independence isn't needed: what we need is the ability to survive on our own resources, and avoid transferring a trillion a year to sovereign investment funds that buy up the US wholesale. That, of course, assumes that liberty and independence remain important goals for America.
Another means of energy assurance is conquest and empire, but our Iraq adventure demonstrates that we either don't want to do anything like that, or don't know how to accomplish it. We probably aren't ruthless enough, and while we could hire barbarian auxiliaries who are, that's not only not likely but not desirable. Alas, competent empire requires a certain degree of ruthlessness; it requires trustworthiness, but included in that is certainty that threats will be carried out as well as promises. None of this is esoteric. It has all been known for a thousand years and more.
Energy independence -- or at least much of it -- can be done for far less than we spent on the war in Mesopotamia. Of course I said that before we went in. One hundred 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants should cost about $150 billion (the first two might cost $25 billion each, but the hundredth will be less than a billion). Natural gas development and distribution for long distance transport, development of chargeable hybrid automobiles -- all this will be expensive, but the total won't be what the war cost (even leaving out the costs of disability pensions). And the whole package would cost less than what the Greens want us to spend on a futile effort to halt Global Warming. (Even assuming the truth of man-made global warming, which is not likely, US efforts aren't going to make much difference, and we may be sure that India and China will not harm their economies for a couple of degrees, Fahrenheit or Centigrade.) Total energy independence would be expensive and probably not worth while; but getting into shouting distance of it is quite feasible.
Over the long haul, of course, Space Solar Power Satellites are a sustainable source of all the power we need. They will require transmission towers through the desert. Perhaps we ought to look into how we can make those attractive? Apparently the Greens oppose transmission towers which would bring geothermal energy from eastern California to San Diego. Sustainable isn't enough. It has to look pretty, too.
But leaving out the people who simply don't want any electric power and would have us all live without leaving footprints -- I presume that means no toilet paper, just the left hand and a bowl of water -- most of us want jobs and the only way to have a thriving economy is reasonably cheap energy; and the only way to stabilize energy prices is to have source we can draw on to compete with overseas sources. We all know this. And it's sure cheaper than wars.
December 19, 2008
Today at 1500 I get my MRI. First they fill me with barium or something -- whatever MRI uses for contrast enhancement -- and then I get scanned and magnetized. It's loud and a bit claustrophobic, and thus a bit intimidating, but endurable with a bit of patience. I don't know when I'll have the results.
I got this yesterday and I have thought about it since. I am also reminded of Russell Kirk's dictum. "Conservatism is enjoyment," which is another way of saying count your blessings; and I guess my answer is, I deny the charge. I do agree that hardly a day goes by without news that is disturbing, and I certainly do not assert that all activities result in "progress" or "improvement" nor have I ever suspected that; and back in the doom and gloom days of the 1970's I was one of the very few who kept asserting that mankind has a future; this despite Isaac Asimov's increasingly gloomy predictions and revelations.
The way out of our economic problems is increased production. It's a lot easier to divide up a big pie than a small pie. Socialism only works if there's very high production, enough so that the people willing to work hard are able to produce enough to keep those who want to consume hard without doing a lot of work if not satisfied -- my experience is that the non-productive consumers will always find leaders willing to demand more and more -- at least out of the streets.
There are two keys to increased productivity: low energy prices, and a well educated work force imbued with a work ethic. Eliminate either and you have a society either unable or unwilling to meet the demands of the non-productive (which includes both the deserving poor and the undeserving poor as well as those "employed" in "jobs" that consume but add nothing to the goods available for distribution). When energy prices and/or appropriate education are threatened, it's rather difficult to have a positive reaction.
I try to report good news when there is some. As to the rest, one of the characteristic actions of Jeremiah was Jeremiahiads; and while I don't think of myself as a prophet and certainly not one in his league, that seems to be my job, and I will continue to do it. Someone has to sound the trumpet.
Still, this is a reminder. Conservatism is enjoyment. We prefer not to have the obligations of making changes in things. Alas, this is not possible at this time. Still, it never harms to count your blessings. Often.
And at 1500 I get my MRI...
Majel Roddenberry, RIP http://www.roddenberry.com/
I never knew her. We met once, I think, at some awards ceremony when I was president of SFWA. Gene and I became fairly good friends despite our political differences after we met at a Science and Literature conference at the Library of Congress some years ago. She was the voice of the computer in most Star Trek episodes.
Dr. Hume's observation is very much on target. And how much more of that is going around?
December 20, 2008
Spent most of the day in errands. Took our walk, got a haircut, etc. Went to the Writers of the Future Christmas Party, which included a reading of a Hubbard story by Karen Black and others. The actors were great, the dramatization was excellent, and this may have been the least appropriate story to be present in a dramatic reading at Christmas that I have ever been to. That was Roberta's view, and most of the other women I talked to, and I can't disagree. "He Didn't Like Cats" has some wry humor but it's about as dark a work as Hubbard ever did even with the humor; and as I said, a less appropriate story for a Christmas presentation would be hard to imagine short of "Realistic Tales of the Inquisition" or some such.
Came home and used a Linux password remover program to restore Lisabetta, my TabletPC, to health. Worked just fine. Hurrah.
Coast to Coast has Guy Kawasaki on being an Apple evangelist. Apparently the host is as well. I have some sympathy for him: when Mac is working properly, it really does work well. As Peter Glaskowsky is fond of saying, with the Mac everything is very simple unless it's impossible. Alas, for people who use Windows a lot that isn't really true: that is, much of the Mac simplicity is clear only if already known; it's not really all that intuitive. Mac users get used to all that and don't notice -- but then the same is often true of Windows users. In any event, things are working better here, and I'm beginning to use the Mac a lot more -- but the Windows systems are working better also.
Apparently Vista is determined to drive me nuts. I found on Lisabetta an mpg3 copy of Fire in the Sky, copied it over, doubleclicked and it began to play in Windows media player. I got to experimenting with Media Player, inadvertantly closed the Window -- I thought I was closing a subsidiary window -- and now I can't open Windows Media Player and I can't play the tune again. This is insanity!!
Restarting the system made things work again, but this is just silly.
December 22, 2008
I more or less took the day off, but I did a mailbag which ought to be posted at Chaos Manor Reviews early in the week. Meanwhile
which presents the Mystic Ark of Hugh of St. Victor....
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